Thursday, May 19, 2022

Playtest for Drums Mean Streets Game


    A tense night in Bexley - members of the Blockwatch await the feared invasion of street gangs
The next wrinkle planned for my Mean Streets gang warfare miniatures game was to add a completely new class of character: the masked vigilante. Or - if you prefer - crime fighter....or hero. This is not to be a comic book character of the stature of Thor, the Hulk, or Iron Man. This is more along the lines of the gritty, dark characters from the Watchmen (minus Dr. Manhatten). 

    Brave members of the Bexley Blockwatch gather on Main Street to face off against the street gangs
For those who have played Mean Streets, you know that in ascending order there are troop types known as Wimps (civilians), Punks (ordinary gang members), Warchiefs (second in command of a gang), and Gang Boss. Their base Combat Ratings (CR) are 0, 2, 4, and 6. Well, I planned to make Heroes an "8." Would that break the system? It *IS* a d6 system - mean you roll 1d6 and add your CR. However, there are enough modifiers that it should be mathematically possible for a Punk to win a combat against a Hero. Unlikely, yes, but possible. So, I was eager to see if adding in 8's would break my system, so to speak.

    Sid leads the Indianola Mohawks across Main Street and into Bexley to bust some heads!
The scenario was that three local street gangs had called a truce to invade the wealthy suburb of Bexley (Columbus near East side). It is Saturday night and there is a police convention, with many of Bexley's boys in blue attending. The gangs figure it's a perfect night to invade and put the squeeze on various businesses. The local residents of Bexley have formed the Bexley Blockwatch -- middle aged men armed with golf clubs, pool cues, and walking sticks -- to fight back against the increasing wave of gang violence showing up on their formerly quiet streets. They have gotten wind of the planned invasion and a few brave souls have ventured out to face off against the street gangs.

    The Green Ghost appears and descends the stairs to haunt the plans of the street gangs
The Bexley Blockwatch is outnumbered and outclassed. They are all "Punk" class, with no Warchiefs or Gang Bosses. So, they're doomed, right? The bad guys are going to win, right? Well, my new twist on Mean Streets postulates some determined and frankly pissed off souls wanting to strike back against the hoodlums trying to take over the streets. These brooding men (and women, maybe one day?) have trained themselves to peak fitness. They have no real super powers, but use equipment, martial arts, and even fear to aid their one-man battle against the scum of the streets. I am creating a few new Skills to cover "heroic" abilities, such as leaping off a building and landing on an unsuspecting enemy to make a dramatic entrance (and essentially a double attack, with the unwilling human cushion taking the hero's falling damage).

    Surrounded by four punks, Dark Crusader is battered into unconsciousness
The classic hero is Dark Crusader, who wears a deep purple cape, blood red and gray costume, and has the Blackbelt Skill from Mean Streets. He also has Heroic Leap/Climb (mentioned above, but also allowing scaling buildings at twice the speed and the ability to leap across alley ways from rooftop to rooftop with no Tricky move roll. I also gave him Sprinter from the rules, giving him a 50% faster move. For his miniature, I used a Sgt. Major Miniatures post-apocalyptic figure that I added a cape to with green stuff. I painted his mohawk as part of his mask and think it turned out fairly well.

    The Green Ghost and a Blockwatch member are swarmed by members of the Franklinton Flippos
Another hero who received the Heroic Leap was Green Ghost. I used a spooky, cultist-type miniature I'd picked up at the Guardtower on one of our Saga days. His ghostly green mask and gloves radiates in a haunting way, which along with his immense size, make him a "Scary Mutha" - another Skill from Mean Streets but upgraded for Heroes. Anyone who tries to move into melee contact with Green Ghost or attack him must roll a Morale Check. Failure means the action is wasted.

    The Mohawks enter the Shell Station to knock out some civilians for easy victory points
Finally, the man who has bought the best equipment to augment his hand-to-hand combat skill is Captain Steel. I used a miniature of a policeman in riot gear but painted in metallic colors instead. He carries a heavy steel shield, truncheon, and wears a bulletproof vest reinforced with metal plates. I created a new Heroic Skill called, "Armored/Shield." It allows the figure to roll 2d6 (instead of 1d6) when attacked by an enemy and choose the best result. Note that it does not come into play when Captain Steel is attacking. 

