Sunday, November 20, 2016

Inglorious action for British in Sails of Glory

My sloop leads the British line into action -- or would have, if my co-commanders had their way (I was much to clever and deferred that role to the larger frigates!)
We had a guest GM for this evening's gaming, Ferkin, who wanted to introduce us to Sails of Glory. This is age of sail version of the popular Wings of War card game, with plastic ships and large wooden ship templates, but much of the basic mechanics being very similar. It was a small ship battle for 7 players. The French had 3 frigates, while our British side had two frigates and two sloops. I trust that Ferkin balanced the engagement, but I know my sloop was vastly inferior in its ability to take damage compared to the larger frigates. For example, it took only 1 hit counter to eliminate one of my ship's hull/gunnery boxes, yet the Frenchie that I was tangling with took 4 hits per box.
Age of Sail action on a Sunday evening using Sails of Glory
No surprise that Allen and I, controlling the sloops, hung on the edges of the battle plinking away at the enemy. Well, I hung on the edge and Allen -- after taking a couple splintering attacks from French frigates -- just hung out on the edges and did little else. The result was the French did a good job of ganging up on the two British frigates, particularly the one belonging to Mike S. He stayed in the center and mixed it up with Steve and Keith's ships, while our other British frigate, captained by Joel, helped me against Mike W's Frenchie frigate.
My British sloop gets a bow rake ("What? Rakes are an advanced rule...?") on Mike W's French frigate
In the end, we lost both our frigates, but both sloops would have gotten away. We did force Mike W's frigate to strike its colors due to crew loss. However, there would be no way for us to take its ship as a prize, as we had to flee the scene to save our smaller ships.
The brave British frigates try to pierce the French line, while my sloop at bottom turns away to stay on the edges of the fray and avoid slugging it out with the larger enemy
We played just the basic game, and it was a good time. Ferkin says he'll add in some of the advanced rules next time. It was a nice change of pace, and the "Wings of War" systems translates well to age of sail combat, I felt.
Ferkin (in purple cap) shows us how it's done in Sails of Glory
Another view of the brave, but ill-fated attack by the two British frigates on the French line







Sunday, November 13, 2016

Swatters -- Bugs Attack the Earth in 1950s!

Keith checks the rules for the new Ganesha Games set "Swatters" -- a Starship Troopers vs. Bugs style game
We tried out a new Ganesha Game called "Swatters" -- meant for Starship Troopers vs. Arachnid Aliens. Keith had an interesting twist on it, placing it in the 1950s with a Bug invasion of the Earth (explaining all those flying saucers and the Roswell incident). He used his ample supply of plastic insect figures along with 15mm WW II miniatures for the humans, tossed them on flocked CD movement trays, and boom! A new chapter of our history (well, alternative chapter...) was gamed out on the tabletop.
My UN Marine force of 4 squads supported by heavy weapons
Since it was our first time playing the game, we did a few things wrong (of course). It happens with every rules set that you miss subtle rules. And of course, we had no real idea what the proper force matchup should be. As it was, the game was heavily weighted in favor of the humans -- despite the equal points. In my opinion, a successful bug assault on heavily armed humans requires more experience than our first-time players could pull off.
Allen's armored force of two tanks and power-armored infantry (experimental 1950s version, of course!)
We had 3 human forces -- my UN Marine force of good quality infantry, each squad supported by a heavy weapon such as a grenade launcher, rocket launcher, etc. The armored force, which consisted of two tanks and a power-armored squad. Finally, there was the militia force, controlled by Joel, which was the only force which sustained any significant losses. Allen controlled the armor and I controlled the UN Marines. We both whacked the bugs handily -- me shooting them down at range and Allen repelling all of their desperate assaults on his tanks. As it turns out, that was one of the things we did wrong. Tanks should NOT cause melee damage against a bug assault.
The bug force arrayed against me -- warriors, giant bugs, and flyer bugs
Nevertheless, we liked certain things about the rules and will doubtless play them again. For a more detailed look at the scenario, read Keith's report on his blog: Swatters Game Report - Orcafinn's Basement
The bug forces advance!
For me, I'll just let the pictures tell the story!
My Marine force begins to gun them down at long range
The armored force boldly advances, while my troops move up to support
The Warrior bugs swarm a tank!
Only to be blasted away by the resolute UN armored force
The battle between bugs and humans rages across the board
The bug commanders, Mike S, Tom, and Steve seek a way to break the stout human defenses
They gang up on the Militia force on the left and score their only successes of the battle
Will that lead to success against the human center and right? The bugs throw everything at the tanks, but fail
The UN infantry holds steady and continues to gun down the bugs, until their force gives up, and scuttles back to its holes

But Keith says they'll be back again, and with the what we learned in this playtest, perhaps the next bug assault will prove more menacing and deadly...

