Relief Force – Sharp Practice AAR

Last week-end, Sigur and I had another game of Sharp Practice. I had devised a short and simple scenario: A Union held fort was attacked by a Confederate force, but a relief column was on its way.

Sigur decided to command the attackers and got a couple of infantry, a unit of cavalry and a small mountain howitzer. I had three rather weak units in the fort. To make things more interesting, I drew card for the composition of the relief force, which gave me three units of regular infantry and one unit of cavalry armed with breech-loading carbines – quite a potent combination.

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The set up. Sigur’s cavalry moves along the road towards the bridge.
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… and there goes the cavalry! Having been shot to pieces by the Union soldiers in the fort, it flees to never be seen again. Sigur’s skirmishers adopt a more methodical approach.
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With the cavalry heading towards the rear, it’s up to the poor bloody infantry.
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Hurrah! At the earliest possible moment, the Union cavalry arrives.
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The Confederates haven taken position in the rough ground and a musketry duels starts.
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The Union infantry rushes towards the fort. In the foreground, you can see the already dismounted Union troopers.
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The dismounted Union cavalry tries to work around the Confederate flank and rear to take out the mountain howitzer, which is shelling the fort with some effect. One group of Confederate infantry have taken position in the wheat field to check the bluecoats’ advance. The shooting at the fort continues.
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While the well-drilled Union infantry has formed line, the dismounted cavalry has been repulsed by the Confederates in the wheat field.
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The Union line advances, trying to hit the Confederates in the flank.
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The Union line is in a bad position now – it’s either forward with the bayonet or being caught in a cross-fire.
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Forward it is, then! One group runs towards the howitzer…
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… while the other two charge the Confederate line. Alas! Both attacks get stuck and do not reach their intended targets.
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The Confederates counter-charge and break the Union line! The Union skirmishers have taken position to screen the line from the shooting coming from the wheat field.
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The Union attack breaks down. The group charging the howitzer was pelted with canister and took to its heels, while the rest are falling back or routing, being shot at by everything the Confederates have.

Well, that was that. With my Force Morale at 2 and Sigur’s at 7, I conceded defeat. My relief force was routing and the garrison in the fort would probably surrender.

This was a fun and interesting game. Sigur was very unlucky at the beginning, as the turns were short, he couldn’t deploy much, and then my relief force turned up at the earliest possible moment. He squandered away his cavalry, but so did I. Detaching a group from his line and positioning it in the wheat field was a prudent move. For a moment it looked very dangerous for the Confederates, but I don’t think it was actually that close a game. I took a huge risk by moving my infantry that far forward and by trying to charge his units. Playing aggressively can have a psychological effect on the other player which can make a situation look more dangerous than it really is – believe me, I’ve been on the receiving end of aggressive moves many times!

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VIVAT 2018

Another weekend, another show – that’s the life of the wargaming jet-set! VIVAT, which is hosted near Vienna, is a small and friendly show. It’s an event where historical wargamers from Austria (and from Hungary) come together, chat and play a couple of games.

This year, there were six tables. Additionally, Sigur had his painting station and S-Games had a small table with wares.

I used the opportunity to have another game of What a Tanker! This time, the game was set in boccage country, which made quite a difference from the desert setting I’ve played before. Considering that I’m not at all interested in tanks, I’ve a strange liking of this game – perhaps because I can just enjoy it as a game.

 

There was also a SAGA game set during the crusades, which looked rather nice.

 

The Jugula game also looked spiffy. The arena was very effective and the game itself looked like fun.

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This one is a large game of The Great War. If I’m not mistaken, it was presented by the Hungarian delegation.

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The indefatigable team of Tabletop Wien West presented a game of Blood Red Skies. It’s really admirable how hard those guys work to bring tabletop games to a larger public and to pull new blood into the hobby.

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And finally, a wintry Flames of War table.

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I really enjoyed my visit to VIVAT. Not only did I have the opportunity to have a fun game, I also reconnected with guys I hadn’t seen for a while and met new people. The Austrian historical miniatures wargaming community is very small and fragmented, so it’s great to have an event to get together and share the passion. Thanks to the organisers for a great job, I’m already looking forward to VIVAT 2019!

CRISIS 2018

After a break of two years, we finally returned to the biggest wargames show in Continental Europe, namely CRISIS in Antwerp. This is going to be long, so for those of you too lazy to read on: We had an absolute blast! For the rest:

The weekend started on Friday, when we met up with Mikko (from Dawn of the Lead fame) and his fiancée Emmi. We had a nice dinner and an even nicer chat about wargaming, history, knitting and all kinds of other stuff. It was a great evening and we are very happy to have made new friends!

The next morning, we were off to CRISIS. I was completely overwhelmed when I entered the hall – after a break of two years, it felt like the first time all over again! There was so much to look at that it took us two hours to even enter the second hall. We saw lots of great games – I think there were more games than the last time I was there – and we even played one: The German trader Worean Shop had an ACW table for Regimental Fire & Fury and I always wanted to try those rules. The game was very enjoyable and convinced me to buy the rules.

We also exchanged hugs and banter with Annie from Bad Squiddo Games – it’s always a joy to see her!

Some disjointed observations before I post images from some of the games: I’m not convinced by printed playing mats. The proportion of WW2 games felt higher than before, but the quality of those games was generally very high. Most games were skirmish games, big battle games were rare. There wasn’t that much ‘hot and new’ stuff, but I saw a Star Wars: Legion game. There was a surprising amount of SAGA games. And of games with waterways. There was a great and varied selection of books available for purchase. There were a lot of gaming tables and some very nice and inspirational games.

With this, on to the games. Unfortunately, for many of them I can’t remember the names of the clubs and the games.

