Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Of blowouts and birthdays.

My recent return to To the Strongest! has now concluded. Unfortunately, there were a few problems with the camera, but now that I have a new SD card installed, we are back to normal on that score. The other camera problem is that the tabletop looks a tad forlorn, though this is not the camera's fault. My carpet tiles are fine for a biggish 5 x 4 game with five hundred figures on the table, but rather sad and flat for a 3 x 2 one with only 150. So too do my generic 100 yen shop hovels look rather less than impressive. Not for the first time I can see that I'm going to need to up my terrain game...

Anyway, to my surprise, the game ended up a blowout in favour of the Normans, who I thought were going to struggle to make much headway against the Anglo-Saxon shieldwall. As it turns out, the Anglo-Saxons were a little too enthusiastic in their attempts to bring the Norman horse to battle, and as a consequence the line became disjointed early and the Normans were able to gang up on poorly supported units and wear them down.

The deep shieldwalls were tough, but they just could not get back into position and suffered for it, by being out of command and/or teamed-up upon.

Any normal wargamer would have known this already - as did I in fact - but sometimes it seems I just have to learn the hard way!

The Anglo-Saxons lost three deep shieldwall units and 2 generals (13 victory banners) against no losses for the Normans, so the game was up. The Norman horse managed to evade Anglo-Saxon charges for the most part, but even when they were caught or elected to stand they were able to pull back or rally before they were finished off.

Anglo-Saxons/Normans is quite an intriguing match-up (as you would hope!) in TtS. There are some nice tactics to play around with, but I must have the Anglo-Saxons hold their line and their discipline better in future.

View from behind the victorious Norman left. Dodgy hovels can be seen in the distance.

Again from the Norman centre.
And finally from the Norman right.

In other news, it was my birthday earlier this week, and my dear and long-suffering wife sanctioned the online purchasing of some birthday treats. A visit to the Book Depository website later and the reprint of Ian Heath's classic Armies of Feudal Europe and the Dan Mersey fantasy skirmish rules Dragon Rampant were on their way here. I was sorely tempted to pick up Bloody Big Battles too, but will save that one for next time.

On the figure front I see that I'm not quite finished with my Dark Age project after all: I'm going to have to pick a few more Anglo-Saxons, Vikings and Normans to paint up as hero and leader figures so that I don't need to cover the table with those mood-damaging cube markers.

It seems a wargamer's armies are never done!

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Blogging enters middle age.

I've been putting a little thought into blogging recently, particularly around some of the changes I have noticed since I started the caper.

When I first began, I got hardly any traffic at all. That was fine and what I expected. I was in it for my own pottering-around satisfaction, not for popularity. But if I did a battle report I'd put it on TMP, and soon found that I'd perhaps get 300 hits over two days - more if it was on a popular battle or topic - and I started to like it.

I began to post links to my newly-painted figures there to show what particular ranges looked like (there were not so many photos on manufacturers' websites in those days - or that was my excuse anyway), and the odd how-to article, game review, or lighthearted take on something. Again, these would get some hits and over time you'd build up a list of followers and make virtual connections with other bloggers.

After a couple of years of this I noticed there were diminishing returns. People stopped clicking on my links so much from forums. I'd get 200 hits instead of 300, 150 instead of 200, until, eventually I was down to about 50. Sometimes less.

And the chat around a post dropped off, too. Instead of 5-10 other forum members adding comments, you might get one or two if you were lucky.

So with both interest and engagement dropping off, it seemed that posting links was shooting myself (and the forums that hosted the links) in the foot. People had perhaps become tired of blog-hawking and blog-hawkers, and also perhaps resentful of the draining effect the constant outside links had on the vitality of the original forums. Denizens were no longer so impressed by the promise of battle reports, game reviews or painting updates, and there was, I felt, a perceptible undercurrent of hardening passive-aggressive antagonism on both sides (Why are you posting that here? We've all seen it done better before! vs I've put loads of work into this. The least you ungrateful lot could do is have a flamin' look!).

At any rate, the blog honeymoon was over.

I've since adjusted, and now I pretty much don't link to my blog anywhere, unless it's for 'educational' purposes, or I'm particularly excited about something, and want to share that excitement in the relevant forum.

It seems to me that bloggers have naturally congregated into loose circles of like-minded folk. Not necessarily like-minded in era, figure scale or rule set, either; often it seems to be a shared set of ideas about what you like to see in a blog, and so you comment or show your support for those people whose blogs you enjoy, learn from, or are in awe of in some way, regardless of whether you play the same games or not.

