Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Warlords of Erehwon: the Aftermath

Guest Post: My friend Albert wrote a great little short story recounting the aftermath of our first game of Warlords of Erehwon, which I posted about a couple weeks ago: Warlords of Erehwon: First Game  Sadly, it involves yet more travails for the long-suffering wizard Aethelstan...


Lord Adelstead stands over the rows of dead, his dead, being given their last rites as the peasants bury his men into the earth. Now the low-born clansmen armed with spear and bow, the King’s own chosen soldiers, the Ogres and the Lord’s own cousin are now equal. Adelstead’s father called death “the great leveler” before he passed on and left his land to his son.

Adelstead looks up and sees the vultures and various carrion-eaters descend upon the bodies of the beast-men. They care nothing for their dead. Just another reminder of what the Men of the West must defend their homes from.

The King’s Champion, Konor, a veteran of over 50 battles and man who has fought for coin, kings and survival since Lord Adelstead was just a dream in his father’s eye, looks over the scene. Nothing. He feels nothing. We lived. That’s all that matters.

Konor heads over to the Adelstead… Adelstead doesn’t look up. “Is this the part where you tell me that we won a glorious victory and I should be happy?” A silent monk throws dirt on the face of Adelstead’s cousin, who died by his Lord’s side in the battle.

“Victory? We bought time. Nothing more. Do you see the Beast-Lord’s head set on a pike, his Minotaur spawn being paraded around the streets like trained bears?” The old mercenary tosses his dented helmet into the grave. “He’ll run back to his headstone and spin tales about how the man-things defended a land of great treasure with blood. He’ll be back with more.”

“It sounds like you’ve had this happen before.” Adelstead responded, still not looking at Konor. “I don’t know if you noticed, but we have a lack of fighting men to stop this further threat… So, unless you have something constructive to say, leave me to my penance.”

Konor smiled. Adelstead did not like Konor’s smile. That man had seen too many battles, his blood-lust was something that belonged to the wild men of the Black Forest across the Great River. “Aye. they have a headstone, we have glory. You tell people about how we beat back the beast-men, alone, men will come from all over to devour your glory… Do that and we’ll have enough men when the Beast-Lord returns.”

“Who will ask the King for forgiveness for his lost men and ask for more? Who will grovel and beg the assorted knights and seasoned men-at arms to come here? Who will empty the quays and bars, looking for mercenaries to fill our ranks?” Adelstead asked. “Who? Who can we make abject themselves to such a degree?”

Konor points at the hills… Towards the bloodied wizard Aethelstan, the survivor of the Dread Desert, dragging the corpse of his assistant back towards the camp. For the first time Adelstead smiled… for who indeed shall abject himself if not the outcast wizard. Konor smiles again “After he’s done scraping the ground and apologizing for the dead, he’ll wish he was resting in a harpy’s belly.”

"Agreed…. Get the paper and ink ready. It’s time to call the forces…” Adelstead states to his servants…

Sunday, February 24, 2019

What A Tanker - first games

Earlier this week the Austin Historical Gamers of Dragon’s Lair tried out “What a Tanker,” Too Fat Lardies’ WWII tank skirmish game.  It is a single-tank to platoon level game, the same as GF9’s “Tanks” game, but with very different mechanics.

Each turn, you roll a hand of six order dice for each tank. Each number of pips corrresponds to a different order or action by the tank’s crew: drive, acquire target, aim, fire, and re-load.  A six is wild, and so very useful. 

We played two games in a single evening, both times matching up three T-34/76s against a pair of PZ IV-Hs and a STuG III-G. 

The rules are really simple, and fast.  My eight-year old really enjoyed it and remained engaged through both games.

Ouch, in the second game, Jake’s T-34 snuck around behind me, brewing up my PZ IV.  He went on to single-handedly take out the other Panzer IV and the STuG.

Warlords of Erehwon - first game

Albert and I tried out Warlords of Erehwon today.  This is Warlord’s new fantasy warband skirmish rules, written by Rick Priestly, and clearly a close cousin to his Gates of Antares sci-fi rules.  Like Antares, WoE uses the “order dice” system from Bolt Action.

We played the “Pillage the Village” scenario, with 1000 points per side.  That is a mid-sized game, the rules recommend using 500 to 2000 points.

