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.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Frostgrave: First Game

After much anticipation, and many hours painting and assembling terrain, Joseph and I finally played Frostgrave for the first time on Saturday.  It did not disappoint.  We played the basic scenario (6 treasure counters, winner is the player who carries away the most treasure). 

I fielded my Elementalist warband.  The wizard Aethelstan and apprentice Eomund are finished, but the soldiers are still only base-coated, and need some highlighting and shading.  The soldiers are a mix of three Archers, and three Infantrymen. This was not an optimal starting warband for Frostgrave, but a small, relatively homogenous force of professional troops fits the concept I have for my warband, which I'll explain in another post.   Also, Joseph kindly agreed to a house rule whereby Infantrymen can optionally be equipped with hand weapon & shield in lieu of the standard two-handed weapon.

Joseph brought his Necromancer and apprentice.  They were supported by a mix of Viking and medieval figures from his SAGA warbands, namely a tracker, archer, thief, two soldiers, and two thugs.

We rolled out-of-game spells before starting, which resulted in Joseph picking up a Snow Leopard animal companion to add to his warband, while my wizard, Aethelstan, conjured up a Familiar.  We then each placed three treasure tokens, chose sides, and set up.

Here's the table at the start.  The board itself is Secret Weapon's Forgotten City terrain.  The buildings are a mix of Battlefield in a Box, Reaper Bones, Infinite Crypt, and a few other odds & ends, including an aquarium ornament. 

From the Necromancer's side.  The Necromancer and some minions are just out of sight on the right.  The Necromancer's apprentice and other minions are on the left.

Aethelstan and three of his troops moved up on the right.  Two of the treasure tokens can be seen on top of the buildings to either side.  The evil apprentice cast Bone Dart at the lead soldier, but luckily missed his target.

A turn later.  One of my archers took up a covered firing position on the right, with a treasure near at hand.  My three Infantrymen converged on the ruined tower in the center, and two men began scaling the partially ruined stairs to recover a magic staff and grimoire at the top.  Aethelstan fell back to the ruined terrace, which he would use for the rest of the game as a vantage point from which to launch spells.  My apprentice, Eomund, moved up on the left, and successfully cast Fleet Feet on one of the soldiers climbing the stairs.  In the center and on the terrace, two archers took hasty shots one of Joseph's minions, but both missed.

Aethelstan, from the vantage point of the terrace, drew a bead on the apprentice Necromancer, who was attempting to cross the open ground to reach my Archer in the tall corner ruin.  Chanting arcane words of power, balefire leapt from Aethelstan's outstretched hand, striking down the dark apprentice (Aethelstan successfully case Elemental Bolt, and rolled a 20...).  Aethelstan's familiar, a sinister little figure in dark robes, nodded approvingly.

Meanwhile, Jacob's snow leopard darted forward on the left, and in a single long leap, jumped over a low line of fallen stones, straight into contact with Apprentice Eomund.  Eomund drove the snarling beast away, and fell back to the left-hand edge of the board.   Eomund then cast Elemental Shield on himself, anticipating he would not escape easily from the swifter beast.

Sure enough, the Leopard charged again in the next turn.  We both rolled high, and tied, resulting in damage to both the Snow Leopard and Eomund--but most of his damage was absorbed by the Elemental Shield.

The Necromancer cast Leap on one of her minions, catapulting an enemy soldier directly behind poor Eomund.

Evading arrow shots from Joseph's tracker, two of my soldiers successfully claimed the ruined tower, retrieving the grimoire and staff.  Joseph's Necromancer and tracker moved up to intercept them.  One went down in a hail of Bone Darts and arrows, dropping the staff.  My third soldier scooped up a pile of coins in front of the terrace, and escaped off the board.

Rather than wait to face two foes at once, Eomund then attacked the Snow Leopard...and struck it down.  Alas, the enemy soldier then surprised him from behind, knocking the valiant apprentice senseless. 

At it happened a wandering skeleton then attacked the soldier, but after fencing for a turn, he easily defeated this minor undead.

Far off on the right, Joseph's thug scaled the corner ruin, dodging a couple arrows from my Archer, and then easily defeating the hapless man.  The thug then seized the magic potion treasure and escaped off-board.