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Beaver Wars in Ohio playtest, Turn 10

The Beaver Wars playtesters gathered for one final time at the party room of a local pizzeria
Our final turn of the Beaver Wars campaign began with two tribes, the Shawnee and Neutrals, within one point of each other. There was an outside chance the Mohawk, at 3 points back, could make up enough points and win. It would take the perfect combination of battle results, though. However, I was surprised by the card play, as none of the top three tribes chose a high War card, which could enable them to control which opponent they were matched against. Cleverly, the Neutrals played the highest ranking Hunt card which automatically meant they would likely pass up the tribe in front of them in the standings for Beaver Pelts obtained.
Shawnee hunters meet an attacking Miami warparty at the ford of a river
This was the first turn where any of the tribes played Reward cards that affected the turn order. The Shawnee played a “Prophecy of Dreams” card which allowed them to switch out their card. The Seneca played a “Deceit in Council” card which allowed them to switch positions with a tribe immediately in front of or behind them in the attack order. When it was all said and done, the cards played and choices by the highest ranking War cards resulted in the following battles:
  • The Honniasont (in last place) attacked the Neutrals (who were in 2nd).
  • The 6th place Miami attacked the 1st-place Shawnee.
  • The 8th place Susquehannock attacked the 3rd place Mohawk.
  • The 4th-place Seneca attacked the 5th place Kickapoo. The Kickapoo player was feeling ill the morning of our meeting, so my 7th place Erie tribe stood in for them.
The Mohawk player (in red) advances his braves to attack the Susquehannock invaders
What had happened was that the lower-ranking tribes had all individually attacked the front-runners, meaning that none of the top four were going head-to-head. As GM, I was kind of hoping they’d be matched up against each other — especially since I knew that the Neutrals would make up a point and enter the battle phase of the turn tied with the Shawnee. It also meant the leaders were facing slightly weaker opponents, as tribes with more Scenario Victory Points (SVPs) can buy more upgrades to their figures — allowing them, in essence, to field more points worth of troops.
Facing a counterattack by Neutral tribe warriors, Honniasont youths scurry to answer the summons of their warchief
What’s more, the battles were a clean sweep by the higher ranking tribes. All four of our top finishers ended up winning a Major Victory in their final battle. Speaking from the Erie’s point of view, it was not because my opponent had an edge in upgrades, though. In fact, I felt my Erie were in total control of the battle and well on their way to defeating the Seneca. My opponent became desperate and charged two braves to attack my entire war band, one of them contacting my chief. In an astounding series of die rolls (not the first time it had happened in the campaign to me), I managed to lose four straight melees even though I held a significant edge in each. My chief was killed, crippling my force and giving the Seneca the momentum and ultimate victory.
Seneca horse thieves attempt to rustle some stock belonging to the Erie tribe
The Honniasont gave the 2nd-place Neutrals a run for their money, too. One more lost brave would have forced the Neutrals check morale — quite likely scattering their force, fatally. However, they killed a Honniasont youth to force their opponent to check morale first. This resulted in too many Honniasont fleeing, and the Neutrals prevailed.
The Seneca player attempts a desperation attack on the Erie defenders who are gunning them down from a cornfield
I counted up the points and it ended up being an exact tie! The Shawnee and Neutrals ended up with the exact same total in Prestige Points (which essentially tracks the number of Major or Minor Victories, and Minor Defeats). The Shawnee had the edge in Beaver Pelts, while the Neutrals had the lead in SVPs. Out of a maximum 30 possible points, both tribes score 25.5! AS GM, I offered each the chance to battle it out in a final rubber match, but they declined. They declared they would share control of the Ohio Valley and its rich hunting lands.
More Seneca race to attack the Erie defenders as they shoot out at them from the edge of the cropfield
The players said they enjoyed the campaign quite a bit, and were completely happy with the format and logistics. I have decided to tweak the way Beaver Pelts were awarded in the final rules, so that the campaign will play out similarly whether there were a large number of players or just a handful. Most of the suggestions my players made over the course of the campaign were on how to make scenarios more balanced. This led to me continually tweak individual scenario setups and victory points. By the end, we had played 10 turns with 8-9 players, meaning The Beaver Wars in Ohio generated 40 battles. We met about once a month, and it took us about a year to playtest those 10 turns. You can see the final standings and individual statistics at the end of this post.
The players gather around the final battle of the campaign, as the Neutrals player, left, desperately tries to retake his village from a Honniasont raid
With this playtest, the rules are essentially complete. I will now begin assembling them and rewriting them into a rulebook. It is my hope that they will be available by the beginning of the 2017 — if not before. I hope everyone enjoyed reading about the fun we had during our playtest. I will post here when the rules are available. Thank you for reading!
The Honniasont answer the call of their chieftain and battle the Neutrals mightily, finally falling to the superior foe
 
