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.

Wargame Holidays on Crete

As I’ve never been to Greece, K. suggested we should spend this year’s holiday there. Being an avid reader of Miniatures Wargames and enjoying the Tales of a Wargames Widow series by Diane Sutherland, what would be more obvious than to include a visit to the Sutherlands’ Wargame Holidays Centre on Crete? K. was easily convinced and we booked two days of gaming: one for the Battle of Hastings and the other for a pirates game.

Normans at Crete
Normans on Crete

Jon and Diane Sutherland have been running the centre for four years now and offer a great variety of games, among others Indian Mutiny, American Civil War, French and Indian Wars, Zulu Wars as well as – fitting for the location – Crete 1941. Jon told us that the whole thing started basically as a way of coping with the space problem his huge collection posed for his home in England – shipping it out to Crete, where Diane has friends who rent out apartments, seemed like a reasonable idea. Of course, new stuff started to accumulate immediately…

One thing you have to know about Jon is that he thinks big: When he starts a project, he doesn’t collect a couple of hundred figures but a couple of thousands. And who else can boast of a table that is 15 meters by 2 meters? However, he takes great pride in doing everything by himself. As unbelievable as it may sound, all the figures are painted by himself while Diane does most of the terrain. This spirit of doing-it-yourself is clearly present on Crete. Jon is happy to explain how he painted and converted a particular figure or how a specific piece of terrain was made. This resonates very much with our own approach to gaming and adds immensely to the experience!

The View from Senlac Hill
The View from Senlac Hill

On the first day, we did the Battle of Hastings, which is a new offer this year. We have never before played a big battle, so we were quite apprehensive about how we would do. However, the rules Jon provided (he exclusively uses home-made rules as commercial ones can’t cope with the scale of his games!) were easy and fast and posed no problems. I for once decided to join the winning team and allied with K. to play the Normans while Jon got the Anglo-Saxons. The game was very exciting: We managed to disrupt Jon’s left flank while he was trying to shuffle his troops there to Senlac Hill and then closed in on his right flank.

Norman flank attack
Norman flank attack

We used the cavalry rather conservatively as we always feared a counter attack, especially as our middle was quite thin. When Jon finally charged down the hill with all of his troops we had some tense moments, but our superiority on the flanks meant that we managed to keep the momentum. That Harold got hit in the eye by an arrow was also helpful! Yes, we did strive for historical accuracy.

That's only half of the table!
That’s only half of the table!

The second day saw me and K. take command of pirate vessels while Jon was the umpire. His pirate table is a work of art: There are numerous ships, islands, three ports and a plethora of small scenes and vignettes to explore. Both of us had a couple of objectives that, not surprisingly, clashed and led to some ferocious fighting.

Arrr matey!
Arrr matey!

I’m not going to go into more detail, as other people will play the game this year and I don’t want to spoil any surprises – sufficient to say that K. ended the game with more gold while I had more ships. It’s incredible fun to push the big ships around and explore the board – and where else can you play naval engagements in 28mm? Jon is a great game master for whom the narrative and the smooth flow of the game is more important than rules minutiae, also something that corresponds with our style of playing.

The action gets tense
The action gets tense

We had a great time during our stay at the Wargame Holidays Centre and can wholeheartedly recommend a visit. The gaming room is spacious and cool (a nice thing in the Greek heat!), the apartments are nice – there is even a swimming pool for taking a dip in between gaming – and the hospitality of Jon and Diane, as well as Maria and Antonis, the couple who run the apartments, is extraordinary. We already took the decision to come back – maybe we can even convince some friends to accompany us…

Prepainted 28mm Buildings

Some time ago, I moaned about the burden of painting 28mm buildings for our pirate gaming. Imagine my pleasant surprise when Kirk Stephens from The Miniature Building Authority offered to send me one of their prepainted buildings for review! I decided I would compare it to another 28mm building a acquired some time ago on ebay, a prepainted ruin by ESLO Terrain. Other than that, my experience with prepainted stuff is pretty limited. Playing X-Wing, I of course know the excellent spaceships that come with the game. And at CRISIS, I had a good look at the much talked about stuff by 4Ground. But that’s about it! So I was curious what I would get.

The Miniature Building Authority offers a broad range of 28mm as well as 15mm terrain. The range I am most interested in is the Spanish Main series, which comes with some really nice pieces. The huge customs house is especially shiny! Kirk sent me the Spanish Tiled Medium Building.

Cpt. Sparrow, home owner!
Cpt. Sparrow, home owner!

It arrived in a nifty cardboard box whith a styrofoam inlay that fits to the contours of the buildings – a very safe way of packing. The building itself is a weighty bit of solid resin with two seperate roofs that fit on very well. The interior is not modelled but painted in the same colour as the walls. However, we normally don’t play inside buildings so this was of no concern for me and anyway you can easily fit in some figures.

Now where do I put the TV?
Now where do I put the TV?

The building is rather on the large side for 28mm – at least compared to most other manufacturers, who tend to reduce ground scale for buildings. If you prefer ‘true scale’, this is the scenery you are looking for! The texture of the walls is crisp and gives a good weathered look. The painting is nice and clear, although the walls are grey and not the sandy beige as shown on the website. I guess you could state the colour you like when you order something.

The ESLO ruin is also huge, but this is mainly because of the landscaped base it sits on. The building itself, a derelict tower, is in the reduced ground scale that is common with 28mm. Weight-wise, the whole construction is pretty light – it’s certainly not resin. Nevertheless, it looks reasonably sturdy and survived the games we have played on it without any problems. Painting and landscaping is nice and the whole thing provides some variety on the table.

Enjoying the view.
Enjoying the view.

I am happy with both of them. Prepainted terrain certainly saves a lot of trouble, especially for someone like me who doesn’t enjoy working with resin (being an ‘interesting material to work with’, as Neil Shuck put it in the latest issue of Miniature Wargames). If your time is limited and you are already having trouble painting up figures, prepainted scenery can help to get actual gaming done!

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!