Tuesday 27 February 2018

Return of the Grey Wolf Clan

Following on from their previous adventures (1, 2, 3), Mark's Grey Wolf Clan are back!


Hi all,

In this installment of PreHistory month I played five games representing episodes from the hunting season of the Grey Wolf Clan, my Palaeolithic hunter-gatherer band (as interpreted by Mark Copplestone via Hollywood). There will be guest appearances by the new snow terrain discussed last time, the last Gomphotherium, and also the Trout Clan, my “other” band of Palaeolithic people.

I’m doing only a brief report for each hunt and limiting it to one or two photos each.

(1) The first Spring hunt
With snow still on the ground, a party of the four fittest surviving hunters have been sent out from the winter camp to find fresh food. They must kill 4 Bulk, not only as badly-needed food for the Clan but also to fulfill a pledge to the Spirits. Failure may mean the ancestors look on their descendants with disdain - or worse.

The photo shows two of the hunters, Charlie and Wills, skulking towards a small herd of caribou (2 Bulk each). The other two hunters have circled the other way. The hunters will leave the young rhino (Giant Grazer, 4 Bulk) alone, it’s too difficult and risky to tackle on this mission. The caribou are nervous, already one has been spooked by the other hunters and moved away.

The Spirits will be pleased this year. The hunters pulled off a neat converging attack, from across the open ground and from over the hill, so that a stampede away from one hunter usually took them closer to another. Two caribou were killed, two others escaped, both wounded. One hunter, Lucky Eddy, was trampled and wounded by a stampeding beast

(2) The Gomphotherium
Rumours have reached the Grey Wolf Clan of a really, really big mammoth that lives in a remote lowland valley. A party of the best hunters is given permission to seek the giant and report back - with tusks if possible. Five hunters, all spear-armed, set off to prove their fitness and courage.

They find the beast complacently shovelling up water plants in a marshy valley, and watch it for awhile from a nearby hilltop. The Gomphotherium ignores them. They wonder what it tastes like.

After taking auguries (consulting the Giant Grazers Reaction Table) the hunters agreed to all sneak up and attack together, rather than spread out and surround the beast first. This tactic was successful, as the beast was harried relentlessly, and dealt two wounds. It reacted by alternately fleeing then turning to attack the closest pursuer, which resulted in one hunter being killed and two being wounded. The Gomphotherium gradually retreated along the valley and finally a flee move too many ran it over a steep bluff.

The surviving hunters will now have to patch up their wounds, dispose of their fallen comrade, and cut out the tusks of the fallen giant. But before any of that it’s time for the “fresh gooey bits” (PDEE p14).

(3) Who Are These People?
A four-person hunting party has been tracking a lone mammoth for several days now. They are well outside the Clan’s familiar territory, and seriously considering giving up. Maybe one more day ...

They close in on the mammoth as it grazes near a small stream. The spear throwing was unusually proficient, and the mammoth was killed (4 wounds) before it could flee across the stream. But there was a heavy price to pay. One hunter was killed, and another wounded by the enraged beast. And then ...

First contact. Across the stream a hunting party from the Trout Clan appear, on the lookout for anything edible, alive or dead. The Grey Wolf Clan have heard stories about the “others” from travellers, but this is the first actual sighting. The people of the Trout Clan likewise.

Game notes: (a) the Trout Clan are Pulp Miniatures figures by Bob Murch. They are smaller than the Grey Wolf Copplestones, so won’t pass as Neanderthalers. I’m calling them, naturally, Homo pattayaviensus. They have darker skin than the Grey Wolf Clan members, and all seem to have red hair. They also prefer clubs over spears as weapons. (b) my house rules for this game use weighted dice to decide the options of flight/fight/cooperate. The weighting takes account of (i) the mammoth is already dead and there is enough for all, (ii) one group is significantly stronger than the other because of hunting casualties.

Driven by curiosity both parties came down to the stream to take a closer look. The Grey Wolf hunters took care to stand between the “others” and the mammoth carcass. Then (against the odds) one of the Grey Wolf Band threw a spear at a Trout hunter. It missed, but as the first hostile act it meant the Trout band now took on the “beast” role for the rest of the game (as pack predators).

Two Grey Wolf hunters crossed the stream to attack the others. Initial success (two others wounded) turned to disaster as both Grey Wolfs were killed. The sole survivor ran away as fast as he could, wondering if he could get back alive, and what he was going to tell the Elders. The Trout band rejoiced, with a mammoth and three humans as fresh kills to feast on.

