Sunday 30 April 2017

Dennis for dinner: a PDEE game

Mark in Pattaya has just sent me another game report - this time from playtesting the introductory scenario from Palaeo Diet: Eat or Be Eaten. All in all, I think Dennis let him off rather easily! 

So here we are in the Palaeolithic, courtesy of the Time Service, watching a party of spear-armed hunters (L-R Nigel, Bill, Reg, and Raquel) stalking a lone mammoth, who happens to be called Dennis.

The hunters are in luck, or possibly are good shikaris, they are downwind of Dennis so he won't be alerted by their smell. Not yet, anyway. The wind is blowing diagonally from L to R, from the red to the white dice on the table in the first photograph.

The hunters loped towards the small thickets, planning to use them as cover to get closer to the mammoth. All succeeded in rolling two activation dice except Bill who failed one dice. Luckily Dennis remained unresponsive to this (continued to peacefully graze). 

Raquel opened discussions by moving out of cover and hurling a spear, it missed, and Dennis moved away. Then Reg moved out to attack also, but his movement spooked the mammoth who moved off again, ending on the side of one of the hills. The hunters moved to try and stop Dennis getting away, no one wanted to spend another two days - or more - trailing him before a new opportunity to eat arose. Also there is the small matter of the cave lions whose territory starts somewhere near here. 

Nigel led the way now, loping up to the mammoth to try and stab it with a spear. Total failure - who knew mammoth hides were so tough. It turned and attacked him causing a wound. The other hunters moved up in support. Two of their activation dice were failures causing Dennis (the mammoth) to react with a hunter (Nigel ... confused yet?) within S distance. Luckily for Nigel, Dennis preferred to furiously Trumpet (minimal effect on the hunters) then Move Away. Dennis doesn't seem to be an especially bright mammoth, he has almost succeeded in cornering himself on the top of a sheer drop.
The hunters closed in warily but were unable to hit the mammoth. Last to try was Raquel. Dennis had had enough by this stage and attacked her, but failed to cause a wound.

Undeterred by several tons of mammoth trying to gore and trample her, Raquel attempted to stab Dennis, but failed, and luckily for her he moved away! Two more hunters moved up to try their luck (or skill), and finally Reg was able to inflict a wound. The hunters keep being forced to retreat though by Dennis's ferocious Trumpeting. 

But fortune favours the brave (unless the brave are outnumbered by cave lions). More spear attacks, all unsuccessful, eventually resulted in Dennis getting spooked by all these pesky hominids and making a run for it (fleeing) away from the closest one. Unfortunately, right over an escarpment.

So, shall we say 7.30 for 8.00pm, smart casual? Bring your own cutlery.

Cheers from the Pattaya tundra.

Friday 28 April 2017

Mayhem in the Mediterranean - Galleys & Galleons with the HKSW

Over at the Hong Kong Society of Wargamers, Bertie has just posted another of his epic accounts of their latest game of Galleys & Galleons. It is well worth checking out, so please do head on over!

Tuesday 25 April 2017

Palaeo Diet - So, tell me the basics... ?

Palaeo Diet: Eat or be Eaten (PDEE) is a table top hunting game set in a pre-historic world where our hunter-gatherer ancestors (and their hominid cousins) had to hunt and eat, or be hunted and eaten. The game seeks to model a time when humans are not yet in control of the world around them - a time when the landscape could just as easily give succour to a struggling tribe, as it could cripple a thriving people. 

The game is designed to be used for solo games or for (mostly) co-operative play with up to four players. Models are divided broadly into three categories: 

1) Hunters, armed hominids activated and controlled directly by players. Hunters may attempt up to three actions per turn, although if they attempt to do too much at once, they can get a bit stressed out and mess up. There are different equipment types and a range of optional traits that can be diced for to give each of your tribe members a back-story and personality.

2) Hounds, domesticated wolves or dogs under the limited control of players. A hound has to activate after its master and is often quite obedient. However, when it does fail activation rolls, a hound's instincts take over and it automatically conducts actions out of the player's control.

3) Beasts, non-player models that react to the actions of hunters (and hounds). Ranging from giant grazers and apex predators, down to fluffy little critters, beasts are never directly controlled. They react to various triggers and their actions are randomly determined against their stimulus. 

