More Board Gaming Fun

We are really busy with board games at the moment. Two days ago, friends invited us to play Talisman. The host is a real fan of the game – in fact, he told us that it’s his favourite board game! I’ve never played before and therefore was very curious, especially since it’s a classic and I was interested in how it would put up in relation to modern board games.

TalismanCover

Each of us drew three characters and we could choose one of them. I took the Prophetess, who has some fun abilities. K. was the Grave Robber, while the others were Sorceress and Doomsayer. The game itself is quite fun: You walk around the board, trying to improve your abilities and get equipment so you can enter the dangerous inner regions and finally grab the Crown of Command. The rules are not complicated and the adventure cards provide fun and dramatic encounters. I liked the narrative developing around my character, who was not very powerful but managed to get into the inner regions rather soon. I was the first to have a talisman, but when I decided to tackle the area where the crown was (with the help of a daemon I had befriended with a spell) I was thrown out immediately. Better luck next time!

As the game can go for a while, we decided to split it over two sessions. We took photos of the board and collected all our cards in envelopes, so we can continue as soon as we meet again.

Talisman shows its age in some aspects: It’s quite dependent on luck and dice-rolling, it’s a rather long game and player interaction is not very high. However, it nevertheless is great fun. Drawing an adventure card is always thrilling and the upside of the luck dependency is that the game is rich in variety. I’m certainly looking forward to finishing our session – and I’m still confident that I can get my hands on this crown!

MMCover

Another board game we played last week was Mice & Mystics. I bought it some time ago specifically for my nieces and the older one finally wanted to give it a go. She just turned seven and never played anything other than kids games, so I was curious how she would do. At first, it seemed that she was a bit over challenged and I wasn’t sure how much she liked the experience. However, her parents told me that she talked about nothing else than how cool this game was for the rest of the day and she keeps pestering me to have another game, so I guess she did like it. We were also joined by our nephew, who is now 13 and an old hand at geeky board games. He was a real gentleman and contributed a lot to make the game a great experience for his younger cousin.

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Mice & Mystics is a cooperative dungeon crawler mainly aimed at kids. The rules are simple but interesting enough to demand sound tactical decisions. The story is exciting, but it never gets brutal – characters can’t die, they get captured if they have a certain amount of wounds, meaning they can be freed by the others and continue playing. This makes it easier for younger kids, as you are not out of the game if you make a mistake (like in Zombicide). Also, I really like the miniatures and being a fan of anthropomorphic animals I had them painted up a while a go.

Virago told me that his girls also love Mice & Mystics, so it’s highly recommended if you want to introduce your offspring to geeky board games.

Gaming with Zombies and Rebels

Last week, we had a kind of board game frenzy. It all started with my mates Sigur and Virago coming over to try out Zombicide, which I bought as a second-hand copy some time ago. Sigur brought his impressive collection of survivors and zombies, a mix of figures from different manufacturers, painted as always with the hand of a master.

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We first played the training mission, which was a bit boring and didn’t convince me. We then proceeded to the first proper scenario. The objective was to find foodstuff and escape. Our survivors fought heroically and we didn’t do too badly, but Zombie numbers started to add up and in the end, we succumbed to the undead horde. This time, I really enjoyed the game. The rules are quite simple, but there are lots of decision points. Zombicide is a cooperative game and you really have to work together to achieve your goals. One interesting mechanic is that the more experience points you have, the more Zombies appear each turn. The level of danger is dependent on the character with the most experience, so if one player just wants to max out his guy, all are in deep trouble. Each character has unique features and you can collect and swap equipment. It all makes for a very cinematic game!

The next day, my nephew was over, so we had another go at Zombicide. We played another mission and, proceeding carefully and methodically, managed to win the scenario. The kid was very pleased and voiced his enthusiasm by declaring it to be “the best game ever!”. He even proposed that we should paint up the figures together…

On Saturday, I met the kid’s dad and one of his friends and we had another game. This time, it was a close call and my and the nephew’s characters died, but the other players managed to win the scenario in the end. It again shows how close you have to collaborate: We split up the group early on and me and the kid got isolated and eaten by the Zombies. However, I like to think that our sacrifice provided enough distraction so the others could complete their mission…

Zombicide is a great game and highly recommended if you look for an action-oriented cooperative experience.