I once again pressed my SAGA Anglo-Danes into service, using the “Knights” army list in the rule book.  This list covers generic fantasy humans pretty well, and would allow you to field your old Warhammer Empire or Brettonnians.  I added my rules-traveling wizard Aethelstan, and rounded out my force with a couple mercenary ogres.

Albert brought Warhammer Beastmen, intent on pillaging said village!

Turn one: a general advance by both sides.  My archers and wizard all sprinted to reach the top of the big hill.  My plan was to spend a couple rounds fighting a delaying action with spells and archery, and then fall back off the hill.

“Sprinting” lets you move triple your normal movement, but at the risk of picking up a pin marker.  All my sprinters picked up pins...

Aethelstan got the party started with a fireball spell that toasted no less than five Ungor archers! One survived, with only a pin marker to remind him of his lost friends.

Round 2: I really hoped I would draw the first order die... but Albert got it.  A unit of mounted chaos marauders pretending to be centaurs used their amazing speed and the Sprint rule to gallop right up the hill, charging my archers.

But amazingly, the archers held!  Between the defensive shots they were able to take, and some lucky rolls in melee, they wiped out the centaurs, losing three men in turn.

However, over the next couple rounds, the beastmen cleared the hill, wiping out one unit of archers, the ogres, and defeating my wizard.  A rolling melee between the hill and the small wood saw heavy losses to both sides.  It was looking bad for the humans.

However, the battered defensers held on, forming a new defensive line right outside the village.  Wave after wave of braying beastmen charged down the hill, but each was thrown back in turn.  At this point, we had completed six rounds, which meant the scenario was over.  Since the village was intact, it was technically a victory for the handful of surviving men.

We really enjoyed these rules and agreed we actually like them better than Dragon Rampant (which is a lot of fun too).  We are already planning a sequel, when the beastmen (who are convinced the humans must have some really valuable loot in the village since they fought so hard for it) come back with more friends to have another go.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Bungle in the Jungle: A disastrous game of CONGO

Another great game of CONGO.  Well, great for the players, more of a bloody debacle for our intrepid adventurers.  Pete, Albert, and Jake joined me for this game, with Pete and Albert bringing their German and Russian-themed explorers' expeditions, Jake borrowing my Forest Tribes, and me fielding my peaceful Zanzibari traders.

We adapted the "Encounters in Hostile Lands" adventure from the Throne of Thunder expansion.  This scenario is written for two players, who start in opposite corners, separated by a band of jungle running diagonally across the board.  I re-arranged the layout to make sense with four players, replacing the single long diagonal with a cross-shaped arrangement of terrain.  The primary goal is to get your lead character off of the opposite corner of the board.  Secondary objectives are picking up valuable artifacts in the jungle, and defeating enemy characters.  

Complicating matters, every time a unit enters the dense terrain, a fearsome tribe of cannibals launches a barrage of poison darts at that unit, and every other unit with Short distance.  This proved devastating, and the Cannibals eliminated more figures than everyone else combined.

Early in the game.  Jake's Forest Tribesmen are top-left.  Tippu Tib's Zanzibaris are at the bottom.  Hauptman Atackkopf's shamefully still unpainted Germans are to the right.  The Mad Russian adventurer Sazinov is somewhere beyond the central mass of jungle.

Even the raucous Ruga Ruga are silent as the make their way into the daunting depths of the jungle.

The scenario naturally drew all four players to the center of the table.  Tippu Tib faces off with Russian-employed askaris, while the Forest Tribe picks up green loot counter, which represents some of the valuable artifacts.  Tippu Tib never made it past this point, and his group was slowly picked off by the poison darts, before he and a last bodyguard were overwhelmed by Forest Tribe spearmen.

In fact, not a single character survived...and most were killed by the cannibals!

An Elephant showed up midway through the game, but was content to linger outside the jungle.  (We forgot to roll for its random movement after the first round.)

The last act. A pair of Russian Askaris somehow made it out of the jungle with two loot tokens they had picked up by vanquishing Germans and Forest Tribesmen.  But even as they were about to make good their escape, they were cut down by a hail of poison darts.  The last surviving Zanzibaris, a trio of Baluchi matchlock men, swooped in and picked up the artifacts.  They were charged by a unit of spearmen, but amazing defeated the spears, despite their poor melee skills.  The spearmen dropped a third treasure before retreating (they can be seen ignominiously cowering near the great jungle bole).

