The Raft Lookout

To celebrate the new year, I’ve decided to introduce a new section to the blog. In semi-regular intervals, I want to present new(ish) gaming-related stuff that caught my eye. For the first installation, I’ve found four items which might be of interest to you.

Peter Pig has launched The 15 Mill, a new pdf magazine “that promotes the use of 15mm miniatures and modeling in wargaming”. As 15mm is a scale very dear to my heart, I find this a commendable enterprise! What is even more exciting is the fact that each issue will include a small game (or “gamette” as they call it), and for each of those games, Peter Pig will produce a special pack of figures.

15mill gamette 1 th eduelThe first figure pack is now available: it’s a lovely set of duellers (so we can get an idea what the first game will be about…). The magazine itself contains all sorts of useful articles and is not limited to Peter Pig-related topics. It is available for free, so why not give it a try and download it here?

cover-smallThe end of 2018 saw another new magazine launch, namely TooFatLardies’ Lard Magazine. It supplants the old Specials, which have been published bi-annually since 2004. In contrast, the Lard Magazine will be an annual publication. However, it looks much more professionally, with a clear and modern layout. As to be expected, the content is of high quality: over 170 pages of Lard, covering all sorts of Lardies games like Bag the Hun, Chain of Command, I Ain’t Been Shot Mum and Sharp Practice. I found the two articles on Kriegsspiel especially fascinating: one on playing it over the Internet and another one on using it to generate tabletop battles. The magazine is available for £6.00 and is highly recommended to all fans of TooFatLardies!

littlewarstv_logoLast summer, a new YouTube channel called Little Wars TV was launched. Produced by an US wargaming club, it features impressive production values. Each episode is centered on a battle, which is recreated on the tabletop. However, this is not your usual blow-by-blow battle report with monotonous dice rolling filmed by a shaky hand camera; rather, it is a professionally filmed and, what is most important, edited account of what happened on the table, interspersed with statements by the players about their plans and reactions. Furthermore, each episode is introduced by a short discussion about the historical context of the battle. This is also very cleverly presented: while it is short and succinct, there is always a short critical discussion about contenting interpretations of the events. The games themselves are also very interesting and it is evident that a lot of thought went into scenario design, with some clever twists and surprises for the players. I also like that, while most of the battle are rather large affairs, they mainly use smaller scales – and those look very good, making nonsense of the trite argument that only 28mm looks good in visual media. Little Wars TV is not only very entertaining, it is also a great inspiration which manages to showcase the best about historical wargaming.

As you know, I’m very interested in co-operative gaming, so I’m happy to see that co-op mechanisms increasingly make their way into the realm of miniatures wargaming. After Andrea Sfiligoi’s pioneering Sellswords & Spellslingers,  Joe McCullough has recently released Rangers of Shadowdeep.

257695Joe is the designer of Frostgrave and the new game seems to share core mechanics. However, it is fully cooperative, with players working together to accomplish different missions. In contrast to SS&SS, which is more of a construction kit, Rangers has a fully developed background world and the characters seem much more pre-defined, each being a ranger with a companion. I’ve not bought it yet, as I still feel like I’m not finished with SS&SS, but I might succumb to the temptation as I’m interested in how Rangers approaches co-operative play. The rules are available via wargamevault as a pdf ($20.00) or as a printed book ($30.00).

And 2019 might bring even more co-operative miniatures gaming goodness: Alternative Armies have announced no less than two sets of co-operative rules: one called Doom Patrol for special operations through the ages and another one, which is in development and might or might not see the light of day, for robots cleaning out a space station. You’ll find more information here as soon as I get it!

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This was 2018

2018 was a decidedly mixed year on the real life side, with some bumps along the road that unfortunately also affected my gaming. However, I did get a good amount of gaming in, judging from the BoardGameGeek statistics:

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2018 was definitely the year of Sellswords & Spellslingers. It even overtook Sharp Practice as my most played game! I played it with a lot of different people, which just goes to show what a good game it is – it can be enjoyed by old grognards as well as by newbies. S&S also was the reason for a completely new direction for my miniatures collection: To get the necessary figures, I started collecting and painting good old 28mm fantasy figures, and I have to say that I had a blast.

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I’m happy that I’ve still had quite a number of games of Sharp Practice – on average I managed one per month. It’s still my favourite game and I can’t see myself losing interest anytime soon.

 

At the end of the year, a newcomer managed a meteoric rise to third place: namely Gloomhaven. We’ve bought it especially to play with my nephew, who fortunately is pretty excited about it.   I’m very happy that it led to more regular gaming with the kid.

The rest is a mix of old favourites (like Zombicide) and new games, most of which I’ve played with my chums Sigur and Virago. I’m really happy with the balance of very few favourites which I play regularly and often and a plethora of various games I’m able to try out – most of the time without having to buy them myself!

Apart from gaming, there were several highlights of my hobby year. One milestone was that I managed to publish my first article in a wargames magazine, namely my scenario for the Combahee River Raid in Wargames, Soldiers & Strategy 96.

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There were also several great events. In April, the Gettysburg Battle Day at the local club. Then, in autumn, we had an event at our house called Missin’ in Action 2018. This was a lovely day with good friends and I definitely want to organise another one next year. Finally, a couple of days before Christmas we had Sigur’s splendid Christmas game, a festive extravaganza that left us with lots of ideas for other themed games.

One of the highlights of my gaming year was the trip to CRISIS. K. and I had a marvellous day at Antwerp, where we met old friends and made new ones and I came back with lots of inspiration and my painting mojo replenished.

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Again, I’m glad to say that I’m really happy with my hobby life. Most of all, I’m grateful for my congenial friends and gaming partners. Thanks guys, your support and enthusiasm means a lot!

Cracking Christmas Game!