FINAL STANDINGS
Tribe
Place
Victory Points
Shawnee
Tied 1st
25.5 points
Neutrals
Tied 1st
25.5 points
Mohawk
3rd
20.5 points
Seneca
4th
16.5 points
Kickapoo
5th
14 points
Miami
6th
12 points
Erie
7th
11 points
Susquehannock
8th
7 points
Honniasont
9th
3 points

PRESTIGE POINTS (Battlefield Victories)
Tribe
Prestige Points (PPs)
Neutrals (Keith Finn)
25 (8 MajV, 1 MinD)
Shawnee (Joe Merz)
25 (6 MajV, 3 MinV, 1 MinD)
Mohawk (Dave Welch)
18 (5 MajV, 1 MinV, 1 MinD)
Seneca (Mike Stelzer)
18 (4 MajV, 3 MinV)
Miami (Jenny Torbett)
11 (2 MajV, 2 MinV, 1 MinD)
Kickapoo (Andy Swingle)
10 (3 MajV, 1 MinD)
Erie (Mike Demana)
8 (2 MajV, 2 MinD)
Susquehannock (Steve Phallen)
5 (1 MajV, 2 MinD)
Honniasont (Bruce Adamczak)
3 (1 MinV, 1 MinD)

BEAVER PELTS
Tribe
Beaver Pelts
Shawnee (Joe Merz)
60
Neutrals (Keith Finn)
53
Mohawk (Dave Welch)
52
Kickapoo (Andy Swingle)
48
Erie (Mike Demana)
44
Seneca (Mike Stelzer)
41
Susquehannock (Steve Phallen)
38
Miami (Jenny Torbett)
33
Honniasont (Bruce Adamczak)
23

SCENARIO VICTORY POINTS
Tribe
Scenario Victory Points (SVPs)
Neutrals (Keith Finn)
144
Shawnee (Joe Merz)
136
Mohawk (Dave Welch)
117
Seneca (Mike Stelzer)
111
Miami (Jenny Torbett)
88
Kickapoo (Andy Swingle)
72
Erie (Mike Demana)
69
Susquehannock (Steve Phallen)
65
Honniasont (Bruce Adamczak)
43









Monday, October 17, 2016

Photos from Raid on the Ohio Frontier at Advance the Colors 2016

French & Indian War fun for the whole family!
I ran two sessions of my French & Indian War skirmish game, Song of Drums and Tomahawks, at Advance the Colors 2016 two weekends ago. Both games were completely full with six players. Everyone seemed to have a good time. Since most people have read earlier blog posts about this game and setup, this entry will be mostly photos.

The event has 3 one-on-one scenarios taking place simultaneously, as the Indians launch a raid into Ohio to drive back the frontier. For some reason, I did not take many pictures of "They Died in the Smoke," but there are plenty of others of the other two.