The hunting party should normally consist of between two and eight hunters in total, divided equally between the players. Any number of beasts may be placed on the table but, as a rule of thumb, the total bulk of the beasts (a determination of both their number of wounds and their food value as a carcass) should be equal to, or more than, the number of hunters. The introductory scenario, for example, sets four hunters against a single mammoth (bulk 4). 

Monday 24 April 2017

The man who would be king

The grey beard led the tribe for many long suns, and many long darks. Now his body lies, half eaten, in the cave of the great bear. The tribe’s hunters prepare for a contest to show who can provide most for their people; who will be the next chieftain.

Set up the table with two equal herds of lesser grazers, no closer than 2x Long distance of any table edge. There should be at least one lesser grazer on the table for every hunter used. Place one apex predator in the very centre of the table. Hunters may be placed anywhere within 1x Short of any table edge.

A hunter who strikes the killing blow against the apex predator within eight turns will be proclaimed the new chief of the tribe. If the apex predator is still alive at the end of the eight turn, the chieftainship will fall to the hunter who struck the killing blow against the most grazers. This game is an individual challenge. While hunter’s may not actively attack other hunters, they may try all sorts of cunning ploys like driving fleeing or stampeding beasts into their friends, or stealing in to kill beasts already wounded by others.

Above you can see the setup for the hunt, with a stream running down a lightly wooded valley. There is a small herd of sheep/goats drinking by the stream, and a cave bear sitting in the centre of the table. The hunters had earlier dug a great pit on one side of the alley floor, far enough away from the stream that there was little chance of flooding. Fergg, Snogg and Dogg are visible at the top of the picture, while Ogg, Urgg and Bow* entered from the opposite table edge at the bottom of the picture. We rolled for random hunter traits with the following results:

  • Fergg the fire-bearer was a climber - not a great trait given the lack of cliffs in this hunt;
  • Snogg the Excited - Snog was required to always roll all three activation dice. Snog carried a spear and was accompanied by Dogg the hound;
  • Ogg the Shaman - potentially a splendid trait, being able to commune with beasts (at least that's what he tells the other hunters);
  • Urgg the Hungry - always tricky to handle as hungry hunters compulsively move towards wounded beasts;
  • Bow the Trapper - trappers can set snares to help catch critters, not a hugely useful trait in this hunt.

*I realise that there is no consistancy between posts regarding the spelling of names, but hey, it's prehistory. It's not like the names were ever intended to be written down...

The first turn saw Bow, Urgg and Ogg make a mess of their stealthy approach, scattering the herd on their side of the river. Snogg and Dogg were much more effective - Dogg was especially clever, sneaking up on one of the sheep/goat ready to attack on Snogg's command. Fergg attempted to get upwind of everyone, hoping to start a fire like the prehistoric pyromaniac he is.

In the following turn, Dogg took a bite of his sheep/goat, scaring it off towards Bow who was able to snap off a quick shot, bringing the beast down and scoring the first kill of the game. The scent of fresh blood almost drove Urgg to madness - he leapt the stream just to savour the smalls, but was able to suppress his more animal instincts and managed not to gorge himself then and there. The site of blood also drew the cave bear in towards the kill.

Urgg took advantage of the (somewhat illusory) protection of the river and hurled a well-aimed spear at the bear, prompting it to charge across the river in turn! One swipe, and Urgg was nursing a savage wound.

Meanwhile, that sneaky git, Fergg, took advantage of the scattering herd of grazers to wave his fire at one, causing it to flee straight to the bottom of the pit.

Back at the action-filled centre, Snogg managed to take down his first sheep/goat. The spouting plume of blood attracted the bear which left a very relieved looking Urgg to investigate. The kill tally now sat at one sheep/goat each for Bow, Fergg and Snogg.

Not wanting to be left out, Ogg and Urgg collected their wits and sprang upon a fourth sheep goat. Ogg struck a blow, but the sheep/goat then fled back, past the bear towards Snogg. 

Bow took a shot at the cave bear which roared in anger, causing Ogg and Urgg to flee in terror. The last two sheep/goats (one of them wounded) had by now sprung across the stream.

Snogg retreated to the cover of the tricky boggy ground by the river and hurled an optimistic spear at the bear, drawing the predator to him. One more swipe, one more wounded hunter. Snogg tried another optimistic attack and while his hit struck home, he was in turn dispatched for his trouble, sinking into a puddle of boggy, bloody mud.

Ogg, thinking that his shamanic personality would somehow help him against a bear, approached the beast. He stabbed at the predator and, once more, the bear attacked back, causing - you should already now the answer - a nasty wound.

