Saturday, August 12, 2017

Wizard Kraft Dry River Beds

Right on schedule, just a few days before I was due to depart for Historicon, William sent me a bunch of  the "Dry River Beds with Desert Flocking" from the Kickstarter, which I was hoping to use (and did!) with my Chariot bash  Saturday night at Historicon.

Here's part of the set on an incongruously green cloth.

The texturing of the beds is really nice. 

The surface I'm displaying them, on isn't perfectly flat, which accounts for the minor mismatches at some of the joins, not the product itself!

Here's more pieces on a different background cloth. 

I didn't reuse any pieces from the first picture on this one. One section has rocks on the bank. 

This set would work well as a waddi in Africa, or a gulch in the American Southwest.

Still more pieces on a third type of cloth. 

You can get sections with pools, with either blue water or muddy water. 

Almost every piece is unique!

Close up of the "swamp"; the flock on the inner portion looks to be short static grass. 

"Midnight at the Oasis?"

All; in all I received 6 x 12" pieces (4 straight, 2 curved), 1 each 2" and 8" straight, 1 "Y", 10 4" angles, 8 6" angles, 1 Swamp, and 2 ends - quite a lot of terrain!  There is still quite a bit yet to come from the rest of my Kickstarter pledge, too!

Note that Wizard Kraft is not accepting new orders until William fulfills all of his obligations from the Kickstarter, which he hopes to do within the month. 

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Historicon 2017 purchases.

My plans for  Historicon this year including not expecting to buy much of anything, really. However,  to paraphrase a well know  military aphorism, "The gamer's plans seldom survive contact with the Dealer's Area (and/or Flea Markets!). Just as I was doing may last minute organizing and packing, I saw a post on The Miniatures Page that was destined to wreak serious havoc with the budgetary plans.. . a series of new releases by Brigade Games, namely the addition of Spanish Napoleonic Cavalry to their existing infantry.

    Regular readers of this blog will perhaps recall talk on my part about starting a Spanish Napoleonic army for well over a year. Indeed,  I already have on hand lead for at least 4 line and one Grenadier unit. The sticking point has been the Cavalry. Only Front Rank (and Elite) do much in the way of Spanish Cavalry, and neither range would really fit that well with my other troops. So, I have been procrastinating committing myself to buying more infantry from any manufacturer, at least until I was ready to start my Napoleonic Spaniards in earnest.

    After running my Thursday AM game with To the Strongest, I headed out to the dealer area for the obligatory "walk about" through the hall. Scads of great products there as always, but I didn't see anything particularly new or compelling. Until, that is, I arrived at the large Brigade Games set up. As Lon was to tell me in a little while, they had just gotten the first of said Spanish Cavalry figures a few days before the show, but they already had them on display. Hmm, they don't look like giants (like the Front Rank Cavalry can sometimes next to other manufacturers - seriously, they must be about 35mm!), nice sculpts. I peruse the Brigade Games Spanish Napoleonic listing, which is now becoming pretty comprehensive... Line infantry in two poses, Light Infantry in Tarletons, Militia Infantry, Grenadiers, Artillery Crews, Spanish Infantry in later uniforms, and now dragoons and Line cavalry (2 different poses for each), Garochistas, Militia Hussar types, etc. even a portly Spanish General on foot and a female partisan.

   After hemming and hawing for some time, I sought out Lon Weiss, the owner, to see if he has any of the new Spanish Cavalry with him. "Oh yes!", and the rest of the entire Spanish line as well,. In addition, they had some kind of convention deal, something like buy 9 packs, get one free. Not a barn burner, but still a deal!  No shipping, too, of course. About 10 minutes later, I had purchased 30 packs.  :-)

6 figures each Spanish Line and Dragoon Cavalry (the command for these is coming shortly per Lon - lovely Paul Hicks sculpts!)

1 pack each of 6 artillery crew loading and firing; each pack is enough to crew 2 guns in my scheme. 

Spanish Line Marching - 3 packs/15 figutres.

Spanish Line Advancing - 3 packs, 15 fuigures

2 command packs of 4, 8 figures

and enough additional lead for 2 Cazadore (light) and 2 militia infantry units, and of course the fat General and partisan!

I have lead on hand already from Front Rank for a Grenadier unit (in the outrageous bearskins), which is presently AWOL, leaving behind the  above surplus 6 figures, mostly Command types. 

I also have on hand lead for 4 regular units from Miniaturos Dos de Mayo, a Spanish manufacturer (front), which I have just now started to paint. For comparison, the officer and Fifer in the rear are Front Rank, and the infantryman in bicorn in the rear is Brigade Games. 

View form the left - they all seem pretty compatible, especially if used in their own units. 