Settlement Raid
A small settlement deep on the Ohio frontier is raided by Indians on the warparth
Frontiersmen take cover and fire as Indians close in for the attack

Tribesmen use the cover of the settlers own fields and fences to move closer to the defenders
Not knowing where the raiders will appear, the frontiersmen must watch all sides of their settlement
A group of Indians use the cover of a log cabin's walls to enter the settlement
The settlement leader keeps a wary out for signs of the raiders at the start of the skirmish

Wagon Train Through Peril
An extended family loads up their wagons with women and children and tries to make it through to local blockhouse
"Here they come!" As feared, Indian raiders lay in wait along the family's path to the blockhouse
As muskets are discharged, combat becomes brutal and bloody with tomahawk and knife

After more than two years of running my game, I get more and more repeat players all the time!

And for only $15, you too can enjoy fast and bloody skirmishes (available through our website)

 

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

African Huts in about 20mm for a couple bucks each!

$4.99 (half off for $2.50) at Michaels craft store -- an inexpensive way to create an African village! Posed with my 20mm Liberation Miniatures modern Africans.
I always enjoy wandering the aisles of my local craft stores -- Michaels and Hobby Lobby. Just about every time I can find something I can use for one of my projects. I keep their online coupons saved on my iPhone's web browser, so I can pull them up quickly and get something I see for 40% or 50% off. It was when that day's Michaels coupon was for half off of a regularly priced item that I stumbled upon these round huts made out of some type of resin-like material.

I picked them up, eyeballed them, and thought they looked surprisingly close to 20mm scale. I know I should probably keep a 20mm and 28mm figure in my car to be sure, but I usually think to do that only when I'm at the flea market of a larger convention. The more I looked at them, the more sure I was they would be perfect African huts for my 20mm Modern Africa games. They were priced at $4.99 each -- not bad, but a steal at $2.50 (less with the 15% Teachers' discount they let me pile on top). I picked up two as I had a friend tagging along when wasn't buying anything (another valuable asset to keep handy...ha, ha!).
The round hut and its Chinese factory paint job
Although they came already painted, I figured I could do a better job than the random Chinese factory worker. I spray painted them black, then went over that with a 50/50 mixture of black paint and water. Essentially, I gave the huts the same treatment that I give my Acheson terrain pieces I talked about in the previous post. I painted the mud plaster walls a base coat of a spice tan, then dry brushed them my usual khaki color. The thatch was done in a butternut color, with a light gray dry brush on top. The interior of the hut was painted black for uniformity, as were the recessed window openings. Finally, I mixed up black paint and water for a black wash to give it that shaded effect and soften the transitions on the drybrushing.

I was unhappy with the flocking I did in the doorway, though. So, I decided to go back and correct it by putting something to grab the eye in the doorway. For one, it was a paper towel rug painted with white glue and various colors. For the other, it was a tiny plastic bowl from the craft store painted as an African basket. Some flocking and clump foliage, and my African huts looked decent for the tabletop. I have purchased three more of the huts so that I can represent a village on the board, and will likely keep my eye out and buy more when I get another 50% off sale.

I posed them next to some of my more recent 20mm Africa figures, so you can see they do a good job of looking the part of an African village!

Acheson Creations stumps and rocks and stuff

A few of my 28mm Pulp miniatures amidst the newly-painted Acheson Creations resin terrain pieces
 I will be buying some more stuff from Acheson Creations in about a week and a half at Advance the Colors gaming convention in Springfield, OH. I love their various resin terrain pieces -- they are easy-to-paint, look great on the tabletop, and very affordable! So, since I will likely come home with a bag bulging with new terrain for the tabletop, I figured it made sense to paint up what I still had on hand from previous purchases.

