Wednesday 28 December 2016

The original palaeo-diet

One of the many, many, things that annoy me, is the appropriation of archaeological terms for new-age, self-help uitschot. The example in question - the so-called palaeo-diet - this strange premise that if we eat as our distant hunter-gatherer ancestors ate, we will live the full lives that they did. 

That is to say: 

  • having to kill stuff with your bare hands to live, 
  • no penicillin,
  • high infant mortality,
  • poor life expectancy,
  • spending every spare moment you have crafting tools to eek out your meagre existence, 
  • competition with numerous dangerous creatures for scarce resources, 
  • living constantly on the move as dictated by the weather and said scarce resources, 
  • the constant fear that you have annoyed the sun and it will decide not to rise in the morning...

Don't get me wrong, I have nothing but respect for our pre-pottery, pre-agriculture, pre-google ancestors; I just don't particularly want to live the life they had to in the name of a quick fix to life.

Anyway, the point of me rant is this, we played out a nice basic mammoth hunt scenario the other day using a Ganesha based system that really managed interactions between hunters and NPC beasties really well. There were still a few problems, mostly related to how hard it was to keep up with moving mammoths, but these can all be worked on. It was the first time that all of my new prehistoric kit has been on the table, and also the first outing of my new hills!

 No real point with a detailed hunt report at this stage, but above you can see the mammoths grazing near a central hillock while the hunters close in. Below, the mammoths are corralled and the spears start to fly. The fire-bearer adds to the confusion by lighting multiple fires and cackling to himself maniacally as the grasslands start to burn...

Tuesday 27 December 2016

Siberian Irregular Wars

It's been a little while since there has been an Irregular Wars post, but here are a couple of mid-game shots sent to me by Simon. The forces are Cossacks vs Koryaks, using Shahid Dadabhoy's Siberian campaign army lists. Shahid's lists are up on the Mick Yarrow website, where there are also appropriate 15mm ranges.

Friday 23 December 2016

Dawn of Man - Enter the Mammoth

Along with my Flytrap Factory hunters, I picked up a small herd of mammoths. These mega grazers come in at about 45mm to the hump, just right for the diminutive hunters. In the recent Flytrap Factory Kickstarter they also released a larger mammoth model, to whom these guys could be calves I guess.

Here is the herd together, along with a hunter for relative scale. They'll make a great wee feast some day ... and on that note, I wish everyone a merry Christmas and a happy festive season!

Monday 19 December 2016

Dawn of Man - Enter the Cavie

Having only recently received my first order from Flytrap Factory, I forged ahead over the last week and painted up my first tribe of prehistoric hunters. Here they are on the glacial landscape of Black Mountain, ready to follow the migrating herds and hunt some mammoth.

Bought on a whim, the tribe has already been used in some games of Tusk, and will certainly see use as a Song of Blades and Heroes warband, supported by a mammoth no doubt. Also, because I am an inveterated dabbler and tinkerer, I have started to play around with co-operative hunting rules of my own...

I decided that this chap was clearly the head honcho. After all, he's shown explaining some notion to his tribe and he is wearing a tiger skin...

This grizzled cavie makes a good second. The sculptor was clearly channeling both Ernest Hemingway and my father when he created this chap.

The fire-bearer started life as another spearman, but after a little chopping and some flame sculpting by my mate Jim, he now has the dubious honour of being keeper of the flame. If nothing else, this chap shows that I have no clever solution to painting fire.

The unimpressed looking cavie (above) and the hipster cavie (below) got the blonde treatment. I kept all of them in the blonde-red-auburn spectrum to show their adaptation to the sunless tracts of the north. Recent studies have suggested that the red hair gene can be linked to neanderthals, so I felt it worked with these little hominids of uncertain species too. 

Finally, the first six fire/burnt markers are now done. I am working on another six and so far my experiences tell me I shouldn't need more. 

Sunday 11 December 2016

Inniskillings on the warpath

Phase one of my French Indian War project is now finished up. I hope to get a few games of Song of Drums and Tomahawks and Sharp Practice 2  with these chaps in the new year and then get another 16 fusiliers to bring me up to a full force for SP2.

The redcoats are panted up to be from what would have been my local regiment, the 27th Inniskilling Fusiliers. In this uniform they served against the Jacobite uprising (1745-46) and against the French and Spanish in North America and the Caribbean from 1756-1767. They later returned to the colonies to take on the rebels during the American Revolution.