Rear view (note the great assortment of camp impedimenta hanging of the Dos de Mayo sculpts!) 

Didn't find much in the flea market, but Fredie and Jeff steered me to a guy selling Old Glory Hungarian Infantry for $10/pack of 30. I bought all 300 figures!  What the heck am I going to do with 300 figures (enough for at least 15 units)? Damned if I know, but I just couldn't pass up a deal that good - that's 30 cents a figure, less than half what they cost even with the 40% Army Card Discount!

I also picked up this paper Terrain 15mm Spanish Village kit from Scott Washburn. 

        Why 15 mm, and why Paper? Because the purchase of the Spaniards pretty much sealed my resolve to run Snappy Nappy "Campaign in a Day" event from the early Peninsular War (ie. in the era from 1808 - 1810) at Historicon 2018 in Lancaster. With that game's ground scale, the footprint of the 15 mm buildings works better... not to mention taking up less space in the car and being much lighter to carry! If I like them after I put them together, I will probably get some more of them.

    So there you have it! Between not sharing a hotel room this year for the first time, well, ever, and spending more on lead than ever before, this was easily my most expensive Historicon. Was it worth it?  Heck, yeah!  :-)

A little mood music, Maestro!    "Malagueña
We performed this in  Band in college, an absolute blast to play, although my friend and fellow bandsmen Tom complained it was "too Spanish", LOL!

Friday, August 4, 2017

Historicon: The Pyrates and some leftovers

While not as gobsmacking impressive as the the over the top Pirate extravaganza put on by the "Fistfull of Seamen" (ahem) folks several years ago, special mention has to be given to this game.

Arr, maties!

Star fort on the Horizon, Sir!

Looks like a tough nut to crack, but with derring-do and a touch of luck...

Native encampment, and a nearby town.

Make that a Port, complete with quays.

A rival Port.

Some intriguing ruins to explore.

Blurry shot.... doubtless too much rum consumed by the photographer...

Obviously I wasn't the only one impressed by the set up!

Great attention to detail!

Still more rum...

A variety of crafts were available for embarkation...

And now, a word from our sponsor...

In addition to being beautifully laid out, this game had a very prominent location - if you were in the main hall, even if just to go to the flea market, the tournament areas, the food court, or even the facilities, you couldn't help but walk past it (and gawk). I'd love to hear from some folks who played in the game(s)...

I also found a few more miscellaneous shots from Historicon that didn't make it into my other post, so I have added them here...

JUubilation T. Cornpone, now THAT'S a Cornfield!

ACW action; the rest of the table looks just as good!

One end of the Mr Franklin's War VSF (Voltaire Science Fiction) set up

and the other. 

Very handsome table for a WW2 game, troops standing by on the sidelines!


(note the sea serpent in amongst the ships)

One of many games in the Ancients Tournament area. I took this shot because of the incredible number of camel mounted troops fielded... there are easily over 100 camels on the table. 

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Historicon #4: Chariots of the Gods?, and some thoughts on To the Strongest!

I ran my final game of the convention at 7 PM on Saturday: Assyrians vs Egyptians with Canaanite Allies (the later courtesy of a large lead donation f\rom Ken Baggaley a year or so ago), with the excellent rules by Simon Miller, To the Strongest!

Overview of the table (16 x 5 feet), Assyrians to the left, Canaanites near right, Egyptians far right.

Canaanite forces.

Egyptian Left wing Chariots, and Division Ptah (green).

Divions Re (yellow), and Seti (Blue), posing with the Sphinx. The "arrow volley" markers are "reserve ammo".

Division Amun (Red) and the Right Flank Chariots. Coins are Victory medals, sacarbs are hit (disorder) markers.

Assyrian Left flank Chariots and Cavalry.

Several Assyrian infantry commands. The Towers are camps. 

Assyrian right Center.

Assyrian Right center cavalry and Chariots.

Asyrian Far Right wing - all "mounted".

Table overview from the opposite end.

Let the game begin!  wWe had 14 players for 16 commands. 3 decks per side.

Almost everyone got in to the action fairly quickly - except the Canaanite infantry command (far left).

Tod Kerschner commanded these Egyptian Light Chariots, and did fairly well with them. He probably needed to be more aggressive at threatening the Assyrian flank later in the game, though. They are not easy to use against the better armored Assyrians!  We chatted during the game, and we'd both love to be able to go back in time and see what Chariot warfare was really like, along with a Napoleonic Heavy Cavalry charge!  Victor had the supporting troops of Division Amun.

Action in the center; note the barely visible dark brown dots marking the "grid". 

A definite cat and mouse game on the Canaanite end of the table!

Light Chariots doing what they need to do - seeking he enemy's flank!