Incredibly, it appeared I was going to net 12 victory points due to this bit of luck.  But then, Jake insanely charged the Baluchis with a single tribal musketman.  Neither side scored any hits, but in CONGO, the defender retreats after a tie, leaving any loot behind...And so the Baluchis shamefully fled, leaving the triumphant Bunduki holding three treasure tokens!  This was another example of the surprise endings that CONGO so often serves up.

Jake won with 24 points (16 from holding all four treasure tokens, and another 8 from having slain Tippu Tib and Pete's Kirangozi guide).  I can't remember if Albert or Pete had any points, but I know I had zilch!  

The real winners were definitely the cannibals...

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

SAGA 2nd Edition

SAGA 2nd Edition is here.  Joseph and I met up at Mages' Sanctum to give it a try.  We went with a classic match-up, Vikings versus Anglo-Danes, and tried the updated version of the Clash of Warlords scenario. Like almost everything in SAGA 2.0, Clash of Warlords has changed a bit.  Victory is determined by points, not by slaying the enemy warlord (though the warlord is worth a hefty four points).  The scenario also includes three different set-up versions, and six random conditions, giving it more replay value than you might think.  We rolled set-up C, which requires all units be nearing than M (6") from friends, and rolled the "Old Grudge" condition, which meant everyone got a free move on the first turn.

The situation at the top of Turn 1: My Anglo-Dane huscarls, warlord, and some fyrd (warriors) are working their way around the rocky ground in the center.  Greater Fyrd archers have taken up a sheltered position in the rocky ground, with more Fyrd spears guarding their flank. Opposite, the Viking Hirdmen (hearthguard) are all on the left, with thrall archers in the center, and berserkers just visible on the right.

I had thought my archers could command the open field in the center but some Vikings were upon them before they could loose a single volley.  I got lucky and only lost three archers, the rest falling back deeper into the rocky ground.

The Fyrd charged the Viking's flank.

The Vikings were thrown back, losing three hearthguard for a single Fyrd warrior.

On the left, my twelve-man huscarl unit struck a six-man group of hirdmen.  I then noticed that SAGA 2.0 disincentives 12-man hearthguard units, capping your basic melee dice at 16 (whereas before a unit that size would generate 24 attack dice).

The result was an ignominious bounce, each side losing two men.  Meanwhile, the Fyrd on the right weathered a barrage of arrows, and then traded three casualties with four-man Viking hearthguard unit.  Note that both Viking unis in the center have three fatigue markers.  In 2.0, all units are exhausted when they hit three fatigue.  The Anglo-Danes' "Intimidation" ability now gives fatigue rather than canceling moves (which is now something anyone if the moving unit has two fatigue.

My huscarls then shifted into the center, taking out two more hirdmen but failing to get the last one, who retreated.  The left-hand Fyrd unit stuck the left-most Viking unit, each losing three, and again leaving a single Viking behind.  I was having trouble eliminating Viking units!  At the same time, the dreaded berserkers easily wiped out my right-hand, depleted Fyrd unit, and were threatening the beleaguered archers.

To make matters worse, the Viking thrall archers unleashed barrage after barrage, bringing down five huscarls.

The tied turned in the next round.  Of screen, the left-hand Fyrd rallied and finished off the single Viking opposite them.  My remaining huscarls picked off another loan Viking hirdman.  And then the archers at last came into their own, managing to gun down the three berserkers an yet another last-man hearthguard. Four Viking units eliminated on one turn!

Short on dice, and hampered by mounting fatigue from the Danes' SAGA abilities, the Vikings managed to only bring down a single huscarl with archery.  Earl Aethelfwulf was distraught at so many huscarls laid low by ignoble thralls, and proceeded to chop down five of the Viking archers with his Dane Ax.  But two more huscarls fell acting as his body guards in this rash charge.

The final act: the last two Anglo-Dane huscarls charged the Viking warlord.  All three fell in a flurry of dice.

Final score was 29-19 for the Anglo-Danes.

We both agreed 2.0 played well on this first outing.  The new battleboards were fun, and the game seemed steamlined and well-balanced.