    The Flippos strut through an alleyway headed towards Main Street and a night of mayhem
So, how did the heroes fare in our playtest? Only one hero went down and was knocked out of action -- Dark Crusader began his crimefighting career on a low note. Green Ghost, on the other hand, almost single-handedly held off the Franklinton Flippos. The player controlling him (and his three Bexley Blockwatch extras) was incredibly bold. He had his three Blockwatch members charge across the street the moment any of the Flippos showed their clown-masked face. Green Ghost appeared in the motel across the street, descended the stairs and had to hurry to catch up with Bexley's bold defenders. The Ghost was immediately mobbed by a number of Flippos, but in true superhero style, he knocked out one after the other. When he knocked out the Gang Boss, the clown-faced thugs scattered. At that point, it was pretty obvious Green Ghost had made his mark in Bexley.

    A giant melee breaks out in the middle of Main Street, with Captain Steel inspiring the Blockwatch
A huge melee broke out involving two gangs against the Blockwatch and both Dark Crusader and Captain Steel. Pity the poor El Lobo, the Gang Boss of the Santanas, when he got "ganged up" on by both heroes. It was long before he was face down and out of action in the middle of the street. But the Indianola Mohawks poured in their gang members, too. The fight raged back and forth, and mighty Dark Crusader was pummeled into unconsciousness. I have added a feature for my convention games that if a player's figures are mostly or all knocked out of action, I have them appear on the board as a police car with two troopers. I warned the heroes that these cops don't like any costumed freaks -- whether gang members or illegal vigilantes. Luckily for me, Allen lost pretty much all of his troops and brought the police car onto the table so I could playtest that, too.

    Dark Crusader has joined the huge melee and gang members begin to fall
I had also placed about 20 civilians in the businesses across the street from where the gangs enter. Only the Mohawks made it a priority to send a few punks after the civilians to rack up easy victory points by knocking them out. On the other side, only Captain Steel's player sent one of his Blockwatch members to warn the civilians to flee the buildings and go out the back doors. I told the heroes that the civilians won't move unless instructed by either a Blockwatch member or a hero. One budding Bexley Paul Revere ran from building to building warning the timid civilians to flee for their lives. 

    The Blockwatch member heading into the brewpub is playing Paul Revere and warning civilians out
All six of my players seemed to be having fun. The game moved VERY fast, since I abandoned the Initiative phase for this scenario. Since it is a two side game, I had all three players of one side move, then their opponents, then the first side, and so on. I think quick-moving games are important for conventions, so I was happy this made it go faster than the normal free-for-alls that I run where each player dices each turn for initiative order.

    The arrival of a police car with two troopers prompted most of the street punks and heroes to flee
Who won? Well, the gangs scattered when the cop car's flashing lights appeared on Main Street. The heroes also beat a hasty retreat into the shadows, now that law and order had been reestablished. As the two police officers chased a few gang members, no one noticed two gray-clad figures sneak onto the table. They picked up the unconscious form of Dark Crusader and carried him off-table before the cops returned. Were they saving him? Were they kidnapping him? And what did their gray, ninja-like robes emblazoned with a red shuriken mean? Stay tuned for more episodes of Invasion: Bexley to find out!

    Time for some action! The Mohawks cross Main Street to join the fighting

Saturday, May 7, 2022

The Bucknuts Post-Apocalyptic Gang

    The Bucknuts, my newest post-Apocalyptic gang, scour the city ruins looking for supplies
A lot of my post-Apocalyptic groups have very unique looks. Whether the WW I inspired gas masks of F Troop to the cultist-like Blood Brotherhood. I wanted at least one or two of my gangs to look like ordinary citizens armed to survive the Aftermath. So, my 6th and final group (for now) would fit that mold. 