Also featured are half a dozen civilians - one with a long barreled hunting rifle - and the dozen Mohawk whom I have shown previously.

Saturday 3 December 2016

Blood Sweat and Cheers - two example turns.

The murmillo, Lycus, shifted his grip on the gladius as the humidity of the afternoon made his palms slick with sweat. So far, the bout had gone all his way. His opponent, Satyrus, was new to the arena, unsure of his own abilities, hampered by unfamiliar surroundings and the claustrophobic intensity of a thraex’s elaborate helm in the full heat of the sun.

Nevertheless, he moved fast, that thraex. The razor-sharp edge of his wicked, curved, blade had come close lacerating Lycus’ shining torso a number of times. Only the murmillo’s months of drill had allowed him to bring around his mighty shield just in time to save his skin. A lucky jab had allowed Lycus to draw the first blood of the bout. Satyrus was bleeding, but was not so hurt that it would greatly impact the rest of the fight.

The crowd were roaring now – cheering Lycus on to continue his attack, driving him, compelling him to stay on the offensive. How long would he be able to keep it up though? How long before Satyrus would find his own rhythm and land his own first blow?

We join our heroes part way through a bout. Lycus, a murmillo, is the blue player in this game, his opponent Satyrus, a thraex, is the red player. At the start of the turn, the two gladiators are standing in adjacent zones so may not directly attack each other. The Favour of the Crowd lies two points in Lycus’ (blue) favour. Satyrus has already suffered one wound.

At the end of the previous turn, Lycus had used, or dispensed with, all his cards. Satyrus had decided to retain one card, FORTUNA’S FAVOUR, but had used the rest. At the start of this turn, both players draw new cards to bring their hands up to five cards each (i.e. Lycus draws five, Satyrus draws four + the retained card).

NEW TURN – Phase 1
As the slower gladiator, Lycus is compelled to reveal his phase one actions first. He plays a STEP+STRIKE combo, lunging forward into the same zone as Satyrus. In return, Satyrus plays STEP+STEP, electing to remain in the same zone, but dodge the incoming lunge.

Both players roll 1d6. Lycus rolls a 5 and adds his attack attribute of 3, giving an attack total of eight (3+5). Satyrus rolls a 2 and adds his speed attribute of 4 (-1 for his wound), giving a total of five (2+4-1). The difference between the totals is 3 which under normal circumstances should cause another flesh wound to Satyrus.

Lycus grins as his blade plunges forward, but at the last minute, Fortuna smiles upon Satyrus. He plays the FORTUNA’S FAVOUR card, allowing him to swap die results. Now Lycus has an attack total of five (2+3), against Satyrus’ dodge total of eight (5+4-1). Satyrus escapes being wounded, but only thanks to the goddess, and she can be a fickle deity.

Phase 2
As the faster man, it is now Satyrus’ turn to show his cards first. He plays a simple STRIKE, jabbing his curved sword towards Lycus. In return, Lycus plays GUARD, swinging up his shield in a block.

Both players roll 1d6. Satyrus rolls a 4 and adds his attack attribute of 3 for a total of seven. Lycus rolls a 3 and adds it to his defence attribute of 4 for a total of seven. The scores are equal, so Satyrus’ attack fails.

Lycus chooses to discard his remaining STEP card, but retains the GLORY. Satyrus retains his STEP. Both players now draw new cards (four each) to bring their hands back up to five cards for the next turn. Attacks were made but, as neither player spilt blood or played GLORY cards, the Favour of the crowd remains unchanged, two points in Lycus’ favour.

NEW TURN – Phase 1
Lycus, as the slower gladiator again reveals his cards first. He plays GLORY+GLORY, lashing out with his right leg to kick Satyrus off balance. Lycus’ well executed use of GLORY cards draw the crowd even further in his favour, up to the maximum of three points. Satyrus responds with a single GLORY, attempting to lacerate Lycus’ flesh as he kicks out. This response (another crowd-pleasing flourish of a GLORY card), pulls the Favour of the Crowd back one point towards a neutral position (i.e. still two points in Lycus’ favour).

Both gladiators are now attacking – each rolls 1d6 and adds modifiers. If either end up with a total higher than their opponent, there will be consequences for the defeated foe.

Lycus rolls a magnificent 6 and adds his attack attribute of 3, plus an additional +1 for the special ‘Kick’ attack. His total is therefore 10 (6+3+1). Satyrus rolls poorly, only scoring a 2. However, the thraex’s ‘Lacerate’ ability allows him to add his attack attribute (3) plus an additional +3 to his roll for a total of 8 (2+3+3).