Meanwhile (again), Fergg had managed to get behind the last two sheep/goats. He ambled up to them and, waving his fire, chased one of them into the pit, scoring his second kill for the game. The last sheep/goat fled off the table.

Bow, not wanting to be showed up by Fergg, shot at the cave bear, scoring a hit, but was then charged for his troubles. Happily for the archer, he escaped having his guts torn out.

Urgg tried to match Bow's skills, missed the predator and was forthwith predated. The bear had now killed two hunters and wounded a third.

At this juncture, the first critter of the game was flushed out of hiding by Bow. Ogg, well placed, was able to knock it on the head and claim his first kill - not that it put him in the running for chief at this point though.

As the eighth turn came around, Ogg started a desperate action to seize the chieftainship by bringing down the bear. It didn't work. The bear ran him down and pulled him apart - proving, once and for all, that if you disturb a bear in the woods, you should respect its privacy.

So at the end of the hunt, Fergg came out as the chosen chief having netted two sheep/goats to Bow's one. Nobody managed to kill the cave bear and, lets face it, with only two hunters left in the tribe, the people are going to face a grim future.

Sunday 23 April 2017

Late Night Blundering - an SSD game from Pattayavium

Last week I received the following missive from gaming chum of old, and now fellow ex-pat Mark:

This time I stayed up late and ran the game during the small hours, at about the same time of the night the action is set, in fact! So here is the bleary-eyed report. I say "ran" rather than "played" because both (all?) sides were given objectives but then their decisions and actions were derived from weighted options + dice rolls (decision dice). This is more fun than it sounds, as the games always diverge from what the player / puppetmaster thinks is going to happen, sometimes a lot. The role of the Night Watch in this game is exhibit 1 for this point, as will be seen. I originally only included them because it seemed silly not to have a Watch, and I handicapped them to ensure their role was on,y decorative, but still they ended up having an important influence on the game outcome.

Anyway, on to the game, starting with the backstory.

Salvius Prostatus (who doesn't appear in the game at all) is a crony of the Prefect, although the two of them are known to have had a serious disagreement recently, no one is sure what it is about. Salvius has built a thriving if unlikely business empire by collecting urine and excrement from around the town for use in his tanneries. He has a monopoly right to place large collection jars on street corners, which are regularly emptied by his slaves and honey wagons.

For the last few nights, some of his jars have been tipped over, or even smashed, and no one knows or has seen anything. It's a mystery and it's bad for business. Salvius has arranged for Brasidas and his boys, who keep the tannery slaves in line, to covertly patrol the town in the dead of night to apprehend the miscreants and find out who is inciting them. It could be mischief-making revellers celebrating the Songkran holiday, or maybe business rivals. Or even - worrying thought - the Prefect sending him a message.

The first photo shows Pattayavium after midnight. Note the two-man night patrol of the Watch standing outside the arena. Some of the large collection jars can also be seen.

The darkness means movement (of figures) can only be seen at 2xL, and individuals can only be distinguished at 1xL in the moonlight. 

The saboteurs faction comprised four civilian figures, who have been paid (by who?) to do their dastardly work. They split into teams of two and moved sneakily out of the poor neighbourhood (top L of previous photo) towards their targets. Meanwhile Brasidas and his four henchmen, also in two teams, lurked in alleyways and waited to see what would happen. The Watch stayed in position outside the arena, they would not get involved unless absolutely necessary (= something is happening close by and they roll a 5/6 decision dice). And another faction of three men skulked among the woodpiles at bottom R of the prev photo. Who can they be?

One team of civilian saboteurs started to tip over a honey jar within hearing of the Watch patrol, who moved to investigate. The saboteurs fled, the soldiers pursued, and one saboteur was killed "while trying to escape" and the other got away. They had however succeeded in smashing a jar.

The other team attacked a set of two jars outside the block of flats (the large building at top R of the photo). Both of Brasidas's teams jumped on them from different directions, killing one man and capturing the other. In the next (second) photo you can see the aftermath: most of Brasidas's men are moving away down the alley to resume surveillance, but Brasidas himself (with steel cap) and Alketas are interrogating the prisoner. However, he didn't provide any information (unsuccessful decision-dice roll), so he was incapacitated and left lying at the foot of the wall to be collected later.