Most of the unpainted pieces I had on hand were tree stumps and rocks. No problem -- I could doubtless use them to create a blasted forest, or to add color to an ordinary section of woods. When I say Acheson Creations pieces paint up easy, I mean really easy! Here is all I do to get great looking terrain for my games:
  • Run the pieces through a short cycle in the dishwasher on low (or no) heat
  • Spray paint the pieces black with acrylic
  • Go over the black with a 50/50 mix of black paint and water to ensure it seeps into all the ample crevices and folds of the piece
  • Dry brush a medium brown for the wood pieces (I use Howard Hues Camo Brown), or Dark Gray for rocks
  • Dry brush the pieces khaki for the wood (Howard Hues Colonial Khaki), or Light Gray for rocks (Howard Hues Rebel Gray)
  • Very lightly dry brush wood pieces a light gray -- don't cover up all of your brown, but enough to give it a weathered look
  • Wash with a black wash of your choice
  • Flock
The deep folds and crevices of Acheson products make them to dry brush
 Bingo! You're done. Goes very quickly. I highly recommend Acheson Creations products. They are my single favorite wargaming terrain manufacturer.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Beaver Wars in Ohio playtest, Turn 9

Four games were running as the campaign comes down to the wire to see which tribe will be victorious
Our next-to-last turn of the final playtest of the Beaver Wars campaign rules took place last weekend at the local pizzeria. All players were in attendance, so as GM I sat out with my Erie tribe. An interesting dynamic had developed in the strategic card play phase of the game over the last two turns. Early on, most tribes played Hunt cards, to obtain more beaver pelts. Now, there was a preponderance of War cards as tribes competed to be near the top of the order for launching attacks. Both 2nd and 3rd place tribes (Neutral and Mohawk) chose high value War cards and both chose to attack tribes far beneath them in the standings. Each player claimed that they did that because they had not fought that particular opponent in the campaign yet, but I’m not so sure they weren’t targeting a tribe that would field a potentially less powerful force (as far as firearms and trait upgrades go).
The Honniasont quickly cut off the pathway, forcing the Neutral Scouts to fight
The first battle saw the Honniasont turning the tables on the Neutrals in the Ambush the Scouts scenario. The Honniasont are our last-place tribe — mainly because Bruce joined the campaign several turns into it and has been unable to close the gap on points. His strategy of fielding a force of all Youths with one Chieftain has been challenging to everyone he has faced. Keith’s Neutrals were the first opponent to take a Youth-heavy force to oppose the Honniasont. The Honniasont moved to block the Neutrals path, and sabotaged Keith’s idea of racing around the enemy to exit the table (as the victory conditions required).
The Honniasont spring their ambush and charge in to catch the Neutrals unaware
Bruce’s rolls were good and soon he had slain several Neutrals. Bruce was living up to his reputation of giving everyone he faced a challenging struggle. Keith’s favorite tactic in this campaign, though, has been to try to kill his opponent’s chieftain. Anytime an enemy leader enters the fray (or gets within his movement range), Keith will try his best to swarm him and force his opponent to take the required morale test if he successfully kills him. Plus, a force without a chieftain is more vulnerable to activation turnovers than one that is well-led. This tactic has served Keith well in the campaign, as the Neutrals’ position in the standings will attest.
Keith points out how he plans to kill the Honniasont leader to Bruce
Keith’s bid to kill the Honniasont chieftain was successful, and Bruce’s forces were scattered by morale failures. With that, his good fortune at activation rolls seemed to disappear. The game quickly went from a hard-fought struggle, with the Honniasont having the edge, to a mopping up operation by the victorious Neutrals. It was a Major Victory for the Neutrals, with the score 18-3 in victory points.
The Mohawk advance through the Susquehannock town, driving the defenders before them
The Slaughter Amidst the Lodges scenario that pitted the Mohawk attack on a Susquehannock town catches the battle in the middle of all its fury. The entire board is an Indian town, with the players using the birchbark longhouses and various skin-stretching frames, sweat lodges, and fish-drying racks as cover. The Mohawks had used their upgrades to make many of their warriors Strong (+1 in melee). So, they were quick to close with the enemy. Although they lost a couple warriors, the Mohawks quickly began tomahawking their enemy. Soon, Steve’s forces fell below half and were scattered by the mandatory morale check.
Steve moves his Susquehannock warriors to try to stave off the Mohawk attackers
The chieftain and three others remained on the table, and bravely continued the fray. The Susquehannock leader even rushed to attack a Mohawk warrior, but was soon outnumbered and cut down. His remaining warriors fled the village with his loss, leaving the Mohawk in possession of the town. This battle was actually our biggest margin of victory, with the Mohawks triumphing 19-2 over the Susquehannock.
As the Miami spring their ambush, the Seneca hunters drop their bundles at the portage
The third battle was another ambush — this time of a Miami raiding party catching Seneca hunters at Ambush at the Portage. The Miami concealed themselves and waited until the Seneca were very close to spring the battle. Apparently, there was confusion among the Miami, as the warriors did not recognize the signal to attack and remained frozen in place. The Seneca took advantage of the Miami activation failure and dropped their bundles and quickly closed with their ambushers. Seneca matchlock fire was deadly and soon Miami warriors were dropping as the momentum quickly swung in favor of the defenders.
Jenny looks on in despair as the Seneca aggressively charge her Miami and begin to cut them down
As more and more of their warriors fell, the Miami knew their attack was doomed to failure. The Seneca showed little mercy — scalping their opponents and continuing to close on the reeling and disorganized enemy. The Miami did account for three of their attackers, but lost eight of their own, including their leader. It was our third Major Victory of the turn, as the Seneca rolled 18-3.
The Kickapoo traders stalk forward, certain that some of their goods have been stolen by the Shawnee also visiting the fort
The final battle took place between two trading missions that encountered each other within the walls of a European fort. Both had arrived within a day of each other and had just concluded trading their pelts for firearms, powder, and European goods. Unfortunately, the white man’s curse, whisky and rum, was also sold to the Indians. Combined with past wrongs, that sewed the seeds of conflict between the Kickapoo and Shawnee parties.
Andy's Kickapoo -- I really enjoy how so many of the players have painted up their forces as the campaign progresses
The entire battlefield of the Who’s a Thief? scenario is contained inside the fort, with cabins and warehouses as cover. A special scenario rule has a hostile soldier appear anytime an Indian tries to enter a cabin or climb atop the palisade. Neither side risked angering the soldiers, though. The warriors instead massed towards a passageway between the walls and a warehouse. The Shawnee quickly gained the upper hand in the fighting. As a warrior fell, more entered the dusty lane. Soon, the Kickapoo began to retreat and fled back towards their encampment. Once again, the Shawnee held the upper hand in a battle. Their 14-4 victory maintained their position as the most dominant tribe in the Ohio Valley by 1 single point! I'm sure that both they and the Neutrals will be examining the categories to determine how they can move up in the categories they are competing in.