These days my hits are a long way down on what they were at their peak, but the peak was actually vastly inflated by bot visitors, anyway. I'm very content to keep pottering along at 100-250 hits per day - hopefully mostly by real people - and enjoying the comments that people leave and the little community that builds up.

It's been good. I'm happier, more relaxed - and hopefully a slightly kinder hobbiest - than I was when I felt a certain amount of pressure to try to spread the word.

Anyway, I'd be interested in other people's observations around blogging and the changes they have noticed.

Thanks for reading (if anyone has got this far!).

To the Strongest revisited

Well, the time has come to pull out Simon Miller's fine To the Strongest! rules again. I keep meaning to play them, and now that my Dex Bellorum project is complete, I've got small-based units I can use to do so, and don't need to use the big table.

So I'm going to do a solo run-through to reacquaint myself with the rules.

Here are the armies: 

Normans.
3 Generals
13 Units
3 Commands
32 VPs, 11 Victory Medals, 133 points
Save / VPs /
Pts / Ammo

The King (R)
Great leader, heroic, mounted, senior
3+ / 2 / 11 / -
Milites
Veteran cav, javelin,
6+/ 2 / 11 / 2
Milites
Veteran cav, javelin,hero
6+/ 2 /12 / 2
Milites
Cav, javelin, hero
7+/ 2 /10 / 2
Gascons
Light infantry, javelin
7+/ 1 / 4 / 2
Camp
12 VPs, Demoralised on 6, 51 points
-- / 3 / 1 / --

His Retainer (C)
Heroic, mounted
3+ / 2 / 6 / -
Spearmen
Veteran shieldwall, hero
6+/ 2 / 10 / -
Spearmen
Shieldwall
7+/ 2 / 7 / -
Spearmen
Shieldwall
7+/ 2 / 7 / -
Crossbowmen
Crossbowmen
8+/ 2 / 7 / 6
Skirmishers
Light infantry other, bow
8+/ 1 / 4 / 3
Skirmishers
Light infantry other, bow
8+/ 1 / 4 / 3
Camp
15 VPs, Demoralised on 8, 46 points
-- / 3 / 1 / --

The Bishop (L)
Heroic, mounted
3+ / 2 / 6 / -
Milites
Veteran cav, javelin, hero
6+/ 2 /12 / 2
Milites
Cav, javelin
7+/ 2 / 9 / 2
Milites
Cav, javelin
7+/ 2 / 9 / 2

8 VPs, Demoralised on 4, 36 points



Anglo-Saxons.
3 Generals
12 Units
3 Commands
34 VPs, 11 Victory Medals, 133 points
Save / VPs /
Pts / Ammo

The King (C)
Heroic, senior
3+ / 2 / 6 / -
Fyrd
Veteran shieldwall, deep, hero
6+/ 3 / 14 / -
Fyrd
Veteran shieldwall, deep, hero
6+/ 3 / 14 / -
Fyrd
Shieldwall, deep
7+/ 3 / 10 / -
Fyrd
Shieldwall, deep
7+/ 3 / 10 / -
Skirmishers
Light infantry, other, bow
8+/ 1 / 4 / 3
Camp
18 VPs, Demoralised on 9, 59 points
-- / 3 / 1 / --

His Brother (R)
Heroic
3+ / 2 / 5 / -
Fyrd
Shieldwall, deep, hero
7+/ 3 / 11 / -
Fyrd
Shieldwall, deep, hero
7+/ 3 / 10 / -
Fyrd
Shieldwall, deep, raw
8+/ 3 / 7 / -
Skirmishers
Light infantry other, sling, raw
9+/ 1 / 3 / 2
Camp
15 VPs, Demoralised on 8, 38 points
-- / 3 / 1 / --


His Brother (L)

2+ / 2 / 4 / -
Fyrd
Shieldwall, deep, hero
7+/ 3 / 11 / -
Fyrd
Shieldwall, deep, hero
7+/ 3 / 11 / -
Fyrd
Shieldwall, deep
7+/ 3 / 10 / -

11 VPs, Demoralised on 6, 36 points


The battlefield is 8 squares by 12, with minimal terrain, so that the two armies will have a good opportunity to just go at each other hammer and tongs.




