What I did during the last weeks…

Life has been busy, but in a good way. I’ve got a new job and still have to settle into the new routines. I haven’t actually neglected playing games and painting (though it’s going slower), but I didn’t find time or leisure to write blog articles.

Here’s a quick update on my gaming-related activities. I hope that in the future, this blog will again resume a more structured appearance.

My painting has been rather eclectic. I really enjoyed painting the mole at the Vienna Nerd Institute painting workshop, so I’ve continued to work on the fantastic anthropomorphic animals from Oathsworn Miniatures. Here’s my collection so far:

animals

Inspire by our recent sci-fi game, I’ve also finished a landing party for an IPU (Interplanetary Union) starship:

IPU

It get’s even more idiosyncratic. I recently met a very old friend again. When we were youngsters, we played a lot of games together, among them Man O’War. Now he wants to rejoin the hobby and bought a whole load of Man O’War stuff. I couldn’t resist and by chance found a couple of second-hand Orc flyers, so I decided to give them a coat of paint:

flyers

I haven’t yet committed to build up a fleet, but I did get some Renaissance galleys from Navwar, which might do double duty as Orc ships if I can convince anybody to play the excellent Galleys & Galleons

And my final product shows that I haven’t completely lost my sense, as it leads back to my perennial obsession. Using the Busch maize field sprues, I built a corn field for the ACW. I’ve made it modular so troops can be placed inside.

 

I’ve also played a couple of games. Most of them Sharp Practice, but we’ve also started T.I.M.E. Stories, an interesting cooperative game about which more in another blog post.

And I had a game of Flashing Steel, still one of my all-time favorites!

Prisoner Escort

We still haven’t had an opportunity for a game, but at least I’m back to painting. However, I did find a report of a game of Flashing Steel we played a couple of months ago which I haven’t published yet, so here is the exciting story of the Prisoner Escort!

The game started with the British, played by me, wanting to escort a prisoner to the waiting boat. The pirates, played by K., assembled to spring their mate.

pic1
Set up.

K. decided to stage a massed attack from one side, while I wanted to keep my guys together. However, I made the first of a series of bad decisions: I attached to prisoner to my weakest character, the weedy Cpt. Percy Pilbeam.

pic2
The boat is waiting for the prisoner.
pic3
British Marines advance.
pic4
Pirates surge forward.

Due to bad luck and my trademark indecisiveness, I gave K. time to position her crew to both sides of the harbour entrance. When I finally made up a plan and acted, my guys were positioned all wrong: My strongest character, Special Agent Emma Peel, was on the far right flank, while I decided to jump over the left wall with the guy escorting the prisoner. The rest of my men broke through the centre and tried to pin the pirates by moving into close combat.

pic5
Break through.

Fortunately, Emma has some special skills and managed to sprint over to where the action happened. Soon, a series of melees was developing, with the prisoner precariously close to the table edge – K.’s objective was to get him out.

While my leader Admiral Horace Parsloe-Parsloe dawdled and entered the fray rather late, Emma did the job of several men and kept the pirates busy.

pic8
Emma in Action.

Alas, it was not enough, and in the end K. managed to grab the prisoner and lead him over the table edge.

pic9
Victory for the dastardly pirates!

Another fun game, but I made even more mistakes than usual. It’s no news that I tend to change my plans mid-way, leaving me with forces positioned all wrong, but this was an exceptionally substandard performance. Still, Emma’s heroic actions almost managed to change the course of the game, which stayed exciting until the end.

Flashing Steel once again!

Everything is better with pirates, and this is even truer for a rainy weekend. So, on a whim, we decided to break out the figures and have a go at Flashing Stee. Again we used our secret objective mechanics, with each of us drawing a slip with his or her objective on it. I got ‘Let’s teach them a lesson!’, which meant I had to take out at least two thirds of K.’s crew. What could K. have?

pic1
The set up.

I divided my crew into two groups, the stronger figures covering my left flank where the treasure was located. My two weakest guys were on the right flank, accompanied by my captain to keep the spirits up.

pic2
My left flank advances.

pic5

pic4
Arrrr!

K.’s crew milled about the centre of the table, some of them moseying in direction of the treasure chest. I smelled something fishy and held my right flank behind so as to be able to react to any sudden move. Meanwhile, my left flankers were eager to start the fight.

pic6

pic9

However, one of K.’s men dawdled behind – a tempting target for my fierce pirate lady. She charged into melee and pretty soon had him cut to pieces.

K. suddenly changed tack and rushed her figures to my right flank. The cat was out of the bag! She intended to break through my lines and get at least half of her crewmembers over my table edge.

I was glad I had kept my right flank in reserve and tried to pin her figures by moving into melee. As those were the weakest of my crewmembers, it was paramount to move the rest of my guys over as fast as possible.

pic8
Melee commences.

What followed were a series of melees where K.’s, instead of killing my guys off, moved away as soon as she had my figures brought to fall. This was, of course, good tactics to achieve her objective, but it also meant that my guys could get up again and pursue her crew. However, K. was more successful and soon had most of her figures standing near the table edge.

pic10
K. assembling her troops, ready to move out.

