Pirates Ahoy!

With the fabulous pirate game on Crete still in mind, we decided to stage our own swashbuckling extravaganza. Of course, our table can’t compare with Jon’s and we use only six figures a side. But it’s always fun breaking out the crews and having a go with Genesha Games’ great Flashing Steel rules!

We set up a town scene and decided to generate the scenario with our secret mission system, where each of us draws a card which states his or her mission. As I had to get at least half of my crew across the table to the opposite edge, I positioned my shooty guys to cover the town square while the rest prepared to dash along the beach. This also meant that my shooters could cover the treasure in case K. wanted to get it.

Covering the square.
Covering the square.

The first couple of turns saw cautious advancing from both sides, coupled with some shooting. I have to say that my pirates aren’t any better than my Wars of the Roses handgonners when it comes to handling black powder weapons! There was a lot of smoke but no effect whatsoever.

Cornered!
Cornered!

When one of my crewsmembers got cornered by two enemy thugs, I had enough and charged. Brandishing his rapier, my captain headed for Sela, one of K.’s best figures. One round of melee later the brave pirate lay on the ground in his own blood while a grinning K. informed me that killing my captain had been her objective!

As this game was over in a much shorter time then we had expected, we decided to have a rematch. This time, my objective was to take out at least two thirds of the enemy crew. I set up almost exactly like last time, as I was still convinced that the plan to cover the square with the shooters was, in principle, a solid tactic. K. made no fuss and headed for the treasure in complete disregard of my shooty guys, which delivered their usual performance. So I also rushed forward and soon a series of melees erupted on the town square.

Trouble brewing in the town square.
Trouble brewing in the town square.

I managed to bring in my flanking boys from the beach while K. also directed her stragglers to the scene of action. I played quite aggressively and managed to kill off three of her guys, among them her best figure (the one who killed my captain during the last game!). But then her captain really got angry and cut down two of my crewmen in one go! Carrying the treasure chest, she moved back to get to her side. Things were getting close now.

Stop her, she's getting away!
Stop her, she’s getting away!

Soon K. had her captain one move away from her table edge. I had only two options: I could try to stop her by moving into melee with one of my figures – if he managed to get two actions. However, alone he wouldn’t last long in melee and it was quite probable that the captain would get away anyway. The other option was to try to fulfill my objective before K. could fulfill hers by killing off another of her crewmen. The only one in range, however, was Kaballah the Coloss, who, as his name suggests, is very strong in close combat. I rushed him with three figures but, in the end, didn’t manage to bring him down. Another victory for K., whose captain carried the treasure unopposed over her table edge.

Those were two quick, fun and exciting games! Flashing Steel is great as it gives fast games, which allows for the possibility to play more than one in an evening. For the next game though, I might modify my crew a bit: It seems that I should forget firearms and stick to pointy sticks.

A Quick Pirate Row

To get some respite from our medieval mayhem we decided to break out the 28mm pirates and have a quick game of Flashing Steel. I took the opportunity to create a new character for a figure I have painted some months ago but haven’t used yet – a dashing looking girl with two guns from Cool Mini or Not. I’ve always wanted to try out the Double Pistols special ability!

For the scenario, we set up a semi-rural landscape and drew missions from our home-brewed secret missions system. Mine was to take out the enemy leader, K.’s captain. I set my strong figures – the captain, the new girl and another crew member who is a close combat specialist – on my left flank, where I hoped they could protect the treasure if K. should be after it. My right flank was weaker and was set up on the road. K. had her figures more evenly distributed, with her captain in the middle and her strongest figure on her left flank.

During the first turns, K.’s captain advanced in the middle and took position on the hill. Two of her men swiftly moved towards the treasure chest, which lay to the side of the stone building.

 Arr! Let's shanghai us some swag!
Arr! Let’s shanghai us some swag!

Could her objective be to grab the loot, or was she misleading me? I didn’t want to take any chances and covered the chest with my shooty guys, which took position behind cover. Meanwhile, my close combat specialist moved behind the house to get into the back of the enemy.

Hm, a quick slug won't harm...
Hm, a quick slug won’t do any harm…

While my left flank was operating like a professional team, my right flank went all unreliable sea dogs and didn’t move at all for several turns.

When one of K.’s men finally approached the chest, a well aimed shot from my captain’s pistol took him down. While he lay fallen, my melee specialist jumped out from behind the house, ran over and gave him the rest. Good teamwork!

Smells bad but gives cover.
Smells bad but gives cover.

However, it soon turned out that all was for naught as K. indeed just wanted to lead me astray. Suddenly, she moved all of her figures to the left and tried to break through. Oh no! Her mission was to get at least half of her crew across the table. I was in dire distress as I only had the unreliable and weak part of my crew covering this flank.

Stop them, they are trying to break through!
Stop them, they are trying to break through!