The figure on the left was painted to be the leader - I love how the mirrored red sunglasses came out   
I believe most of the miniatures are 28mm Foundry, but since I bought them at flea markets, I honestly am not sure. I decided to go with an irregular look, but still wanted a unifying theme to them. So, I chose two themes! The first was that all of them are wearing camouflage pants or shirts of some sort. I painted the gamut from urban gray camo to woodland green to modern desert sand. I also threw in some olive drab, too, to give them a look like they ransacked an Army surplus store.

Love how the beer-gutted fig at left came out...just trying to figure out if he should be called Woody?
The other theme, as the title of this post suggests, was an OSU Buckeye one. I gave a few of the miniatures OSU Buckeye caps -- including the black "Woody Hayes" one. A couple also have the bright scarlet shirts on, which of course does wonders to supplement their camouflage! Their tendency to dress in OSU garb has led to their name of the "Bucknuts." I mean, you would have to be nuts to be sporting bright red apparel when staying hidden is a good key to survival in the post-Apocalyptic world!

    I was really happy with how all the camo patterns came out -- I can't even decide which I like best
I picked and chose from the figures I had to make sure these looked irregular -- from the black track suit one sports to the woman wearing police body armor. The ammo pouches and such were painted in a variety of suitable colors, from faded olive drab to tan to dark gray. The metal gun parts are painted with craft paints -- a Gun Metal base color and highlight of Pewter. A medium gray wood color on the gun stocks was also highlighted with a brighter color. All in all, I think this gang turned out good with its mix of military and civilian apparel. 

What's next? I have a handful of figures that I need to get done in time for my events I am running at Drums at the Rapids Friday night and Saturday morning, May 20-21. I'm throwing a twist into my Mean Streets game with masked vigilantes appearing out of the shadows to help the local block watch repel the street gangs. The playtest is in a week, but it is just a handful of figs, so that should be a problem. Stay tuned for more details!

Thursday, May 5, 2022

Dozen Generals Gather for Saga Game Day

    Bob B's Republican Romans charge into the rocky ground to dislodge pesky Pictish crossbowmen
We had a great turnout of a dozen players for our monthly Saga game day in May at the Guardtower East in Columbus, OH. It was a nice variety of warbands being played, too. We had two Republican Roman armies from Age of Hannibal, Picts and Romans from Age of Invasions, Vikings and Jomsvikings from Age of Vikings, and Byzantines, Poles, and Milites Christi from Age of Crusades. Oh, and even a Skraeling player! Two players were relatively new, as well, so we continue to recruit new blood for our Saga battlefields.

    Front, Mike C's Vikings advance against Dave's Romans, while Lee and Andy maneuver for position
Prior to Sunday, I was undecided about what I wanted to play. The last two times out I had gone back to playing my Moors, but prior to that I had been playing Picts regularly. I even considered trying a new faction from Age of Invasions. I have figures for most of the warbands in that book (no Sassanid Persians or Romans, though!). I considered running Franks, Britons, Saxons, or even Goths. In the end, I decided to stay with the Picts. I am actually glad that I did because Saga gentleman Bob B asked to play me, and he wanted to do 8 points worth of troops. I had 8 points of Picts, but probably would have struggled to field that many points of the others.

    The Romans prepare their battle lines to receive the frenzied charge of the Vikings
Honestly, I wasn't 100% sure I had those 8 points until I pulled the figures out of the box! In the end, I decided to not use a third unit of levy and instead use the Molossians mercenary wardogs, again. This would be the third time I used them, and guess what? In two of the three games I've used them, they have done nothing at all. This would be one of those frustrating times. On the turn I planned to send them in, I actually rolled all Uncommon dice, meaning I could not activate them at all! Sigh. One day, maybe, the pooches will see action. But -- as Aragorn says -- it was not THIS day!