Jon and Diane Sutherland put on one of the few large games with hundreds of miniatures, representing the Battle of Rügen Island in 1715. Jon painted the miniatures and wrote the rules, which will be published by Caliver Books.

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Militia Brabantia Wargames Club had this incredible set up based on the computer game Assassins Creed. The level of detail was astonishing!

 

It was good to see a Sharp Practice game, presented by the Kurpfalz Feldherren (I think) and set during the Jacobite rebellions.

 

Studio Tomahawk presented the new SAGA fantasy rules, which will be out in 2019.

 

A nice looking peninsular war game:

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A WW2 game with incredible terrain:

 

Another WW2 game. This is the impressive Crete 1941 game put on by James Morris and featured in Wargames Illustrated 370 & 371.

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TooFatLardies had two games: What a Tanker and Chain of Command, the latter showcasing their new Blitzkrieg 1940 handbook. The canal set up looked really good! They also won the price for Best Participation Game.

 

This is the ACW game we played. The set up is simple but very effective. And it warmed my heart to see 15mm figures in action!

 

Ships are always cool. This is a game of Blood & Plunder:

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And here we have a medieval sea battle, namely Zierikzee 1304 by Murphy’s Heroes. The ships are made of paper and so that the 6mm figure stands fit in perfectly. A clever and effective set up!

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Another impressive WW2 game, this time Dunkerque, presented by Dortmund Amateur Wargamers:

 

This cool looking chariot racing game by a member of the Tin Soldiers of Antwerp was busy all day. The tiny spectators are individually painted grains of rice!

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A Firestorm Armada space battle. I like the ring planet!

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Two cool-looking medieval games:

 

And finally some games that caught my eye, but I can’t remember what they represented:

 

So what did I buy? 

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Mainly books, to be honest. I got ACW stuff while K. made me buy the Ospreys. I also bought one pack of Halflings for a small upcoming fantasy project and a pack of Old Glory 15mm ACW infantry, just to try them out. The black box contains coastal forces from Magister Militium – more on that some other time. The big bag contains a narrow river I pre-ordered from Products for Wargamers.

The next day, we had a very nice breakfast with Jon and Diane Sutherland, whom we haven’t seen since we were at their (now sadly defunct) Wargames Holiday Center in Crete. It was great catching up with them!

What a marvellous week-end. CRISIS has a very welcoming atmosphere and the organisational effort of the Tin Soldiers of Antwerp is incredible – everything works smooth and quick and friendly. And the pie was excellent!

Our trip to Antwerp was most enjoyable. It was great to meet old friends and make new ones, to play games, buy stuff  and reconnect with the wider wargaming world.

Review: Gloomhaven

I’m usually quite resistant when it comes to new & shiny and when I first heard about Gloomhaven, I shrugged it off as yet another Kickstarter hype. However, the more I read about it, the more intrigued I became. When I finally watched the review on Shut Up & Sit Down (which, incidentally, is one of the best video reviews I’ve ever seen) together with K., we both looked at each other and decided: we want this game! I have to admit that I also had a hidden agenda: we’ve been playing D&D with our nephew, but I was really tired of being DM, so I hoped that this game would supplant D&D and get us back to gaming with the kid more often.

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After lugging it home from the local games store – the box weights around nine kilo – K., the nephew and I opened the box and sorted the contents. There really is a lot in there! We were especially fascinated by the sealed stuff – things that you only unpack when certain conditions are met during play.

Gloomhaven is basically a glorified cooperative dungeon crawler. It is also a legacy-style game: The game itself changes permanently when you play it. For example, when you unlock a new scenario, you put a sticker on the map. This, of course, reduces the replay-value, but as the game is designed to take around 100 game session to complete, this shouldn’t be too much of a problem – it will keep you occupied for a long time to come.

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At the core of the game is a card-driven mechanic: Each character has a unique set of action cards which can be played to move, fight and do all sorts of cool special actions. There are no dice – again, each character has his or her unique deck of combat modifier cards. The interesting thing is that those decks can be changed by adding or removing cards, so the probabilities will change with the development of the character – something that would be hard to achieve with dice.

Apart from the single scenarios, which seem to be more or less dungeon bash games, there are also all kinds of events during the travels and in the city of Gloomhaven itself. Together with the branching paths of the scenarios – a finished scenario may unlock two or possibly more other scenarios – this really comes as close to giving the feel of an RPG as a board game without a DM might get. The designer himself compared it with a chose-your-own-adventure book, and this seems about right.

We’ve played three games now. During the first, we where quite overwhelmed by the cards and their interactions, and I already became a bit nervous if this is the right game for us. However, during the second game we already got the hang of it. Gloomhaven is often called a Euro game because luck doesn’t play as big a role as in other dungeon crawlers and knowing when to play the right combination of cards can be the key to success. As a matter of fact, this is not something I usually enjoy, as I prefer a more spontaneous and narrative style of play and get bored by the meticulous bureaucratic planning required by some Euro games. However, when we played it, it worked fine with our style of gaming. Admittedly, after our first abortive try we chose the lowest difficulty setting, which is much more forgiving. And as we are more into it for the story and the crazy action than for the puzzle-solving, we will keep it that way until we are proficient with our characters.

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That Gloomhaven manages to convey a sense of narrative after no more than three games does say something about this game. The branching scenarios as well as the event cards create unique decisions that almost from the outset help to define the group and the characters. Will you be reckless? Will you just do the jobs offered or will you stick your nose into things that shouldn’t concern you? Will you be kind to people you meet, or will you prey on them? Such is the stuff stories are made off.

If you want a unique gaming experience and if you have a dedicated group of two to four players who enjoy an RPG experience without anyone wanting to do the hard work of DMing, I can highly recommend Gloomhaven.