Desperate, I moved two of them into close combat to lock her figures in melee. I knew they didn’t stand much of a chance against her superior men and women, but at least I had bought some time. In vain! I tried to bring the crewmembers from my other flank over, but they were to slow. A short scuffle followed, at the end of which all my pirates were lying on the ground fallen and K.’s crew strolled off the battlefield humming a catchy tune.

Fallen pirates littering the field.
Fallen pirates littering the field.

We had great fun and some really good laughs during the game. I was a bit frustrated in the beginning when my right flank didn’t want to activate, but I was quite proud of the teamwork between the shooters and the close combat specialist on the left flank. However, I should have known that K., being the wily fox she is, wouldn’t have made it as easy if the treasure chest had been her real objective.

Coming back to Flashing Steel after playing SAGA and Sharp Practice, we both felt the game holds up to the comparison and offers a great and exciting gaming experience. It’s more narrative than the others, at least for us, who play with highly personalised forces – each of our pirates has a name and a backstory developed through numerous games – and who always have movie scenes in our heads when something exciting happens. Also, it’s a great alternative if we don’t have time for a more lenghty gaming session. We made the firm resolve to play Flashing Steel once in a while!

Wargaming Moments of the Year

It’s that time of the year again! Stuffed with Christmas cookies and watching the old year slip off, everybody seems to reminisce. I don’t want to stand apart, so here are some of the highlights of my year from a wargaming perspective:

Victory of the year

K. and I were playing a pirate game, using Flashing Steel and our homemade secret missions system. By the time I got my act together, K. had already moved two of her crewmembers across the table – obviously her mission was to get half of her crew out. The last one remaining was her captain, who would be able to cross the table edge at her next activation and thereby win the game. I had only one pirate in range to do something about it. This was a rather medicore guy who had a pistol but needed at least one move to get out of cover. Putting all my eggs into one basket, I rolled for three actions and got two. I moved and then shot. My chances were slim, the movement would mean -1 on my shot and even if K.’s captain would be fallen, she could get up next turn without any trouble from any of my men. Lo and behold! I rolled a 6. Now K. rolled and we couldn’t believe our eyes: a 1! With all the modifications, this was the only possible combination to result in her captain being immediately out of action. I admit that my victory was down to plain luck, but from a narrative point of view the whole sequence felt like the grand finale a Hollywood movie – and it has since become part of our collective memory like any great movie scene.

This year's blockbuster, directed by: us!
This year’s blockbuster, directed by: us!

Defeat of the year

This has to be my Normans defeat against the Vikings at another take at the battle at the ford scenario. I have already written a report on this, so I won’t repeat myself. The exciting thing about this game was K. playing like a wily fox, keeping part of her force in reserve at the bridge while I was stubbornly smashing into her defences at the ford. The most heroic moment was her Warlord defending the ford against overwhelming odds and succeeding in stopping the Norman knights long enough to deprive me of any chance to cross. Another great game with a very memorable finale!

Outdoor activity of the year

Undoubtable my trip to Antwerp, about which I’ve already written in length. CRISIS was a marvelous experience, not only because it was my first wargames show ever and I brought home a big bag of stuff, but also because of the great games I saw and the ideas I got. Just how friendly and committed the organisers of CRISIS are was demonstrated when, after I presented some criticism about the after-show report on my blog, its producer took the time to state his position in very friendly words in the comment section – a way of engaging with controversial issues that is dearly missing in some of the bigger web forums and a testimony to the amiable spirit of CRISIS.

Reading of the year

I read a lot of great books, some on wargaming, but more on history, mainly on medieval warfare. I also worked through a couple of rulebooks, which is always interesting but not always engaging. Some of the most enjoyable reading was done on blogs – you can find a selection of what I like in the links section on the right hand side of the page. However, the thing I enoyed most was the new Miniatures Wargames with Battlegames. First, because it appears monthly, so when one is finished, another one is already on the way! Secondly, I really enjoy the content. I only read one other wargames magazine, this being Wargames, Soldiers & Strategy, which I like but which doesn’t exhale the fresh, humorous and inspiring air of MW/BG (and don’t get me started on the dull and predictable WI). Another great thing is that the magazine caters for more than just the 28mm crowd – for example, I eagerly follow John Treadaways reviews of 15mm science fiction stuff. And the piece on Bruce Weigle’s 6mm terrain was mind-blowing. I hope Henry keeps up the inventive and inspiring work!

Painting moment of the year

For me, painting is an integral part of the hobby. In general, I enjoy it greatly, even if I sometimes need a break to avoid a ‘burn-out’. My painting skills are mediocre and I don’t spend too much time on my figures, mainly aiming at getting them ready to play. The best part of painting is when I get into a flow: I am sitting at the table, perhaps listening to the Meeples & Miniatures podcast, the brushes are actually behaving like docile instruments and not like obstacles to be overcome, time is flying and palpable progress is made. There is not always time for this and on a daily basis, it’s ok to just do some basic work in between, but when those moments come, they are a great means of forgetting the stress of work and everyday life.