The fracas attracted the attention of the mysterious faction hiding in the woodpile, and these figures moved up cautiously, keeping buildings between themselves and the action, as can be seen in the next (third) photo. They are Pattayavium's Jewish priest, Levi, and two hard men, Saul & Matthias, zealots, all of whom are known around town, although no one mocks them and their one God to their faces any more!

But what are they doing here? 

What with it being 3.00am and all, there is a gap in the pictorial coverage at this point. But the game continued like this. Brasidas's two patrols set off down more alleyways to see what other teams of saboteurs might be at work. The decision dice decreed they remained ignorant of the Jewish faction. Brasidas himself and two henchmen ended up in a standoff with the City Watch who didn't believe their story about guarding the honey jars, and it was several moves (and a bribe) before his team could move on. This was critical as it meant his other team, two men only, was unsupported when it encountered the Jews and had to back off after some inconclusive scrapping. This is shown in the last photo below.

Had Brasidas and his other men not been delayed by the Watch, there is a good chance the zealots could have been overpowered and interrogated. Instead they were able to slip away, though not before being recognised.

So the game ended with no clear result, just like most of real life in fact. The hired civilians who had been upsetting and smashing the jars were eliminated (2 killed, 1 captured, 1 escaped) but they did not reveal who had hired them. And two out of the five jars had been destroyed. 

Brasidas reported to Salvius about his men encountering Levi and his zealots, so Levi's cover is blown and he'll have to explain to the authorities what he and his men were doing on the streets, armed, late at night. The suspicion is that he was the organiser of the jar sabotage*. But nothing can be proved in the absence of any confessions.

[* According to Salvius, Levi has it in for him because he won't sell a piece of land the priest wants to build a synagogue on. Perhaps it will all come out in the pending court case.]

Saturday 22 April 2017

Bunny model comparisons

Right. Now that I have your attention - and have no doubt attracted some attention from unusual fetishists - lets talk bunnies. 28mm bunnies to be exact. I wanted to get a few rabbits to serve as 'critters' for Palaeo Diet: Eat or be Eaten. Critters are not placed on the table during setup, but there is a chance than hunters moving into or through certain landscape features may flush them out.

I have ordered (so far) two different packs of nominally 28mm rabbits, but I have also identified a number of other suppliers where these charismatic wee pests are currently available. This listing may not be exhaustive, but it should get the idea across that there is a lot out there and both the cost and quality of the sculpts varies dramatically.

£1.75 for five bunnies. I ordered these bunnies for the craic on Easter Sunday. That's what started my current search because, although they are nice wee sculpts, they are definitely wee. I'm not sure how big I was expecting them to be given the price, but lets just say that they are realistically scaled for 28mm figures. Not a lot of eating on them. I'm not convinced that they will work with my 20mm exaggerated hunters (as in the second picture), and so my quest continues...

Scotia Grendel
£5 for three bunnies. These guys remind me of the bunnies in Aardman's Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit. I have ordered some because I thought the exaggerated and comic like features may suit my prehistoric hunters although they may not be to everybody's taste. The photo is also tiny, so hard to say much else. 

EDIT - See how we got on HERE.

Black Cat Bases 
£2 for four bunnies. In the first picture from the Black Cat website they look a bit like Blackavar from Watership Down. In the second picture (from Tim's painted bunnies found HERE) they look completely different...

Bad Squiddo Games (currently on pre-order for May 2017)
£6 for eight bunnies. These look great - there are also guinea pigs already available and cats coming soon too. £1 from all purchases will be donated to a bunny rescue organisation.

2.31 Euros for five hares. Technically not bunnies, but close enough!

US$10.99 for one bunny. A great sculpt with loads of character, but hugely overpriced if all you want is the bunny - especially if you then add on the daylight robbery USP prices to the UK as well. Might be worthwhile if you want the other critters and are already placing an order large enough to justify the postage.

If you have any other suggestions, let me know!

Tuesday 18 April 2017

This is the pits

I've just finished putting together this little pit for mammoth hunting. I neglected to take any WIP photos, but it was made by cutting a cork-backed table mat to the right shape and scraping out the cork in the center to make a shallow depression. The cork scrapings were then glued back onto the remaining cork around the depression to build it up slightly, giving the impression of depth.

Sand and glue was mixed together into a putty to even up the edged of the the piece and it was all painted brown before being covered by another layer of patio sand and flock. The depression was then painted a mix of black and brown, lightening towards the middle of one side to give a suggestion of some light hitting the base of the pit. Not a masterpiece, but more effective than a plain circle of black card.