Monday, May 1, 2017

CONGO - First game

I clearly remember when Foundry announced its Darkest Africa range about 20 years ago.  Beautiful Mark Copplestone sculpts, on what was at the time a unique subject (and still there are not many alternatives to Foundry).  Foundry Darkest Africa

I wasn't aware of Chris Peers' rules that were written to accompany the range, but the figures were so cool, I actually bought a few dozen askari to use in my Warhammer Empire army!!  (Weird, I know.).  But being focused on other games, I left it at that.

Years later, I traded those figures away, along with the rest of my Warhammer stuff.  But I never forgot about the Darkest Africa range, which in my opinion may be Mr.Copplestone's opus magnum (which is saying something).

Fast-forward to last year, and Studio Tomahawk came out with Congo, a skirmish game about the 19th century exploration of Africa.  Think Henry Morton Stanley, saying, "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?"

Congo has a pretty low-figure count, 25 to 50 figures being typical.  And Studio Tomahawk's rules are right up my alley.  Fast, simple, but tactically interesting.  So I jumped in, and picked up some of those Darkest Africa figures I'd admired for so long.

After a few months of painting figures and terrain, I met up with Adam and Pete for a first couple games.  I brought my newly painted Zanzibari column, and Adam had his Explorer column.  Pete provided a willingness to learn new rules, and a capacity for snarky comments. 

First up was the Last Queen of Aksum.  In this Adventure, an Explorer Column has recovered an ancient artifact.  While marching back to the cost, its encampment is attacked by Zanzibaris, eager to seize the treasure for themselves. 

The Explorers designate one group as carrying the treasure, and their objective is to get it off-board.  The Zanzibaris don't know which group is carrying, but can learn via clues during the game. 

My Ruga-Ruga moved in from the left, while Tippu-Tib leads Baluchi musketmen from the south. 

The Ruga-Ruga crept through a stand of trees, and opened fire on the camp.  Some of the Explorer's Trained Askaris dashed from the opposite side of the camp.

But they were then decimated by accurate shooting from the Baluchis' jezzails.

At some point, I worked out that the Explorers had entrusted the treasure to their loyal Kirangozi (in the group at the left, with a red Panic token).  So the Baluchis hoofed it back to the left, to intercept the treasure.

But the Baluchis, with thier slower-firing jezzails and swords & shields, were no match for for three groups of askaris with modern rifles.  They were soon demoralized, routing off the board.

The Explorers were inches away from victory...when a sleeping lion woke up, and attacked the Kiranzogi!

The lion proceeded kill the Kirangozi, and his comrades fled... leaving the treasure of Aksum to be scooped up by the Ruga-Ruga.

Technically the Zanzibaris won at this point.  But I suspect the Ruga-Ruga then legged it, and kept the treasure for themselves.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

De Bellis Antiquitatis and Hordes of the Things

Austin LHSM members and friends gathered at Dragon’s Lair on March 25th for an introduction to De Bellis Antiquitatis (DBA) and Hordes of the Things (HotT).  I provided the armies and terrain.

We had a total of eight players, a good turnout for a week night, ranging in age from 6 to Grognard.  Most players were either new to DBx, or were being re-introduced to it after a hiatus.  After a very quick explanation of movement and combat, the games began.

Although DBA has a long tradition of time-travelling match-ups, for this event we had four historical pairings:

·         Seleucids versus Parthians

·         Early Germans versus Early Imperial Romans

·         Burgundian Ordonnance versus Later Swiss

·         Noldor Elves versus Orcs of the White Hand

(Okay, that last one is not quite historical; the Noldor date to the First Age of Middle Earth, not the Third).

Without further ado, here are some pictures:

Seleucids versus Parthians

Light horse skirmishing on the wings

Early Germans versus Early Imperial Romans

Hairy Dudes…people should know when they are conquered

Will the center hold?

It did not…

Round Two: The Germans’ flank is turned

Burgundian Ordonnance versus Later Swiss


Swiss mustering---who’s in charge here?

The Swiss Keil strikes!  (True to history, the Burgundians broke in two turns)


Noldor Elves versus Orcs of the White Hand

Elven knights charge home!

Hopefully this will be the start of more regular DBA and HOTT gaming in Austin.  As always, thanks are due to Pete for helping organize our games, and to Dragon’s Lair for hosting.