Sunday, October 8, 2017

Chits and giggles: the "Conquest of Paradise" solitaire system

I have an interesting board game in the collection called Conquest of Paradise, a GMT title based on the theme of Polynesian settlement of the South Pacific. Having recently discovered that the second edition rules include a dedicated solitaire system, I decided to give the thing a whirl.

In my cups in the South Pacific.

The game itself revolves around exploration (sending out an explorer to look for island chains), movement (sending out transport canoes to create lines of supply, settlers to found colonies, and war canoes and warriors to menace your rivals), battle (possibly attacking enemy island chains), and building (new villages for your controlled territories and more units in pursuit of further expansion).

What the solitaire system does is provide instruction chits that direct the AI player against you. You do your own player turn then draw a chit to see what your robot rival will do. He may build, he may expand, he may attack, he may defend; and with actions printed on both sides of the chit, a strategy may well manifest itself. There are 15 AI chits in the cup. By the time 13 have been pulled, the human player (that's you) must have gathered a minimum of 30 victory points. If not, you, as that human player, lose ignominiously to a decorated cup.

It sounded like just my kind of game.

First time up, I'm ashamed to say that the decorative cup was victorious. I scored only 11 victory points after a series of 'nope, that's not an island chain!' exploration phases and a vicious and effective final-turn attack which took four island chains and 8 VP off me. I wasn't anywhere close, and saw that I needed to up my game to compete.


Mine are the kind of yellowy-green pieces emanating from the Tongan homeland. They are easy to miss - there aren't many left!


Second game around I had much better luck with my island searches while the decorative cup did not. A freakish run of poorly ordered chit draws for the cup also helped, and this time I was able to score 33 victory points. I think I'm very unlikely to get the advantages I got this time around again, so it might be time to retire and rest on my laurels for a little!

Note the prevalence of yellowy-green pieces this time around due to a very different and ridiculously lucky island chain draw.


Besides being a clever system, the solitaire game is a lot of fun. Note to self: I think it could be quite profitably ported to other environments. I doubt I'll ever get around to doing such ideas justice, but I wouldn't be a real wargamer if I didn't at least contemplate the idea in idle moments...

Anyway, Conquest of Paradise is a good little game already, but the solitaire system is a tidy addition and makes getting the game onto the table an attractive proposition if you have 90 minutes to spare for a bit of Civ-lite play but no buddies available.

Well done to the designer and playtesters.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Coming back to One Hour Wargames

As a rule, I don't like to be negative as far as wargaming is concerned. It's a small hobby, and while there are times when a serve may be required I've seen that firing off with double barrels tends not to win you any friends, and nor does it take into account that most people are writing rules for the love of it, not for the money. On top of that, should some eagle-eyed reader realise that you've misunderstood the rules you are savaging you end up embarrassed, apologetic for having been unjust, and overall looking like a prize idiot. 

Despite knowing all that I was almost about to go off on a rant here. Having come back to and played through a game of Neil Thomas's One Hour Wargames, I'd been thoroughly disappointed. It had not been all that impressive first time around, but here I could see that it was completely broken. I was incensed enough to gear up to write up a negative review, wondering why it is that Neil Thomas can serve up garbage and apparently get given a free pass. 

But at that point a sort of wargamer's 6th sense kicked in. 

I went over the rules again. Was I sure I hadn't been doing something wrong? Nope, nothing jumped out at me. I was pretty sure I was playing it as written.

I checked again. This time I looked at a few reviews from bloggers I respect. Mostly positive. There was the odd dissenting voice, but nobody saying what the problem I had with the rules was.

And then I realised: yes, I had in fact been playing it wrong. 

Ahem.

Franks observe Norsemen as yet unaware their flank is threatened...

So I went back and replayed the game with the right rule interpretation, and it was far more satisfactory.

There are still grey areas, but it was not the disaster that my rule misinterpretation had made it.

And the lesson here for me? It's wise to think before I post!

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Persians

Next off the painting conveyor belt is a bunch of Persian horse. These make a start on the Late Achaemenid army I have had languishing in tool boxes for about ten years.

These should really be fancier, but I can always come back later and add a little bit of decoration to the tunics.

For now I just want to make some progress in reducing the number of the boxes I have full of prepped and undercoated figures...



.
These are mostly Old Glory 15s, with a couple of Essex in there as well.