Monday 17 April 2017

Picnic at Hanging Rock

The summer had been kind and the tribe had flourished with the birth of many new members. But the very young just cry and make waste. They cannot hunt the steppe herds, nor yet provide any useful service. With winter approaching, the tribe needs more meat and skins to survive through the lean times. But the herds are on the move, away from the tribes hunting ground to distant lands with lush grasses. The tribe has set a potentially devastating trap in the valley and must do everything it can to butcher the herds before they escape. 

In this scenario, we find our hunters closing in on a small mammoth herd in the bottom of a valley - there is also a herd of ibex-like sheep/goat creatures. Along the bluff of the hill in the distance, there are three precariously placed boulders ready to be rolled into the valley below. 

The hunters start in contact with any base edge. Snog, Urrg and Bow started up on the hill with the boulders, Ferg started behind the mammoth herd - intending to drive them on into the trap, while Dick and Muttly the hound were positioned at the far end of the valley. Their mission is to slaughter at least two bulk worth of grazers for each hunter, thereby providing the tribe with meat and skins for the winter.

In the opening turn, Ferg loped right up to the mammoth herd, waving his flaming brand wildly and driving them on into the valley. Up on the bluff, Urrg pushed the first of the boulders down the slope, successfully taking out two of the sheep/goats. The remainder of the herd stampeded back down the valley past Bow who snapped off a shot, wounding one of them, and causing them to keep stampeding across the valley.

The first boulder came to a stop shortly after reaching the valley floor. Urrg and Snog pushed the remaining boulders over the bluff. Ferg continued to spook the mammoths, while Bow and Dick pursued the sheep/goat around the valley, taking another one down. Muttley skulked up to the wounded sheep/goat (originally shot by Bow) and, in a bout of feral savagery... ripped its head clean off.

At this point we were still planning on taking down a mammoth as well. We calculated that we needed 12 bulk of prey and there was only 10 bulk in the entire herd of sheep/goats. Then the prehistoric penny dropped - we only had five hunters. We only needed 10 bulk to count it as a tribal win. 

The mammoths had really scattered at this point of the game and we could have cornered one and hoped for the best, but it was far easier for Urrg to track the final sheep goat and, even though he took a horn to the tender bits in the process, he still managed to make the kill.

The tribe had skins and meat enough to make a good start of winter and the mammoths, well, the mammoths would live to breed more mammoths as part of a responsible programme of sustainable hunting. The same cannot be said for the now extinct breed of ibex-like sheep/goats.

Saturday 8 April 2017

Thomas Hawk's frontier skirmishers

My Sharp Practice 2 French and Indian Wars British force is more or less complete at a half company of Inniskillings plus some Indian scouts. However, almost enjoying painting 15mm again, I decided I wanted to add a touch more colonial flavour to Hotspur's expedition. I decided that a group of frontiersmen would fit with my theme, but I was going to be damned before I'd buy 30 Blue Moon colonials to field a single unit of six skirmishers so I cast my eye around for a cheaper and more sensible alternative. 

Enter the Freicorp range from QRF/Total System Scenics. They sell their infantry in the customary bag of eight for a pittance (if not a pittance, at £2.70, they are only a fraction of the £13 Blue Moon bags). I ordered one pack not knowing what to expect really. At worst, I'd lost a fiver (including post). At best, I'd have a new flavour-filled unit. I hope you'll agree from the top photo, the sculpts are actually quite nice and paint up to a suitable standard.

You get eight frontiersmen/women. The woman loading a musket/rifle I based as a civilian and she will join my others. Then there is one chap wearing a sash and firing a pistol - obviously the level II leader, Thomas Hawk, and six other gents (the SP2 skirmisher group) in a mix of clothes - I painted two up in provincial uniforms for a spot of colour. One of them - my favourite sculpt in the pack, is protecting a young girl.

In this shot, the Freicorp frontiersman (avec wee girl) is flanked by a Blue Moon British officer and Blue Moon Indian. You can see that the Freicorp sculpts are a bit smaller in features - probably close to true 15mm. I'm not sure I would field regular infantry from the two ranges in the same units, but I wouldn't have a problem doing so with irregulars. Nor do I have a problem fielding groups from the different ranges side-by-side.

Now, on to Quebec!