The difference between the totals is now two with Lycus the victor. A difference of two is enough for Satyrus to be Knocked Down, but not enough to cause a Flesh Wound. However, Lycus now plays the ROAR OF THE CROWD card, using the cheering of the mob to lend more power to his attack – in this case he adds +2 to bring his total up to 12.

Having ‘spent’ the crowd’s enthusiasm, Crowd Favour now drops back to a neutral position. However, the difference in the gladiator’s totals is now 4 (12-8), enough for Lycus to inflict a Deep Wound (causing a further two wounds to Satyrus). In addition, a successful kick from a murmillo pushes the defeated foe into an adjacent zone and knocks them down. A Knocked Down gladiator is ‘compromised’ and suffers -2 to all of their attributes until they stand up again. Having caused more blood to be spilt, the Favour of the Crowd moves one point once more into the blue area.

Phase 2
Now, Satyrus is no longer the faster gladiator. His speed attribute of 4 is modified to -1 (4-3 for the three wounds suffered, -2 for being compromised). Therefore Lycus, as the faster gladiator (speed attribute of 2), again shows his cards first. The murmillo plays STEP+STRIKE, moving into the adjacent zone and lunging at the fallen thraex. Feeling very much in the ascendancy, he also chooses this moment to take advantage of his foe’s existing wounds. This is an action that can only be done once for each wound and forces a -1 modifier per wound on the opponent’s roll.

It is all Satyrus can do to play a STEP card in an attempt to stand up. Both roll 1d6.

Lycus rolls a 4 and adds his attack attribute for a total of 7 (4+3). Satyrus rolls a 5 but suffers -3 for having his existing wounds exploited and a further -1 for being attacked whilst standing up. The thraex’s total is therefore 1 (5-3-1). He has lost to an attack by a massive 6, more than enough to end the bout with a telling blow.

Lycus lunged forward at the prone thraex. As his foe struggled to rise, Lycus kicked his wounded arm from under him and punched his blade straight into the flesh below the right shoulder. The gladius pulled away from Lycus’ slippery grip as Satyrus slumped back towards the sand. Although Satyrus was still alive, the bout was well and truly over. Sweat stung Lycus’ eyes and salted his lips. Pulling back his massive iron helmet, the gladiator looked triumphantly at the cheering mob and, then with more apprehension, at the game’s sponsor. It was his descision whether Satyrus would die this day, or whether he had fought well enough to be nursed back to health for another bout.

Up in the sponsor’s box, a togate man in his middle years, soft about the waist, balding head covered by a curious wig of crimson curls, stood up and surveyed the crowd. Happy that his decision would not cause a riot he raised his arm up high for all to see, and stuck out his thumb…

Thursday 1 December 2016

Hey! Watch where you put that Tusk!

I had my first game using Wessex Games' mammoth hunting rules Tusk this week, or rather, the wee lad played his first ever wargame this week - he played Tusk with me attempting to guide the game.

The game has great potential, and was (almost) easy enough for an (almost) six year old to follow without too much trouble. However... I'm not convinced that the layout of the pdf version of the rules (from Wargame Vault) does the game any favours. There are certainly a few areas that could be written more clearly - the whole fire section for instance. I'm not sure we 'did' fire properly in our game and ended up with quite a conflagration in one corner of the board for a while.

I'm honestly not sure whether a single page QRS would solve the few issues, or if it is best just to play house rules/understandings. Having a little bit of experience crafting rules now, it was a struggle to stop my mind racing off thinking about how I might do things differently...

Regardless, we both had great fun and he tells me he wants to play it again. The fact that he lost two of his five hunters to the angry mammoth didn't seem to bother him, and he did eventually kill the beastie, which made him happy. Mammoth kebabs for a month for the remaining hunters!

Incidentally, this is how I am doing my scorched earth markers - well, how I am starting them anyway. The bases are 25mm squares with rounded edges. The sand will be blackened eventually with some dry grass around the edges. I'm using cotton wool smoke to mark live fires and taking it away when the fires go out.

Wednesday 23 November 2016

Are you not entertained!?

Well that happened sooner than expected! What a wonderful surprise, to come home after a head-melter of a day's work to find a wee package waiting for me from DriveThru Cards.  Upon opening it, I was delighted to see my proof deck of cards for Blood, Sweat and Cheers. Above you can see the whole pack laid out excitedly - if amateurishly - on the table.