She already had one out when, in the nick of time, I managed to move my stronger figures over and again pinned her crewmembers. Desperate swordfights followed, with three of my guys trying – and in the end managing – to bring down Kaballah the Koloss, the single strongest figure in melee. Movie-style, my captain even exchanged blows with K.’s captain!

pic11
The showdown.

K. was desperate to get away and decided on a high risk move: She would move out of melee on her turn, which meant I got a free attack against each of her fleeing figures. But as so often in Flashing Steel, fortune favoured the bold! Dodging the swords of my guys, her figures darted out of melee and over the table edge. My crew was left standing and glancing into the sunset…

pic12
Noooo, they’re gone!

Victory for K. and her bold pirates!

Now that was fun! It was also a good reminder of how great a game Flashing Steel delivers – we definitely want to play it more often.

Fun for Young and Old!

It’s summer – even if the local weather wasn’t told – and, as is tradition, our nephew spent one week of his school holidays at our place. By now, he’s ten years old and an avid wargamer – we’ve introduced him to Flashing Steel last year and he plays X-Wing with his dad. Incidentally, his dad accompanied him and stayed for two days, which gave us a great opportunity to recruit new blood to wargaming!

We started with Wars of the Roses using Sharp Practice. I had some qualms about confronting a ten year old with those rules as they are a tad more complex than what he is used to, but in the end we decided to give it a try. It was me and his dad against K. and the kid in one of our home-made scenarios, namely Billeting&Bickering. The lad was very quick on the uptake and had no problems with the activation mechanics. He greatly enjoyed the suspense of the random activation sequence and of the bonus cards. (This may also serve as a proof that people who don’t know anything about wargaming traditions have no problems with activation mechanics that are emphatically not IGO-UGO).

Fighting for the village center.
Fighting for the village center.

In the end, his dad and I managed to secure the key objective and drive the Lancastarians away. However, the climax was a random event in the last round: As the key area of the scenario was a graveyard, I had painted up a ghost and added a ‘Ghost’ card to the deck. What are the odds of that coming up in the last round! The ghostly apparition generated loads of laughter as we diced for shock points to be received by the adjacent units. The Lancastarians were running even faster while the Yorkists stoically stood their ground, so the ghost didn’t change the outcome of the game. It did provide a great climax to the narrative though.

A ghostly apparition!
A ghostly apparition!

Later, we had another game of Sharp Practice were I let the kid help to design the scenario. He wanted the Yorkists to defend a village (which he set up himself), so I took the opportunity to use this as a first test for a replay of the First Battle of St. Albans, something that has been in my mind for a long time. The Yorkists managed to hold the street barricades and even the small group of Lancastarians that broke through the hedges couldn’t turn the tide – especially after the village population joined in and gave them a going over!

Defending the barricades.
Defending the barricades.
Lancastarians break through the hedges.
Lancastarians break through the hedges.
Those villagers don't like king Henry.
Those villagers don’t like king Henry.

We also had two games of Flashing Steel – the pirates are always a favourite and the kid loves the colorful characters and terrain. Both games were played using our secret mission scenario generator, and both were won by the kid, who played together with K. against me.

Pirates in a landscape.
Pirates in a landscape.
Trouble on the beach.
Trouble on the beach.

Another thing we did was good old pen-and-paper roleplaying. The kid is a big Star Wars fan, so when the new Star Wars RPG by Fantasy Flight Games came out, I got a copy of the beginner’s set with the idea of introducing him to roleplaying games. We had a first session at a family reunion some months ago. The kid was crazy about the game and desperately wanted to play another adventure during the holidays! So I sat down and prepared something. As a teenager, I have game mastered a lot of RPG sessions and loved devising new narratives for my group. I have to say that this has changed: Preparing a game looked too much like my regular work to be relaxing – both involve poring over books and trying to get a narrative out of scraps of information. Apart from games with the kid, I’m definitely not getting back into RPGs! This also explains why today I enjoy the painting aspect of wargaming more than as I did as a youngster: The manual and tactile work involved is a relaxing alternative to my day job.

Edge_of_Empire_BG_cover

The most surprising moment was when the kid asked me if he could try to paint a figure. We rummaged through my lead pile (Blimey! It’s bigger than I though!) and came up with a 28mm miniature that he liked and that didn’t demand complicated painting. We cleaned it together and I spray-coated it with primer and then he was ready to go. After explaining how to handle the brushes – he is used to crappy brushes from school and immediately expressed his delight at how much better mine were – I let him work away. I was very impressed by his skills. He worked patiently and diligently and the result looks really nice. I showed him how to give it a wash with thinned down black ink and how to paint the base with structured paint, but let him do everything for himself. He is rightly very proud of his figure, which was finished in time to feature in the last pirate game of the week!

Frankenstein's monster looking good!
The kid’s work.

As always, it’s been great to introduce the kid to new games and to play old favourites again. I also enjoyed introducing him to the hobby aspect of gaming. Doing stuff ourselves is central to our approach to wargaming and I think it’s important to show to a generation brought up on computer games that tabletop games can be richer in many aspects, as you are not constrained by the designer’s choices and can exercise your imagination to create something new. Another great thing was that his dad really liked Sharp Practice and told us that he now understands what makes wargaming so fascinating. So we have recruited lots of new blood to join our crazy adventure!