    The armored fist of Bob's Roman army, deployed to strike quickly across the field at my Picts
Bob was playing Republican Romans. He really wants to settle into this army and learn it more, so I was happy to give him a chance. Bob doesn't mind legendary units or mercenaries (and actually prefers using them, I believe). So, he was using Marcellus, "Sword of Rome" -- a legendary warlord that actually costs 0 extra army points. He also fielded the Cretan archer and Thureophoroi mercenaries. In the end, like the dogs, I think this was a bad choice for him. So many of his abilities on his battle board are meant for "maniple" or "warrior infantry" troops and are NOT usable by mercenaries. Similarly, he decided his unit of 8 Roman warrior cavalry was not a good choice. On the turn they charged into contact he had four melee abilities queued up. And because they were neither infantry nor maniple, he couldn't use any of them.

    After turn 1, the Picts are much more spread out than the closely-ordered Roman legion
Bob and I decided to play a straight, Clash of Warlords game since we were doing 8 points and would have enough to manage without adding in special scenario conditions. Bob deployed in a tight block on the right half of his side of the table. I spread out more, using the ruins, rocky ground, and forest as cover for my levy troops. The Romans deployed first, which meant that after seeing me spread across the table, Bob was able to condense into an armored fist facing my left. He would jab quickly with that fist across the table and had me back on my heels reacting to his aggressive attack from turn two.


    Romans are pushing the Picts out of the rocky ground and beginning to shred their left wing
I had deployed my levy crossbowmen in the rocky ground, and moved them up and shot them once at the closest unit of Roman warrior legionaries. Bob cleverly deployed in two ranks with the warriors in front and his double-strength hearthguard Triarii and mercenaries in the back. I played my usual Stalking advanced ability, giving me 9 attacks at +1. From the beginning, it was obvious the rolls might not go my way this day. Needing a 3+, I should have scored 6 hits getting on average three kills. I did get two, but that left the 6-man unit at 4 figures, still generating a Saga die. I declined to shoot a second time, perhaps unwisely, as I didn't want the crossbowmen to be charged with two fatigue markers. I probably should have shot, especially considering how melees were going to go in this game.

    On the table next to us, Jim B (one of the true gentlemen of the hobby) enjoys a game with Karen
In the end, I won only *1* melee the entire game. Bob's saves in melee were above average and mine were phenomenally bad. On one turn, he scored 10 hits. I had played the Feint Saga ability which meant I saved on 4+. I scored ONE saving roll out of 10, instead of the average five. On another turn, my troops were in solid cover AND had Feint played, meaning they score saves on 3+. In answer to the 9 hits the Romans scored, I rolled 3 saves and 6 misses -- exactly opposite an average roll. It quickly became demoralizing for me. If it was a melee, my rolls to hit and to save were poor. Bob's were above average or good -- not ridiculously so, though. However, mine WERE ridiculous. Badly so.

    Picts have lost their left and been driven from the ruins and now struggle to bring up more troops
My Picts didn't give up, though. Despite being pushed out of the ruins by his Triarii and a legionary unit, and despite one of his legionaries eviscerating a larger unit of Pictish warriors, we kept hammering back. And failing. A key moment came when he left Marcellus, his legenary warlord, exposed. I galloped my 4-man mounted hearthguard unit forward and tossed javelins. I played Stalking, which gave me 7 attacks (hitting on 4+). We scored 1 hit. I decided to throw caution to the wind and charged them in. In 12 attack rolls, hitting on 4+ against his warlord, we caused only three casualties. He had one figure of Triarii within range to employ as bodyguards, so the Sword of Rome survived by one casualty.

    Bob's warlord, Marcellus - Sword of Rome, survived two charges that could easily have slain hiim

What's more, I had another opportunity to take out Marcellus towards the end of the game. It was similarly handicapped by poor die rolling on my part and above average saves on Bob's part. Probably the biggest thing that hurt my end game was rolling 0 Rares on my last three turns. What's more, on Turn 4 I rolled all Common dice. On Turn 5, I rolled all Uncommon (that was the turns the Molossians were whining to get into battle but couldn't). 