While this was going on, Joseph's thief had recovered a magic ring, and his archer found a treasure chest.  Both treasures were spirited off-board, Aethelstan being powerless to stop them.  Aethelstan did manage to blast a soldier with Elemental Bolt though.

My Archer at the base of the terrace scooped up the dropped staff, and began to leg it.

Joseph's Necromancer, tracker, and a soldier, all converged on the base of the terrace, hoping to seize the staff.

However, it was not to be.  Aethelstan blasted the Necromancer with yet another Elemental Bolt and the Archer on the terrace shot down the charging soldier, allowing my two treasure carriers to escape with the grimoire and staff, ending the game with a 3-3 tie.

Post-game, we learned that Eomund had in fact killed the poor Snow Leopard.  Both sides had one soldier wounded, meaning each would miss the next game.  We finally rolled for injuries for the spell casters.  Both apprentices made full recoveries.  Joseph rolled for his Necromancer . . . a "2"!  The evil sorceress had been slain by balefire!  I then told Joseph to re-roll, and the Necromancer made a full recovery.

Aethelstan gained three levels, and the Necromancer advanced to level 2.  We both picked up 200+ gold, and an assortment of grimoires.  I still haven't decided how to spend my new loot, but will do so before the next game.

We both really enjoyed this first game of Frostgrave.  The rules were so simple, we were able to play with only minimal looks at the rulebook, even for a first game.  I like the combat system, which adjudicates who is hit, whether armor saves the target, and the amount of damage, all in a single opposed die roll.  It is very clever, and I think will make this game go very quickly once we've gotten a little more practice with it. 

Saturday, October 11, 2014

SAGA: The Confrontation

My Anglo-Danes faced Dave's Vikings for The Confrontation scenario in our SAGA league. 

In this scenario, the two Warlords have met, confirmed they still don't like each other, and following an exchange of insults, the inevitable occurs.  The set up reflects this, with two Warlords starting close to each other at the center of the table, while the Warbands hang back a respectful distance.  The goal is to score the most hits on the opposing Warlord; if a player has a score that is ten points higher than his opponent at the end of a round, he wins.  Otherwise, the winner is whoever has the highest score after six rounds.  Significantly, the Warlords can only be attacked by each other, except that lesser troops can attack a Warlord who is ahead in points.
I got the first turn, but had a poor roll of the SAGA dice (no helmets, even after using Noble Lineage to re-roll my dice, leaving me with a mix of four Horses and Axes).  I decided not to activate my Warlord, because in his Pride, he would have no choice but to charge the Viking leader if I did so.  Instead, I moved up his loyal Huscarls to help.

In good Viking fashion, Dave's Warlord struck the first blow, landing two hits on my Warlord.  Score: Dave 2, Me 0.

Having counted coup, the Viking Warlord fell back.  His four Berserkers moved up in support.

Enraged by the affront to their lord, my Huscarls charged, chastising the pagan with ten hits. The mighty Viking shrugged of the first hit (Resilience), and three of his loyal berserkers sacrificed themselves, but he still absorbed a net of six hits.  Score: 6-2 for the Anglo-Danes,

Dave is great at playing in character, and his sole Berserker, ignoring the odds, went after my Huscarls.  He died.

However, Dave's Hearthguard had better luck, slaying eight Huscarls for a loss of six of their own.  Both groups fell back to their respective lines.

Dave and I both rested our troops during the following round...

I moved my Levy archers to harass Dave's left wing.

The Levy shot down three Warriors, then fell back out of easy charge range.

Noticing that the turn limit was almost up, Dave sent four Hearthguard to attack the center of the Anglo-Danish formation.  They eliminated three Huscarls for a loss of one.

My twelve-man Warrior unit charged them in the flank, but scored no hits, and ignominiously fell back, having lost a man.  On the last turn, the Vikings then closed and in quick succession wiped out my smaller, four-man Warrior unit, and finished off the last Huscarl, losing one man in the process.  Dave was in striking distance of my Warlord...but had no more SAGA dice to activate with!

Final Score: 6-2 for the Anglo-Danes.