(4) Adventure at the Big Bluffs
A band of young men, women and children trek to the Big Bluffs to gather birds eggs, fruit, and mushrooms. Details: 2 x Women (spear-armed hunters); 2 x Young Men (1 bow, 1 club armed hunters); 2 x Children (can throw stones, and gather eggs etc, but not attack. Resilience 3+, Bulk 1).

The Big Bluffs are a lakeside vale rich in seasonal gatherables which the Clan visits at this time every year. These is even a footbridge across the marshes to make access easier. No large animals have lived in this little oasis for several years now, they were all hunted. But unknown to the Clan recolonisation is under way.

Each time a figure inside a thicket or marsh fails an activation roll, a warthog (Pack Predator) one of a family of up to three) will immediately Attack. 

The band has eight Turns to achieve the following goals:
(1) Gather at least six “resources” from inside the thickets and marshes. There is only one resource per marsh and thicket. To gather it requires a figure to Roll a “6” for activation and remain stationary, undisturbed, for that action. Also a dead warthog counts as a resource.
(2) Both children must survive to exit the tabletop over the footbridge (or no plausible impediment to their doing so).
(3) One hunter must spend the whole day within 1M of the footbridge, making minor repairs, fishing in the swamp etc.

The resource gathering begins. The band has entered (and must leave) over the footbridge at L). The bow armed hunter stays behind to start repairs. Two groups each of an adult and a child approach terrain features to start gathering. The last hunter stands in open ground as backup. The two hounds at top R of the tabletop are an oversight. 

It turned out the whole warthog family was foraging in this marsh. The young hunter killed the first one that attacked, but the other two were right behind it. They wounded the hunter and killed the child. Oops. Then they killed the hunter too. Oops again.

Elsewhere the gathering proceeded apace, undisturbed by further warthogs. They were dealt with by the bowman on the footbridge, with help from one of the other hunters coming back at the end of the day (Turn 7/8).

The band gathered four sacks of eggs, snails, mushrooms etc, and a further three will come from the warthogs when they are butchered. But overall the day has been a draw at best for the Grey Wolf Clan. The loss of a promising young hunter, and the favourite child of an influential elder, is not something they’ll be looking forward to reporting at the campfire.

(5) Last hunt of the season
The days are getting shorter, and the first frosts have appeared. Now the herds are starting to migrate away from the Grey Wolf Clan’s range. There is talk among the young men of following them wherever they go, but for this year at least the wisdom of the elders prevails. It’s time for the annual drive, to top up the smokehouse with fat and meat for the long winter.

The plan is to trap as many of the beasts as possible, using fire and howling to drive them into the kill zone. There are six Giant Grazers on the table at 4 Bulk each, and a calf with no Savagery rating, Resilience and Bulk = 1. The Clan needs to kill 18 Bulk for the hunt to be a success, 2 Bulk for each hunter taking part in the drive).

The river is impassable. The thickets are per the rules: passable for beasts at normal speed and humans at reduced speed.

This year the drive was a big success, unlike last year when most of the beasts broke though and escaped. One Aurochs and one mammoth were killed by rolling boulders. The other mammoth and the rhino fell over the bluffs. Another Aurochs, and the little calf, were trapped and speared inside the corral. Only one Aurochs escaped, wounded, so the hunters probably will be able to track and finish it tomorrow,

A scene of barbaric carnage? Or “mum the smokehouse is full!” You choose.

A good end to an ordinary year for the Grey Wolf Clan. They have lost four out of their nineteen adult hunters killed this year, plus the young man and the elite child. But they have the tusks of the Gomphotherium which can be carved into prestige objects, and an overflowing, indeed covfefe, larder to see them through the winter.

That’s all from the Grey Wolf Clan for this season (barring any winter activities if I make a lot more snow).

Sunday 25 February 2018

Completed 6mm Minoans for ADG!

“[Europa] bare sons to the almighty Son of Kronos [Zeus], glorious leaders of wealthy men - Minos the ruler, and just Rhadamanthys and noble Sarpedon the blameless and strong."
Hesiod, Catalogues of Women Fragment 19A (Oxyrhynchus Papyri)

I'm delighted to be able to show off my completed Minoan army for L'Art de la Guerre (198 points), started back in September last year. For me, that is a pretty quick turn around, and I have to say, I'm rather pleased with the completed force. Whether they are any good in battle is a whole other issue. 😕

All figures are from Rapier Miniatures except for Minos himself (Perfect Six Miniatures), and the civilians in the camp (Baccus Miniatures).

 The Myrmidon allied contingent.