To get a change and top off the weekend, K. and I played our first game of Battle Cry. We played the first scenario, the Battle of Bull Run. I’m very pleased with how the 2mm figures look on the board as they convey the feeling of playing a big battle very well. Despite initial scepticism, K. liked the game, especially the card activation mechanics. While my Confederate cavalry swept away K.’s flank, her center advanced steadily and drove off the Rebels. There was a moment when it looked as if I might turn the tables, but in the end the Union won the close fought action. A great game which gave me enough motivation to finish the rest of the figures so we can play other scenarios.

Wall’s Bridge – Sharp Practice AAR

This scenario is based on a historical skirmish which took place on May 1 1863 during Grierson’s raid through Mississippi.

The historical situation

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Grierson’s troopers around Baton Rouge near the end of the raid.

Since April 17, Union cavalry under Col. Benjamin Grierson had been moving through Tennessee and Mississippi, destroying railroads, burning Confederate stores and freeing slaves. The Confederates had dispatched several detachments to hunt down the raiders. Around noon on May 1, the Ninth Louisiana Partisan Rangers (Major J. de Baun), while on their way to intercept Grierson’s men, halted at Wall’s Bridge. As always, Grierson had sent his scouts ahead, which were nicknamed ‘Butternut Guerillas’ because they wore Confederate uniform. When some of the scouts confronted a Confederate officer, carelessness led to a shot being fired. This alarmed the Rangers, who took position to ambush the Union troopers.

Seeing his scouts bring in Confederate prisoners, Lt.-Col. Blackburn, who was in charge of the Butternut Guerillas, galloped towards the bridge, shouting to his men to come along. When they reached the bridge, a volley was fired. Blackburn and Sgt. Surby were hit while their men scrambled for cover. Pinned in the underbrush of the river embankment, they hoped that reinforcements would arrive soon.

The game

The scenario started with a leaderless group of Butternut Guerillas (Union cavalry) positioned in cover at the river bank. A group of Confederate skirmishers were in the woods opposite the road. For the first two turns, only Leader 2 (with two units of cavalry) and two blue flag cards were in the deck for the Union side. The rest of the Union cards would be added at the beginning of the third turn.

setup

K., wo played the Confederates, immediately deployed her infantry to block the road while her cavalry moved around the woods on her left flank, evidently trying to outflank me. I deployed two groups of cavalry on foot and had them take position at the river bank to the right of the bridge. The skirmishers sniped at my pinned scouts, but all the shooting caused a pall of smoke to hang before them (firing random event). I reckoned that this was my chance to get the Butternut Guerillas out of their predicament and rushed them back towards the other side of the river. Despite being shot at by a group of Rebel infantry marching along the road, they made it safely into cover.

early

Meanwhile, the Rebel cavalry had advanced to the river and was preparing to ford it. They were quite a spectacular sight and for a moment caused some unease in the Union ranks. However, when they came under fire from my dismounted troopers, a lucky bullet hit the Confederate leader, killing him instantly. Milling about leaderless at the embankment, the riders were no immediate danger for my right flank.

So, when the rest of my cavalry finally arrived, I decided to send them on a charge across the bridge. K. had deployed her infantry in single groups, so I hoped to drive them back without taking too many losses.

Regrettably, it didn’t work out as planned. The Rebs stood up against the charge and gave my horsemen a good licking. Broken, they retreated in panic. Fortunately, my Leader was able to rally them and prevent them from fleeing off the field.

Rallying

Evidently, a more methodical approach would be advisable, so I dismounted my other group and had them take position to the left of the bridge. K. had meanwhile formed a line and for a while, Confederate and Union troops exchanged fire.