    End game: the doughty Picts refuse to give up, but simply haven't killed enough Romans
I know this account has focused on my poor die rolling. I do want to point out that Bob commanded a good game. His quick march and attack on my levy crossbowmen by his Trairii (using Quincunx to move up and Pila to throw javelins and charge in) caught me by surprise. And I should probably have used Secret Ways more. Marcellus' biggest advantage as a Legendary warlord is that Pila becomes a basic ability - Bob could load up the dice on it and use it for his charges for his legionaries. However, if I had queued up Secret Ways, my Picts could have scampered off to a terrain piece far away after the javelin toss and not had to weather the charge. My mistake, definitely. I finally had a terrain and deployment setup where I could actually use Secret Wars (the Pictish "teleport") and I had a brain freeze and didn't use it.

    Dan, in orange, maneuvers his Poles, while Jim R and Adrian pause in their match
In the end, I was too willing to sit there and let the Romans come at me and engage my Picts in melee. I should have not relied on the counterpunch and instead maneuvered for my own attacks against his more vulnerable troops. Of course, seeing how the melee dice went (I DID save well against his shooting), it might not have made a difference anyway. One of the humbling things about Saga is that you can give it your best, fighting and scrap the entire game, but if the dice gods do not favor you that day, it will likely be for naught. That said, I had a sneaking feeling today would be a bad luck day. The night before, I had played board games with some friends and won both games. And the weekend before, I had done the same thing and swept the evening. I was due for a comeuppance and the Picts were just at the wrong place at the wrong time. Congratulations to Bob! He did everything he needed to not make mistakes that gave me an opening and to command his legion to victory. Ave Marcellus!

    Andy's Republican Romans advance quickly to take the battle to Lee's Milites Christi
On the other battlefields, we were having a lot more close games than mine. Another Republican Roman faction, commanded by Andy S, faced Lee P's Milites Christi. They were playing Battle of Heroes and fought to a 13-12 tie. On the table next to me, another Saga gentleman, Jim B, was using his beautifully-painted Skraeling army in a historical matchup against Karen's Vikings. Their game surged back and forth, with each scoring successes. It also ended in a hard-fought tie.

    Mike S's Vikings advance upon a new and different foe - the Poles!
Fresh off his Saga Ohio podcast interview, Jim R had challenged Adrian J to a battle right away, and the two were the first paired up. Jim R ran his Byzantine army against Adrian's deadly Jomsvikings (that he won the 2021 Advance the Colors tournament with). Jim had some traps in mind to spring on Adrian that he had mentioned in our podcast. However, Adrian is also a wily commander (I put Jim and Adrian as in the top three of Saga Ohio players, skillwise). Adrian was able to surge at the end and the Jomsvikings defeated the Byzantines 25-20 in Feasting and Pillaging.

    An early game view of Andy's Republican Roman legion deployed for battle against Lee's crusaders
Another of our Romanophiles, Dave E, played his Age of Invasions Romans against one of our newer players, Mike C, who was running Vikings. To keep it simple, Dave walked Mike through Clash of Warlords, helping him with terrain placement and more. Dave has probably been playing his Romans longer than any other Saga player has been running their current army. He was able to turn back the Viking onslaught, and triumphed 29-17.

    Another view of Mike C's Vikings and Dave E's Romans closing to battle
Our other relatively new player, Dan N, brought out his Poles, again. Each time, more and more of the army is painted and it is looking really good. The Poles are one of the lesser-played armies in Age of Crusades, and certainly are not a common sight in our Saga Ohio games to this point. As such, Mike S faced a new foe and the newbie was able to turn the tables on the veteran player. The Poles defeated the Vikings 31-18 in another running of Battle of Heroes. 

    8 points of Picts and Romans deployed for battle in a Clash of Warlords
 All in all, it was a great day of Saga. I hope that we continue to grow in this post-Covid return to normal gaming. I also hope that our game days grow even more now that the bumper crop of tournaments has subsided for the moment. I think the next tourney in the Saga Ohio area isn't until DayCon 2022 on Saturday, July 16. Adrian will be running this, so keep an eye on the Saga Ohio Facebook group for more details. I am thinking that I will likely NOT be participating this time at DayCon. I want to run some of my First Command Wargames there, so will have to forego the fun of the tourney this time. 

