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.