In the centre is the six-card arena so that players can get stuck straight into the game without having to call in the set designers from Ridley Scot's Gladiator. Below that are two cards abstracting the mood or favour of the crowd into a linear tracking system. To either side are reference cards so players do not have to refer to the two-page rule sheet once a bout has commenced. The rainbow selection at the top right of the photo are the gladiator cards, each outlining attributes and two special actions unique to each gladiator type. To the right is the play deck of 40 cards (showing three example cards) which are dealt to the players to represent the options available to their gladiator each turn. All up, a total of 60 cards.

Above you can see gladiator models placed in the two adjacent starting zones ready to begin a bout. On the left are a murmillo and thraex in 28mm, while on the right are a retiarius and a secutor in 15mm. Gladiators usually move one zone at a time and need to be in the same zone as an opponent to perform most attack types. 

We still have a couple of things to sort out with DriveThru cards, but Blood, Sweat and Cheers looks set to be published by Ganesha Games very early in the new year.

Saturday 19 November 2016

Horizon Wars - a near run thing.

We played a massive 30 presence game of Horizon Wars this week. Technically it was one 30P vs two allied 15P forces. I need to stress that, because my 30P of European Empire troops lost. Barely. I blame the extra free CHQ unit they had. No other reason. None at all. :)

It was a really fun, three turn game actually, very closely fought. We had three objective markers with blind victory points, one worth I, one worth II and one worth IV points. My heavy infantry battle group was very aggressive and held all three objective for much of the game. They took a real mauling for their trouble too. Some late enemy parra-drops managed to size control of one objective at literally the last minute, and it turned out to be the one worth IV points. So... defeat from the jaws of victory once more!

Thursday 17 November 2016

Macedonian invasion of Egypt - a fresh OGAM foe

A good gaming pal, terrain builder extraordinaire and all round enjoyable foe has recently had a bit of a health scare (a 'shot across the bows' as he puts it) and is off work for a little while. Helping to fill his day, as well as get myself away from the home office, I gave him a visit this week, and got in a quick game of Of Gods and Mortals while I was there.

We opted for a 1000 point game - 100 points larger than the recommended game size. Both of us packed out our forces with mortal units, each using only two legends and our gods. This really changed the dynamic of the game a bit making it more of a 'conventional' game if you like, placing more emphasis on units and less on rampaging rogue heroes.

I had a vaguely modeled notion to field Macedonians, patronised by Athena (with her daddy's lightning, but without the aegis). As legends I had Herakles and a harpy, supported by 8x Macedonian hypaspists, 6x undead hoplites, 4x Satyr archers, 4x Centaur archers and 4x Dryads.

Against me were ranged the Egyptian forces of Set. A chariot mounted pharaoh and a Great Mummy, backed up by 8x Sherden guardsmen, 8x axemen, 8x light infantrymen and 5x slaves.

Here you see the starting line up. And it was much more of a line up than usual for an OGAM game. My Macedonians are spread in a line along the left of the center line, Satyrs sitting in the rough terrain and the Dryads skulking invoking at the back.

In the opening turn, the Egyptian pharoah raored something in his barbarous tongue and pointed menacingly at the Satyrs. He rolled two dice to activate and failed both. Athena reacted by advancing forward and then, seizing the initiative, used her lightning to good effect. The pharoah exploded in a bolt of dazzling blue light leaving only a pair of smoking sandals in his chariot.

With that cracking start, the Macedonian forces started to advance. So did the Egyptians, but Athena's boys (and girls) had the advantage of speed, and far more firepower, slowly peppering the Egyptians, trying to reduce their ability to invoke Set to great deeds. Unfortunately, Set was able to bring down a plague on my hypaspists, greatly reducing their ability to activate and fight. Not cool Set. Not cool.

As the battle lines closed, Herakles ran to plug an emerging hole in the line between the Satyrs and the hypaspists (Athena had left it to help the heroic undead warriors destroy the Sherdan guardsmen). Seeing an opportunity to take revenge for the fallen pharaoh, Set dashed in.

Here you see a wider view of the table as the opposed lines come closer. In the unfocused middle distance, Set and Herakles duel. Set won the first bout, knocking Herakles to the ground but not killing him. As the contest continued, Set tried to finish the fallen hero, only to receive a hammering blow to the ankle and being forced to retire. Unfortunately, the Macedonian luck was not to last and in the next round Set hopped back into the melee and finished Herakles before he could fully recover.