The Minoan heavy chariotry lead by Minos.

Supporting medium spearmen and javelin-armed skirmishers.

The heavy division made up of heavy spearmen with pavises and missile support, along with a veritable swarm of skirmishing archers and slingers.

Slingers advancing in front of the heavy spearmen. 

Bow-armed skirmishers advancing in front of the heavy spearmen. 

Sunday 18 February 2018

The search for a fantastic rule set

So, all these 10mm rats and halflings – not to mention the Legion of Super Evil (not yet previewed) – have caused me to start looking for a good fantasy mass battle game for the first time in many years. All of the below is my personal thoughts and I realise that many people may disagree with parts or all that I write.

In the foolishness of youth I played Warhammer Fantasy Battle 3rd Edition, but I fell out of love with Games Workshop a good twenty years ago. I have no intention of re-engaging in that department, but even if I did, they don’t even seem to do a mass battle game anymore for their fantasy setting. I might be out of the loop on this one… 😊

I then dabbled with Hordes of the Things, the WRG rules based on the DBX system. I rather enjoy the elegant abstraction of DBX and its successors in historical settings where the relatively restricted number of troop types battle it out against their contemporaries. However, I’m not convinced that there is enough nuance in the troop interactions to give a really flavourful fantasy game. Certainly, my gaming circle here in Ireland doesn’t seem to think so.

So this week we sat down to three games using different rules but the same small selection of figures in each – Halflings verse Dark Elves. I outline my thoughts on each below:

Game 1) Kings of War, 2nd Edition, by Mantic (Halfling victory)
I had played KoW once in the past, and watched a couple of other games. My opponent JB haD played it rather more and helped guide me through. On the plus side, it is fast. But – and it is a pretty large but(t) – I don’t find it a particularly fulfilling game. At all. It lacks any sense of command friction and that really takes away any sense of having to make hard decisions. You can just move whichever units you want at a time that suits you.

Coupled with this, the combat system is a bit silly (understatement). Only the active player rolls dice, and they roll an inconceivably large amount of them lot of them. This means that, especially with regular sized or large games, the opposing player just sits there and takes it in the face without so much as being able to hold up a hand to shield their eyes. Not only is this pretty unrealistic (fantasy setting of not), but it can get both dull and dispiriting to see the other guy dander about destroying your units and you don’t even get to roll a dice.

Speaking of dice… I am not a ‘bucket o’ dice’ kind of guy. I understand within the rules why so many dice are rolled to attack, but it’s just unnecessary. A small tweak to the way units break, and you could reduce the number of dice down to a mere handful. We ran out of dice and I have a bloody big bag of d6s!

Game 2) Mayhem, Expanded Edition, by Bombshell Games (Halfling victory)
This game has some really neat ideas, using different polydice to represent different fighting abilities and equipment, an allowing you to choose to roll dice or accept the average without rolling. Unfortunately, the game felt unfinished to us. Admittedly, this was only after one game, but we ended up with quite a number of questions left unanswered, that we just couldn’t could find answers to in the book.

There is some command friction in the game, which we liked, and the overdrive system of additional actions by units being possible at an exponential cost of command pips is nifty. The concept of a single unit activation four times in a row though, while every other unit on the table sat around and watched felt a bit too farfetched though. I had 10 units on my halfling army and had a command value of d12. Because of the nature of the rules, I was able to roll multiple d12s each turn (one for the general, one for the hero, one for the elite eunit etc etc) and managed to get 12 command pips each turn. This meant that rather than feeling like command friction, I actually had more freedom than in the previous KoW game! If we play again, we might have a gentlemens’ agreement to limit command qualities to d6s, or maybe somehow link the maximum command rating to the number of units in the army.

Neither of us were at all convinced by the rule that says that characters may only attack other characters (including casting aggressive magic), unless they are embedded in a unit. So, a wizard on a flying carpet can’t cast a fireball at a unit of goblins – but if he flies over a joins a friendly unit of swordsmen, he is suddenly somehow able to able cast his fireballs. It just isn’t intuitive. The rules let you embed some heroes in units from the start, but your general may not be created like that.

The game is splendid in allowing players to completely customise their own army lists, even if there are no example lists in the book at all. Once again, there is a counter to that though, in that the points system feels a bit skew-whiff. There are some traits and weapons that seem really imbalanced in the cost to buy, benefits on the battlefield ratio. Also, the characters – the ones that can’t attack units – cost the same to build as units.