Some weeks ago, my mate Sigur was struck by a vision. ’twas the vision of Dark Elves trying to ruin Christmas for us all. Why not make a game of it, he thought? And he did!

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It was indeed Sigur who came up with the idea of a special Christmas game. He also provided the evil Dark Elves and their leader, the nasty Greentch (a converted Troll shaman), as well as the good Ice Queen and her loyal bodyguards. And he exceeded himself with splendid winter terrain! Virago contributed Christmas gnomes, which consisted of delightfully converted goblins and dwarves. The scene was set for an epic clash between good and evil…

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The attacker’s – played by Sigur and me – aim was to enter the houses and steal at least three presents. The defenders’ – played by Virago and his daughters – objective was to drive away the evildoers and save Christmas.

 

Everything was peace and quiet… until the nasty Dark Elves arrived. One group, commanded by me and led by Barei the Witch Elf, took the right flank.

raidersapproaching

The harpy immediately flew into the big house to its left and rummaged through the stuff. She was hoping for a nice jumper, as it was a cold and snowy night. One of the raiders entered the barn but had difficulties finding anything resembling a present.

The other group was led by Mr Greentch himself and was commanded by Sigur. The Greentch and one of the elves also entered buildings, looking for presents to unwrap.

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However, the guardians of Christmas were on their way! Approaching fast, they relied on their archers to clear the way. Arrows were whizzing past the Witch Elf, who had charged forward.

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And then the group were in range and battle was joined. The once peaceful streets rang with the menacing jingle of bells, the curses of Dark Elves…

 

… and the dull thud of a bauble hitting the face of an elf.

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Although the raiders did manage to get some presents, their joy was cut short by the defenders’ relentless attacks.

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When the Greentch himself was taken out, the raiders’ morale plummeted and they started to fall back.

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In the end, none of the Dark Elves managed to hold on to a present – the few that got away were glad they had escaped the wrath of the Ice Queen and her little helpers.

Christmas was saved!

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This was great fun! What better way to get into the festive spirit than a splendid game with excellent miniatures, wonderful terrain and, most importantly, good friends.

I wish all of you a merry Christmas, a wonderful Hanukkah, Kwanzaa blessings and happy holidays!

Sigur has published a much more detailed report with lots of pictures on the Skirmish Wargaming website, so head there for even more Christmas gaming goodies!

First Game of Over Malvern Hill

You will remember that I backed the Kickstarter for Over Malvern Hill, the new ACW rules from Stand to Games. The rules arrived and I liked what I saw, so I roped Sigur in for a test game. Unfortunately, he had to cancel, so I decided to run a solo game. This was probably a good idea for a first game, as I had to look a lot of stuff up…

I used the Battle of Big Bethel as a scenario. It’s a good scenario for solo gaming, as the Confederates have a rather static defense position. However, it’s a bit difficult to balance, as the Union had a huge advantage in numbers and should, by all accounts, have won – which they didn’t due to the difficult terrain and severe command problems. So, while the Union player has a lot more forces, it should still be quite difficult for him or her to win the game.

To spice it up a bit, I introduced a deck of friction cards (I got the initial idea from John Drewienkiewicz’ Wargaming in History Vol. 10: The Shenandoah Valley 1862, a most splendid book full of great ideas). At the start of each turn, a card is drawn from a deck. There are several blank cards in the deck, but there are also random event cards (for this scenario, one for the Confederates and three for the Union) and a ‘coffee’ card. When a random event card is drawn, the players whose random event it is rolls on a table and applies the result. The coffee cards signifies a lull in the action. Units in close range to each other withdraw a bit (unless, of course, they hold a scenario-specific objective), commanders may rally their troops etc.

My table set up followed the maps in Battle of Big Bethel: Crucial Clash in Early Civil War Virginia, a very good overview of the battle as well as the political background, which is in fact more interesting than the rather small affair.

setup

Like in history, my (i.e. the Union) forces arrived piecemeal and my main commander – who unfortunately was with the first column – was rather underwhelming, to put it mildly. I advanced my first two regiments, trying to keep them out of the fire from the main Confederate battery while still threatening the forward redoubt.

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One of the regiments was sent on a flank march, which meant however that the other regiment was out of command and could only stand there. Fortunately, my main force arrived soon after.

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My artillery had managed to silence the small Confederate cannon deployed in the forward redoubt, but neglected to drive it away for good – something that would haunt me later. Still, spirits were high and the regiments charged forward in field column. 

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Which, as I quickly learned, was not a good idea, especially against artillery. The attack got stuck, while, on my right flank, the regiment attacking across the creek was also driven back.

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I withdrew what was left of my attack column and waited for my last column to arrive.

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I deployed those two regiments on my left flank with the intent to at least take the forward redoubt. A first frontal attack got stuck – fortifications are really hard to storm (as it should be). Fortunately, the coffee card came up, which allowed me to sort out my troops and redeploy them for a final push.

Alas, bad dice rolling contributed to an utter defeat in close combat, destroying my attacking regiment.

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There was nothing left to do – the game was over. At least I had achieved a historical result!

I really enjoyed the game. At first, I had to look up a lot – it seems I didn’t read the rules as carefully as I had thought. I also changed the QRS after the first turn: Initially, I wanted to use half distances, as is advised in the rule book for 15mm. I quickly found that this looked daft on my table, as the relation between ground scale, figure scale and terrain scale felt wrong. So I used distances reduced by 1/3, which looked good and worked fine.

After the first couple of turns, the game started to flow very nicely. I still kept forgetting things and later discovered that I missed a couple of minor details. However, the game was fun and felt historical plausible. It also produced a great narrative (helped by the friction deck). Over Malvern Hill for me feels like the right balance between period-specific details and playability. I’ll certainly keep playing – hopefully, I can get Sigur to have a game some other time!