Tribe
Place
Victory Points
Shawnee
1st
25.5 points
Neutrals
2nd
24.5 points
Mohawk
3rd
22.5 points
Seneca
4th
18.5 points
Kickapoo
5th
14 points
Miami
6th
12 points
Erie
7th
11 points
Susqehannock
8th
8 points
Honniasont
9th
3 points

Tribe
Prestige Points (PPs)
Neutrals (Keith Finn)
22 (7 MajV, 1 MinD)
Shawnee (Joe Merz)
22 (5 MajV, 3 MinV, 1 MinD)
Mohawk (Dave Welch)
15 (4 MajV, 1 MinV, 1 MinD)
Seneca (Mike Stelzer)
15 (3 MajV, 3 MinV)
Miami (Jenny Torbett)
11 (2 MajV, 2 MinV, 1 MinD)
Kickapoo (Andy Swingle)
10 (3 MajV, 1 MinD)
Erie (Mike Demana)
8 (2 MajV, 2 MinD)
Susquehannock (Steve Phallen)
5 (1 MajV, 2 MinD)
Honniasont (Bruce Adamczak)
3 (1 MinV, 1 MinD)

Tribe
Scenario Victory Points (SVPs)
Neutrals (Keith Finn)
124
Shawnee (Joe Merz)
121
Mohawk (Dave Welch)
101
Seneca (Mike Stelzer)
98
Miami (Jenny Torbett)
83
Kickapoo (Andy Swingle)
72
Erie (Mike Demana)
65
Susquehannock (Steve Phallen)
62
Honniasont (Bruce Adamczak)
36

Tribe
Beaver Pelts
Shawnee (Joe Merz)
54
Mohawk (Dave Welch)
47
Neutrals (Keith Finn)
43
Kickapoo (Andy Swingle)
42
Erie (Mike Demana)
37
Susquehannock (Steve Phallen)
36
Seneca (Mike Stelzer)
33
Miami (Jenny Torbett)
32
Honniasont (Bruce Adamczak)
23