Game 3) Kings of War – with a fudge, 2nd Edition, by Mantic (Bloody draw)
For the third game, we returned to KoW, but implemented one simple yet fundamental change. In a melee, both players attacked and could damage their opponent. This meant that there was no more charging in with impunity for those knights who were already badly mauled. If they do charge in, they may very well break, regardless of what damage they do to their opponents. The fudged KoW game still suffered from a lack of command friction and the buckets o’ dice thing, but it was a lot more fun, and even faster than usual.


Where to go now? Pending anybody else making any splendid suggestions, I might try Hail Caesar, using the historical rules to start with, but with customised armies of course. If it feels ok, then it’s just a matter of adding in magic. But only time will tell I suppose.

It seems that what I am after is a game that keeps both players engaged throughout. I don't want individual figure removal. It needs to have some sort of command friction that forces the player to make hard decisions, and have a well thought out and balanced points system, but not have army lists that are too prescriptive. If it fits within my fantasy world, why shouldn’t I have a halfling sorcerer riding a giant bunny?!

Wednesday 7 February 2018

Halflings ho!

Just in time to return to work (strictly speaking I'm still a bit flu-y. but I have stuff that I need to do...), I managed to finish up my halflings. I just have some treefolk to do as some chunky melee supports and I'll have 1000 points for KoW, or 200 crowns of troops for Mayhem

The halfing militia are mostly Eureka halflings, with Magister Militum command pack chaps added for variety - and for the cooking pot. I'm counting the standard bearers as halfling militiamen with pikes.

The halfling yeomanry (and Hugo the Bold) are all Magister Militum, from the pony cavalry pack and the command pack.

This is probably my last post for a while as I am now way behind at work and in life. However, don't quote me on this. There is always room for procrastination... 🙈

Saturday 3 February 2018

Halflings of Hearthshire

I've had a halfling 'thing' since childhood. From Tolkien's Middle Earth to the Warhammer Old World, there was always something that appealed to me about the unassuming everyman who would stand up against tyranny when the moment came. Last Christmas, my good mate and gaming buddy JB decided to get me a pack of Eureka 10mm halflings to get me started. On my birthday, he them presented me with a couple of Magister Militum packs of halflings to push me further down that particular rabbit hole.

Having been off sick and restricted to the house, I managed to paint up the first couple of units for a halfling army. I'm not sure what rules will be used yet - Kings of War or perhaps Mayhem? I have army lists written up for both. I'm still not sold on KoW, and have yet to actually play Mayhem. Regardless, here is the start of the halfling militia of Hearthshire.

The Squire of Hearthshire is the musician from the Eureka halfling pack. I really liked the sculpt, so he has been promoted to a leadership position.

The rangers are also from the Eureka halfling pack. There were 10 archers and 20 mixed militia chaps in the bag. The militia are coming later, but these lads are the skilled halfling archer units.

This scouting mounted unit is from Magister Militum. They are supposed to be halfling ostrich riders and while I concede the wings do look ostrichy, the rest of the sculpt says 'goose' to me. Geese scouts also fit better with my concept of halflings as agricultural folk.

There are halfling yeomen, halfling militia, and supporting treefolk still to come, but they have not yet even been undercoated...

Thursday 1 February 2018

6mm Minoan reinforcements

In lucid moments between savage bouts of coughing, I've managed, just, to finish up a few more units of 6mm Minoans for my L'Art de la Guerre Mycenaean/Minoan army. I only have six units left to do before the army is finished, but with each one taking so much time and effort while I'm down with the super-mega-power-flu, I wanted to post a wee work in progress shot so I can feel like I've achieved something... All models are Rapier 6mm Trojans.

My third commander, attached to a unit of heavy chariots. 

Two units of heavy spearmen with missile support and pavises. Given the option of fully kitting out my heavy infantry, I was inspired by the so-called 'Lion Hunt' dagger from Myceneae, to integrate archers (and slingers) among the spearmen rather than in a single rank behind them. I know the dagger shows a hunting scene, but (from memory) Homer describes the same sort of scene - Teukros firing his bow from the shelter of Ajax's shield in the Illiad - so I went with it.

Each base has 10 spearmen, a musician, an officer, and three skirmishers (a couple behind, and one among the spearmen). I will further mix up the positioning of the skirmishers on the other bases.

This shot is just to compare the heavy spearmen (pavises and missile support) on the left, with my medium spearmen (pavises and missile support) on the right. The mediums only get two skirmishers to a base and their spears are much shorter.

My two bases of slingers. It is a shame there is only one sculpt in the pack, but the sculpt is suburb. Who sculpts pecs and abs on 6mm figures!?