Away off to the Macedonian right, my centaurs had been slowly picking off the large unit of Egyptian light infantry until the Egyptians eventually had enough and charged forward. The fighting was fairly inconclusive with multiple tied melees, but as mortal units loose a figure each time their is a tied melee, the small Centaur unit suffered much more than the large unit of Egyptians.

Back in the centre, Athena and Set went head-to-head, each supported by mortal adherents. Here though, Chance was against me, the dice failed, and Athena was banished. She was brought back, only to be defeated again by Set and his minions.

By this stage, the two armies had fought each other ragged. The Macedonians had suffered the worst of the melees and were reduced to only two units capable of summoning Athena back to the table - the hypaspists and the Dryads. However, neither unit were effective combat troops at this stage - the hypaspists because of the plague, the Dryads because... Dryads.

The (very enjoyable) day was drawing to a close, I had to go and perform daddy duties, and it was clear that Set's Egyptians were in a better position than my Macedonians with three units capable of summoning/invoking, the Great Average Mummy and Set all still in play. The Egyptian axemen were still combat effective, while the light infantry and slaves were still effective on account of their numbers. The Macedonians conceded the day and Athena went off to examine her war record (two losses out of two battles) and have a long hard think about what shed'd done.

Tuesday 15 November 2016

Blood Sweat and Cheers - coming to an arena near you early 2017.

Blood Sweat and Cheers has made it into it's final version and a proof copy of the deck has been ordered. However, due to how long it will take for the proofs to reach me, there is no point holding out for a release before the end of the year. Presuming there are no problems with the proofs, I would expect the game to be available from the start of 2017.

Above is a shot from one of the playtesters in Australia. This was taken with a penultimate version of the rules which micro-managed movement. In the final version, the area is divided into 12 zones with movement abstracted by zone. It makes for a much more fluid game and removes unnecessary beardiness from the game.

The deck will include six cards which will fit together to form an arena straight out of the pack, so all you'll really need to invest in before your first game is some gladiators. Of course, there is nothing to stop you modelling an arena (I have done so myself), but zones would have to be superimposed in some form.

Friday 11 November 2016

Flytrap Factory prehistoric fun

My small order from Flytrap Factory arrived yesterday having sat in HM's Customs for far too long. I have to say that I am absolutely delighted with them. I bought one pack of five prehistoric hunters (one-piece white metal castings) and three mammoths (resin with white metal tusks). Despite being very busy with work, I immediately stuck them on magnetised bases awaiting an undercoat (of which I am temporarily out).

As you can see, all sculpts are unique and conform to a fun, exaggerated style. The chap on the right of the lower picture there comes with a full length spear but I 'amended' it ahead of converting his spear into a flaming torch. These first release cavemen are about 20mm to the tops of their heavy-browed heads.

The mammoth pack also comes with three unique sculpts and two different tusk shapes so there is potential for a fair bit of variation in your herd. They come to about 40mm to the top of the hump.

Now, I love these chaps, and they are destined to be used for Ganesha Games' Song of Blades and Heroes and for Wessex Games' Tusk mammoth hunting game. However, it is understandable that for some people, 20mm cavies and creatures might not be their preferred scale. Realising this, Flytrap Factory have developed a whole expansion of the range bringing the scale up to 28mm. Within the new scheme, the original hunters become pygmies, and the mammoths become mammoth calves.

The company is only a small outfit and they have launched a Kickstarter to help produce the new parts of the range. If you havn't already seen it, I would really encourage you to have a look at the campaign. There are 12 days left and and they need another $1,500 to make the project a success.

Part of the Kickstarter will be a set of rules to go with the range called Caveman verse Wild: The Big Chill. These look like a really fun approach to the trials and tribulations of survival for Ice Age hunters. From what I gather, the hunters are actively run by players co-cooperatively or competitively, while creatures and environmental dangers are controlled by an AI system.

The aim of the game seems to be to feed your tribe by hunting prey. However, whenever hunters come within a trigger distance of a terrain piece they roll against their 'wit' to see whether they get ambushed by deadly predators. Furthermore, there are AI controlled squirrel-rats which act as 'portents'. Should a squirrel-rat come withing trigger range of a hunter, all manner of cataclysms and calamities can be unleashed from volcanoes and floods to meteor strikes. It really does look like a great deal of fun. So go ahead, check out the Kickstarter, support it. Think of it as a charitable donation. It is a Kiwi company after all and (spoken as an Australian) they need as much help to be noticed as possible... ;)