Speaking of flanks... Veteran Nubian bowmen shooting into the flank of a heavy chariot, with the attached general...   potentially up to 4 hit cards to be played, with a negative save adjustment for the target as well!

Egyptian Division Seti pushing the attack!

Light Chariots daringly maneuver across the Wadi to gain a flank. The wadi is made from WizardKraft "Dry river beds", with a new option, desert flocking. They were delivered just a few days before I departed for Fredeicksburg, as requested!

About 2/3 of the way through the game, a tap on the shoulder resulted in the receipt of a PELA award for the game, the presenter commenting that there weren't many people who could more chariots on the table than he did... but that I had done it!

I observed that it was more a tribute to the players, and the rules than anything else. 
On the other hand, from the first game with these armies with Barry a few years ago, each additional Egypt vs Assyria game resulted in some upgrade... the towers, the Sphinx, the scarabs, the Canaanites, more Assyrians, the dials, and so on. I had observed that Saturday night games had become thin (doubtless GM exhaustion!) in years past, and figured that would be the perfect time to run a big game like this - one with a lot of players, but also one that would conclude in a reasonable period of time  with rules that were easily picked up. As it was, the Assyrians were declared the victors with a little over 2.5 hour game play. Everyone seemed to enjoy the rules as well!

    Speaking of that, I have to sat that To the Strongest is one of those rare, special rules sets that reinvigorates my enthusiasm for our hobby. It has probably caused an at least 50% increase in the size of my Ancients to Medieval era armies, with  few more expansions yet to come. It is an ideal game for conventions, or any time you want a fun game with limited set up work that will finish in 3 hours or less. Simon has an English Civil War rules set using TtS principles which is due for publication later this year, and there are many ideas for applying the rules concepts to other conflicts, and genres to be found on the discussion board for the rules. Indeed, I plan to use them to create a new set of rules for my 15 mm Renaissance galleys. 

    I started in miniature wargaming at about age 13, as previously related. Napoleonics has always been my first love, and that remains unchanged after almost 50 years. My introduction to Ancient wargaming, as also previously related, came at the home of Charlie Sweet, in Bristol, CT. Charlie and Dave's Ancient Wargames Rules were probably my favorite of theirs... so much so that I later developed my own set using many of the same central ideas but very different combat mechanisms (see Legio Quaternarius).  To the Strongest! shares many core concepts with both of these sets.

    First and foremost, it uses a gridded board. I have long been a fan of gridded tabletop wargames; indeed, the original Napoleonic rules that my group used for 20+ years were hexagon based. As Charlie argued in an article in the original NEWA Courier (which may even have been reprinted from another, earlier journal), the one thing that you can to that speeds up play the most is to use a gridded board. Gone are any need for rulers or tape measures to measure ranges, moves, etc. Gone are any arguments over field of fire, angles of contact, and the like. Simon's concept of just marking the corners of the squares ("boxes") allows excellent visual appeal for those who find a traditional grid unattractive

    Second, it is basing independent. While both Charlie's rules and mine had standard basing conventions, there was really no reason the figures HAD to be based just so. In the case of To the Strongest!, this means that virtually any basing an be used, and it need not be similar for both armies. Thus troops based for almost any rules set can easily be used with To the Strongest!

    Third, the rules are relatively accessible to those without either much gaming experience, or much knowledge of the era or armies involved.  They can be taught and played with just a few minutes introduction to the key concepts. Combat is fairly decisive, as it takes only 1 to 3 steps to eliminate a unit. A wide variety of different troop types and ratings are accommodated without unduly overburdening the system. Once the troop ratings for an army are established and placed in some kind of digital file, setting up a game can be done quite swiftly. The game can be played with just a few figures per unit, or with hordes. It can be played with two players, or twenty. 

    To the Strongest! also shares a  number of concepts with the Piquet/Field of Battle family games that I love. The Victory Medals are pretty much the same as the Morale Chips of those systems. This gives the game a distinct ending point. It uses cards (albeit in a very different way) to determine the sequence of actions. It uses asymmetrical movement and opportunities to act. It requires a LOT of decisions from the player. The mechanics of the game keep both players engaged, regardless of whose turn it is. Combat is relatively non atritional. And most importantly, the game is fun to play!

    Is To the Strongest! the last word in simulating Ancient Warfare?  Well of course not!  Simon himself would be the first to disavow even attempting to accomplish that. Thus it may not tick the boxes for dyed in the wool players of any era. For the rest of us, it i a heck of a game, that "feels" right, and allows us to use a lot of different toys from across the sweep of history. It also seems to be to be a nearly ideal "gateway drug" for introducing newcomers to our hobby, somewhat akin to the Commands and Colors" family of games in that regard (as well as several others from the concepts cited above).