On my right flank, the withering fire from my repeating rifles had driven back one group of Confederate cavalry. The other group had dismounted and managed to wade through the river, intent on falling upon me with pistols and shotguns blazing.

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They were, however, driven off by the concentrated fire of my dismounted troopers.

The situation was looking bad for the Confederates and it got even worse when I finally deployed my Woodruff gun.

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I know it’s the wrong gun, but I couldn’t find my other model…

After two shots from this light piece of artillery, the Rebel commander decided he’d had enough and retreated – with her Force Morale at 3 against mine at 7, K. conceded.

end

Analysis

This was a bit of a mixed affair. We both hadn’t played Sharp Practice for a while and felt a bit rusty rules-wise, which interrupted the flow. Also, K. was really unlucky: her shooting was dismal and losing her cavalry leader early in the game completely stalled her counter-attack and allowed me to make my foolhardy charge without any real negative consequences. There was also a slight balance issue, as I’ve underestimated the Union cavalry’s repeating rifles – being able to deliver the double volume of fire makes them formidable enemies!

Historically, what happened was that the first group of Union reinforcements to arrive also rashly charged across the bridge, only to be repulsed by Confederate volleys. When Grierson finally arrived at the scene, he had his men dismount and advance on both sides of the bridge. They formed a skirmish line along the river bank while Cpt. Smith brought forward the Woodruff guns. When the skirmishers and the guns opened fire, the Rebel shooting started to wane. Grierson now advanced his mounted troopers, two groups fording the river on the flanks and one charging across the bridge. The Confederates broke and retreated.

In the afternoon of the same day, Grierson’s men had another close brush at Williams’ Bridge before they could cross into Union territory. They had covered over 600 miles in less than sixteen days, capturing and paroling over 500 prisoners, destroying around 50 miles of railroad and telegraphs as well as immense amounts of army stores and capturing 1000 horses and mules. Most importantly, they had created a diversion which enabled General Grant to safely land his troops below Vicksburg, leading to his taking of the city.

Small Fry for BattleCry

I might already have mentioned that I bought a copy of the American Civil War variant of the C&C series of board games, BattleCry. However, I pretty soon decided that I did not like the figures that come with the game. They are rather large – namely 1/72 – for the level of action depicted in the game. While there is no fixed scale, as far as I understand it a unit represents something between a regiment and a brigade (depending on the scenario). And, to quote an old adage, four guys taking a flag for a walk don’t look like a regiment to me.

I toyed with the idea of making my own wooden blocks but then thought of something that has interested me for some time: Irregular Miniature’s 2mm range. I recently came across pictures where these figures looked really good: Sidney Roundwood did a very interesting Thirty Years’ War game and the current issue of Wargames, Soldiers & Strategy has an intriguing article about a siege game done in 2mm.

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They really are tiny!

I ordered enough figures to substitute all the plastic miniatures of BattleCry. Or so I thought – I actually made a stupid calculation error and had to place another order. Fortunately, the service of Irregular is top-notch! Those are not single figures, but they come in blocks, infantry being in 20 figure blocks with a flag, perfect to represent a regiment. For 30p, you get three of those blocks – a very good price, even if you need the large amount I did.

Now of course those are not detailed models of individuals, but the blocks give a good impression of a mass of men. You can make out the muskets, but all the other detail has to be painted in. An impressionistic approach to painting is really the only option: Dots with flesh colour for the faces, thin lines for the muskets, another series of dots with a steel colour for the bayonets. It’s easy and quick, but it does get rather tedious after a while. I’ve now painted 64 infantry blocks and feel like I need a break. Fortunately, as soon as I’ve finished some cavalry and artillery, this should be enough for a first scenario from the BattleCry rulebook.

2mm is an interesting scale. I kind of like small stuff and the figure blocks give a reasonable well impression of a large mass of men. They open up the possibility of playing really huge battles with very little expense. And now that the Perrys’ Travel Battle is all the rage, I already thought about making my own travel set – with 2mm, it would be possible to make a set for those who travel without a car and don’t want to shell out £50.