Grand Moff Tarking's got the flow!
Grand Moff Tarking’s got the flow!

Social event of the year

In contrast to the loneliness of painting, gaming is a social activity and I fortunately have a great gaming partner. While I tremendously enjoy all our games, the highlight this year was introducing my nephew to miniatures wargaming, first with X-Wing and then with a 28mm pirate game. As you can find a detailed after action report here, sufficient to say that it was a great experience to watch the kid’s excitement when he first saw the figures and the terrain and then to see him practically sponging up the rules in no time and enjoying himself playing. To transfer curiosity into addiction, he got some X-Wing planes for Christmas and will get some painted figures and simple rules for his birthday – and I am already looking forward to playing with him again.

All in all, it was a great year! So, what were your wargaming moments of 2013? What was your most memorable victory and defeat, and what other gaming highlights have you had?

A Game of Flashing Steel

Last week, we had a visit from our nine-year-old nephew. After playing some games of X-Wing, which he really enjoyed, I introduced him to my collection of pirate miniatures and the Flashing Steel ruleset. We played a practice game and then decided to play a scenario of our own making.

Some months ago, K. and I came up with a simple and fun scenario generator for Flashing Steel. It’s based on secret orders: Each one draws a slip of paper with one of the following orders:

– It’s something personal! Take out the enemy leader.

– Let’s teach them a lesson! Take out at least 2/3 of the enemy crew.

– Grab the loot! Get the treasure to your end of the table.

– Get out of the way! Get at least 1/2 of your crew to the other side of the table.

For the treasure, a chest marker is placed somewhere in the middle, where everyone has equal access. (Picking up the chest costs one action, and carrying the chest reduces C by 1. The chest can be dropped any time and will be dropped involuntarily when the model carrying it is pushed back or falls down.)

This is an easy way of making an exciting game. Everybody has to guess what the other wants while not letting him or her know what he himself is up to! (There are two slips for each mission, so both sides may have the same orders.) And the missions all necessitate an aggressive approach, so a frantic game is guaranteed.

For our family game, I was playing together with my nephew against K. I let the kid put together the crews, only reining him in when they threatened to become unbalanced. Our secret orders demanded that we take out two thirds of the enemy crew. With six figures per side, that meant four figures to dispatch. (Normally in Flashing Steel, that would trigger a morale check for the player losing these figures, but as in this case the mission objective is fulfilled, the game ends immediately.)

The playing field was dominated by a large hill in the centre, where the treasure was placed near a hay cart (I also let my nephew set up the scenery, which resulted in a pretty built-up table).  The kid put our captain in the middle, accompanied by three weaker characters. To the right, we positioned the other three pirates. K. also had her captain at the middle and some evenly distributed pirates on the flanks.

K.’s crew advances

The game started with us advancing towards the hill, while K. had some difficulties activating her crew and ended up with a part in front and some hanging back. Bloodthirstily, the kid rushed in with our captain, which strained my nerves, as I feared K. might have the order to kill our captain and the whole game would be over soon. However, the first clash between the captains was inconclusive, and there began a dance around the treasure, as everybody wanted to make sure the other didn’t pilfer the chest out of the hay.

An epic melee begins

The first turning point came when K.’s stragglers suddenly got their act together and, with a sweeping manoeuvre, attacked our right flank. Our mediocre pirates were quickly dealt with!

On our left flank, things developed better: We managed to take out the lone figure guarding her right and advanced towards the middle. There, our captain was still locked in melee with K.’s captain. By being pushed back and moving (the kid, however, not relenting and always moving back into melee), she had managed to move down from the hill and unto the road leading towards our table edge. When K. positioned the figures on her left flank, where our opposition had faltered, near the edge of the table, it was clear what her orders were!

Now it was down to the captains. K. had to get her captain out, because she had no other figures left apart from the two waiting at the edge of the table, and we had to get her down, because she was the last figure we needed for us to succeed in taking out two thirds of the enemy crew. It became a race against time: Could her captain defeat our captain and run away before our relief from the left flank pirates would come? The duel between the two pirate heroes was a nerve-racking affair! However, K.’s captain didn’t manage to break away in time, and finally our reenforcements arrived. Despite fighting heroically, in the end she succumbed to our superior numbers.

Two against one!
Two against one!

It was a close victory for our crew and a thrilling game! The kid did great: sometimes I gave him some hints, sometimes I let him make his mistakes. But he kept on track quite fine, even if his tactics were rather straightforward. And in the duel between the captains, he rolled some ferocious dice.

It was a pleasure introducing my nephew to the concept of wargaming. Gaming with miniatures was a new concept for him, but he took to it immediately and with great enthusiasm. When he visits again, there will certainly be another clash between two motley crews of pirates!