Wall’s Bridge Revisited

Almost two years ago, I played a Sharp Practice scenario from Grierson’s raid. While a fun game, the scenario suffered from several issues. The publication of a new book on the raid by Timothy Smith prompted me to revisit the scenario.

My staunch Sharp Practice opponent Sigur took the Confederate defenders (and he also took the pictures), while I played the Union attackers. Last time, one of the problems was balance: the Union is equipped with breech-loading carbines, which offer a severe advantage in firefights. I wanted to keep the technical superiority of the Union, while also taking into account the state of their troops: at that moment, they had been in the saddle for almost two weeks, moving hundreds of miles through enemy territory. They were exhausted, but had to act quick and decisively, as large numbers of Confederate troops were hot on their heels.

Therefore, I introduced two special rules:

specialrules

The idea behind the Exhausted special rule was to skew the distribution of random events a bit in the direction of the Union, thereby modeling their exhaustion and proneness to making mistakes. The turn clock should put the Union player under pressure and force him to make quick decisions, even if not all of his troops were immediately available.

Similar to last game, the scenario started with the Union “butternut guerrillas” (scouts) leaderless on the far side of Tickfaw River, as they had run into a Confederate ambush.

 

I decided to keep them there and exchange shots with the Confederate skirmishers while I moved my first two groups of cavalry to my left flank. There, they dismounted and waded through the river, taking up position on the far side. Unfortunately, their Leader had some difficulties keeping up and ended up on the other side – a mistake that would cost him dearly…

earlygame repeaters line up

Sigur meanwhile hurried his infantry to counter my troopers. He soon came under fire from the breech-loading carbines, which hurt him pretty badly. However, he managed to form line and gave back in kind – a controlled volley from close distance thinned the ranks of my troopers.

midgame lineup shootout

To make matters worse, Sigur had advanced the rest of his men down the road. Some took position on the bridge and peppered my dismounted cavalry from behind. Not content with such impunity, he crossed the river and sneaked up on my boys from behind. Before he knew what had happened, my cavalry Leader was taken prisoner!

lategame capture

This did not bode well. The cavalry on the river banks were now in a very bad position. I managed to get in the reinforcements, one group of which I sent to the river to relief the pinned troopers while the other galloped helter-skelter along the road to take the Confederate deployment point and threaten his line from behind.

endgame cav take deployment point

Alas, too late! My Force Morale plummeted and I conceded when it was at 2 (against Sigur’s 7).

endgame overview

Congratulations to the plucky defenders, which held their ground against the odds!

This was a fun game, with Sigur acting bold and outmaneuvering me completely. The scenario tweaks also worked ok. I think the turn clock contained too many steps – I would skip the reduction of Command Cards, but would reduce the number it takes to end the game to 46. Turn clocks are always a difficult thing in Sharp Practice, as the turn lengths are so variable, but it did achieve the effect of conveying a sense of pressure.

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Building a Wizard’s Tower

One of the scenarios in the Sellswords & Spellslingers book demands a wizard’s tower. While there are several available to buy (from the plain Ziterdes keep to the formidable Tabletop World spire), I decided to scratch build my own.

The starting point was a box of pringles. I glued it unto another cardboard roll to, as I wanted to have it protrude from a rocky outcrop. The basis was provided by an old single record.

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For the rocky outcrop, I used blue foam and chunks of tree bark. The basis for a small secondary tower was formed by an empty toilet roll.

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The next step was to fill the holes and cracks with modelling clay (of the air-drying kind) and filler. I also made adoor for the small tower was made out of wood and a parapet for the top platform.

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I then added some details. First, cardboard brickwork to break up the surface of the tower. Second, an oriel made from yet another cardboard roll. Third, the door and windows. I bought those from Thomarillion, as I didn’t trust myself to scratch build nice enough ones. And last, I made protrusions beneath the parapet. They will later carry the Gargoyles, which I also ordered from Thomarillion.

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I then started to cover the whole structure with DAS air-drying modelling clay, an idea I got from Tony Harwood, who regularly uses this technique with great success.

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Before applying the modelling clay, I covered the surface with PVA glue, as the clay shrinks and may otherwise come off when dry. Looking good so far!

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The roofs were made out of cardboard cones, with small bits of cardboard for the tiles. This is a boring and mind-numbing work, but fortunately I’m used to it from other project and those roofs were actually rather small in comparison to some others I’ve made. The base was covered with sand and grit and PVA glue.

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Now there was only the painting to be done… and, after a couple of days, I had my final result – the wizard’s tower!

t2

Booknotes – Science Fiction & Fantasy

I’ve recently finished reading one of the best fantasy series I’ve come across lately: Jon Skovron’s Empire of the Storms trilogy.

skovronStarting with Hope and Red, it tells the story of two people, a girl who grows up to be a fearsome warrior and a boy who becomes a thief. However, what could easily have become a cliché-ridden ‘team becoming couple’-story develops into a much more exciting thing. The books are set in an interesting world, namely an Empire made up of islands in a vast ocean. This alone is great, as I love nautical fantasy (and I have to admit that this was the reason I got the book in the first place). But if I came for the ships, I stayed for the characters: Skovron introduces a plethora of compelling and complex characters. Each of them has his or her own motivation and, most importantly of all, they all change and develop as things happen to them. Best of all, the changes within the characters actually drive the story and define the stakes – which, in a way, become higher than in most other fantasy novels. Highly recommended!

220px-the_lost_fleet_dauntlessI also finished another series, the reading of which was a sort of guilty pleasure. I’m talking about Jack Campbell’s Lost Fleet. Clocking in at eleven volumes, this military sci-fi soap opera had a strange pull – as soon as I finished a volume, I wanted to read the next one. It’s not that the books are especially gripping per se, and several times when I was halfway through one I decided that this would be the last. However, Campbell has what could be called an economical way of storytelling: there is lots of repetition, but in the end there are just enough new developments that I became curious how the overall plot would work out. And, for being military sci-fi, it is refreshingly free from the trashy right-wing ideology often found in this genre. Recommended if you like space battles mixed with a dose of exploration and romance.

artarcanaFor Christmas, I got myself the new history of Dungeons & Dragons, Art and Arcana: A Visual History. This is a huge coffee-table book full of spectacular artwork from all editions of D&D. The accompanying text was co-authored by Jon Peterson, who is the authority on the history of role-playing games. What I like about Art and Arcanais that it not only covers Gary Gygax, Dave Arneson and the coming-into-being of D&D – something that has already been the subject of several books – but that it delves deeply into the evolution of the game through different editions and settings. If you are a fan of D&D, give yourself a treat and get this book!

blAs I write this, I’m halfway through Nicholas Eames’ Bloody Rose, the sequel to his fabulous Kings of the Wyld. I started with some trepidation, as I really loved the first book, but was unsure how sustainable the analogy between fantasy adventurers and rock bands would be. However, Eames manages to weave an engaging story around Fable, the band led by Rose, the daughter of one of the lead characters of the first book. Again, there are great characters and as the story develops, we get a much more nuanced perspective on the world, especially on the monsters that hitherto served only as the backdrop and cannon fodder for the exploits of the bands. And now some really wild things happened and how will they get out of this and sorry I have to get back to the book…

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!