Otherwise, players interested in tournaments can plan on attending Advance the Colors 2022 in Springfield, OH, on Saturday, Oct. 8. It will be an Age of Melee (all historical periods). Further into the year, I will also run a Saga tournament at Shieldwall Gaming Club's new convention Shore Wars in Mentor, OH (Cleveland area), Dec. 2. It will be a "team" tournament. Players sign up in two-man teams. One member of the team runs an Age of Vikings army, the other runs Age of Crusades. Players will be matched up only against their own Age, and scores will be combined to determine an overall winner. It will hopefully be an interesting take on a Saga tournament!

Until then, make plans to attend Saga at the Dragons Guildhall on May 15 at noon!

Saturday, April 23, 2022

Ruined Wall Sections for Post-Apocalyptic Games

    'F Troop' patrols the ruined wall sections that I created using the Ruined Hamlet box
I have lots of MDF buildings for my modern games, but wanted some bombed-out looking or ruined sections for post-Apocalyptic games. When I was at the Dragons Guildhall for our Saga game day last month, I found this Ruined Hamlet set from Warlord Games. It consists of a number of sprues with various wall long and short sections that you can mix and match. It also comes with stone angle caps meant to cover the seam when you attach two perpendicular pieces. These L-shaped caps come in a short and long length, but are easy to trim to match other sizes.

    The 'Blood Brotherhood' scavenges among the mix of ruined sections I created with the box's sprues
There are no instructions on how to put the hamlet together, being more of a kit to create what you want. I did a mix of ruins, some with three walls, some two, and some just corners still standing. They also include angled piles of rubble that you can glue into where your perpendicular sections connect. This strengthens the bond giving more places of attachment. The L-shaped caps and the angled rubble piles are very helpful, and I had some of each left over to save for future constructions.

    Scout and Sentry bots hunt through a ruined town looking for humans to exterminate
Once I had my ruined wall sections assembled, I spray painted them black. I covered that with a 50/50 mix of water and acrylic black paint. This ensures that all the numerous crevices and cracks between the stones are solid black. I then did a simply, two-step gray drybrush. I did a medium gray first, following that with a lighter gray. There are places where it looks like the wall plaster or stucco is still in place. I went back and forth on what color to do these in as I didn't want to be locked into a set construction when I placed them on the table. In the end, I decided to do those plaster patches a gray-blue, hopefully blending in with the black and gray look. I probably should have done something that stood out better, in hindsight. If I were to do it again, I would likely go with a green-gray or even light orange color. The blue kind of got lost, I think.

   Everything I created with the Ruined Hamlet box placed on the desert side of my new game mat
Finally, I did a black wash over the entire surface of every piece. I think washes do a nice job of "softening" the lines of dry brushing. In this case, the wash may have softened it too much and made the look more monotone. Oh well. If I buy another of these boxes, I will know what to do next time. I set them up with some of my post-Apocalyptic forces deployed in the ruins and took some photos. The backdrop is a tie-dyed orange shirt to give the sky an apocalyptic look.

The surface the wall sections are standing on is a two-sided rubber mat that I bought from Game Table Adventures at the last Saga tournament. The 4'x3' mat is green vegetation on one side, and desert tan on the other. I really like the mat, and plan on buying another one in 6'x4' size. I tossed clump foliage from Woodland Scenics around the miniatures and buildings to give it an overgrown, deserted look. It was a bit of a challenge gathering the clump foliage back up, as the mat retains a static electrical charge and the tiniest clumps were jumping all over the place!

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Mongol Heavy Cavalry - Wow, these took longer than I thought!

    Six 28mm Mongol armored cavalry from Curteys Miniatures took a bit longer to paint than I thought
Six armored cavalry...and hey! The mounts are mostly armored, too. These should go quickly, right? Right?? Well, no. That did not prove to be the case at all. Especially when you consider the armor is not chainmail (which would have been a simple drybrush), but lamellar armor instead. For those who aren't sure, lamellar tends to be tiny plates sewn into a coat. The plates can be metal, horn, or even leather. I did some research, and it appears Mongols used a number of different looks for their lamellar armor.