It wasn't all plain sailing though - I managed to knock over and spill my decade old bottle of magic acrylic stain tonight, so I'm going to have to head down to the local hardware store tomorrow and see if they still stock any of the same brand, and hope that if they do, the formula hasn't changed!

#firstworldpaintingproblems...

As an aside, I've noticed that in the last calendar month I've managed to knock out 170 foot and 27 horse, which must just about be a record for me. I still have a couple of days to go, so might have to pull finger and get something more finished, just to make sure!


Friday, September 22, 2017

What's all this then?

All looked fine enough. Nothing to see here, we thought. Push on through. Crack on. Hills, valley, river, woods. Camp on this rise tonight were the orders. Seemed fine enough. Didn't seem anything to worry about.


So we came up. But what's all this then? we said. The place was crawling with them. Gauls. Where'd they come from, the blighters. Must have been waiting for us in the woods.

Well, they got one up on us, that's for sure.



But we had old Titus up front. No one scares old Labienus, and a good thing it was for us, too. There he was with some mutt of a dog he'd whipped into line. Oh, we could tell you a few stories about old Titus. A good man to have there though. A good man to have when things are going south.




But our lads - all of them - were cool as could be. The foreign slingers started doing their thing and they did some bloody murder on those Gauls. Caught them in the river. It was bloody murder, I tell you, whizzing those bullets through the air. And then Titus went in against their cavalry. This was on the left. Just broke them, just like that. Oh, he was fine was Titus. Fine.


And all the while the chief was ordering men forward. Down tools, he was saying. Get forward. Don't worry whose standard. Just get forward. Make a line, he said. Make a stand. I'll get us out of this. And so we did. We went forward. Even the new men. Even them.


The eighth and the thirteenth came up in the centre, and the twelfth on the right as well. Just get forward. That was the thing. Just get forward. Stop 'em on the hill; catch 'em in the river. Just get forward.

But they came on you know. Poured across that river. Whacked our cavalry on the right. Not Titus's cavalry you understand; the cavalry on the other wing. They couldn't take the heat. They ran. Couldn't drive off our light infantry though, and Titus was still sitting pretty. Laughed at them as they came forward, some said. Can you imagine it? Laughing at that time, in that place, faced with those men? Imagine it.



We wouldn't let them onto the hill. The chief kept us going forward. Into them, he was saying. Get forward. Don't crowd. Leave yourself room for sword work. So the ninth and tenth came up to join Labienus, and on the right the seventh and the thirteenth got into the act. Brave boys they were. That Gaul leader - Boduognatus, I think they said - was across from them and he was fair foaming at the mouth by this stage.

He'd hit the twelfth hard. Very hard. Lost almost all the centurions. And they said that for the first time it got a bit hot for old Titus's cavalry too, on the other side. But they'd done their bit. Nothing wrong with what they did. They were Gauls as well, you see. Our Gauls though, and that makes all the difference.

The old man had brought up the tenth by now, so the cavalry could fall back. Titus had them covered. The tenth were there. He always did have it covered, Titus, especially once the tenth were there. No one beats the tenth.




The guv'nor kept sending us forward, and then he came up himself on our right to see what was happening. The twelfth were in a sorry state, and the rest of them too on that wing before too long. They were ferocious, those Gauls. Kept coming. Didn't matter how many we killed, they kept coming. Climbing over bodies, howling, using their fists and their teeth if they had to. They scared us, they did. They right scared us.




But we kept getting forward, we just had to. Getting up onto that hill. Forming line. Keeping calm. Following orders. Not panicking was the thing. Just keeping your cool.

Then there was a cheer from our boys and we saw that their centre was falling back. Boduognatus kept on though, and we were nearly done, I swear to you. He kept coming. We were all spent. But their centre fell back, and that gave us heart. And then a fresh lot came up, and we could breath a little.




And the chief. He said push on, push on. Use your shields to push, just stab at them around your shields, keep stabbing. And somehow we did. We pushed. And then something broke in them and they were all running, but not Boduognatus. He didn't run. He stood there in that mass, yelling at them, bellowing, we could see him, but the others all just ran, and they took him with them, and once he was caught up they were all gone. Just like that. Gone. Back through the river and into the woods. Gone.




But I tell you, we were wrecked. It was a hard day. We were done. We could only stop where we stood. No chasing that lot. Just binding wounds, helping your mates, looking for our lost. We were done. But we won. We held the hill. We won.


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