    I thought the alternating rows of silver and gold (or steel) horse armor turned out quite nicely
One source said they shined the plates to a high, almost mirror-like polish. Another seemed to imply it was lacquered leather. And when you consider the number of Mongol warriors at the empire's height, and the breadth of lands they conquered, all of these could quite possibly have found their way into use by a heavily-armored, Mongol horseman. Since it could be a variety of looks, I naturally felt the urge to do all of them. Some of my Mongols would have burnished steel armor. Some bronze. Some both in alternating rows. And some would have colored lacquered leather. Now, you are probably beginning to see why these six miniatures didn't paint up quickly.

    I used a mix of different looks for my lamellar armor to reflect a more Cosmopolitan later empire
The ones that were the easiest -- and look very nice, I think -- were the horses with silver or bronze armor. I painted the lamellar barding a base bronze or silver and then put two coats of a dark black wash over it. I then went back and dabbed tiny points of silver or bronze or gold over the high points of the armor to give it more depth. I really like the way they came out. For some, I did alternating rows of silver, bronze, or darker steel. I also thought the horse armor on those came out nicely, too. I painted the cloth or leather edging on the metal armor various colors, which ended up (of course) coordinating with the color that the rider would wear or be armored in himself. Once the horse was finished, I started on the riders.

    I also made my Mongol troopers match the trim colors for their barding and their own armor
For the rider's armor, I mixed in a few colored lacquer armor. I alternated painting each plate, sometimes in a checkerboard pattern. To be honest, I am not 100% crazy how these riders came out. They didn't look awful, but I like the look of the metal armor better. I actually have another batch of six armored troopers I will likely finish up. I will try to remember for those to stick to metal armor and ditch the colored lacquer. The bow cases and quivers I painted to match the previous light horse, decorating them with my Micron pens. 

    My four army points of Mongols finished so far...2/3's of the way there!
 At this stage, I have finished 4 army points worth of Mongols. I will likely do another batch of horse archers next. I noticed that of the current 21 light cavalry figures I have finished up, only about 1/3 are wielding bows in their hands. Most have swords, axes, maces, etc. Time to put more archers in my horse archer army, I guess! I am probably not going to dive right into my next batch of Mongols, though. I have one more team of post-Apocalyptic figures primed and ready to go on the painting desk. I also have four masked vigilantes I need to do for my Mean Streets at Drums. So, those will likely take priority. Stay tuned, though -- more blog posts are on the way!

Friday, April 15, 2022

An Intriguing Idea for a Saga Tournament: 8-point Armies

    As always, the workhorses of my Moorish Saga army are my mounted hearthguard with javelins

It was an intriguing idea for a Saga tournament - using eight points of troops instead of six. In addition, players would be permitted to use Legendary warlords or units. I'm not a huge fan of legendary troops. In fact, I don't think I've ever used them in a game of Saga. However, I have played against others that have. I was planning on using my Moors for the tournament. Looking at the Moor troop list, I actually didn't have miniatures for either the infantry Black Guard or Camels painted up. Being able to field those troops was supposedly one of the main bonuses of using a legendary warlord. So, Legendary warlords or units were out! 

My next decision was whether I should use a mercenary unit? I checked, and I had exactly eight points of worth of Moorish troops painted up. The two new units I would be adding in were another unit of 12 levy bowmen and a unit of 8 mounted warriors. I've heard mounted, javelin-armed warriors can be effective in Saga, so I was interested in using them. They would be very vulnerable to missile fire, even more so than my armor class 4 mounted hearthguard with javelins. Saga Thorsday's Monty Luhmann had referred to them as a "magic missile," meaning you can send them to make an effective strike on an enemy unit. They'd likely be shattered after the charge, but the 12" range charge and +1 bonus for javelins charging seemed like a fun weapon to try, so I eschewed mercenaries as well and decided to go with a "vanilla" warband.

    My Round 3 matchup against the Saxon hordes of Alfred the Great
The tournament was held at Game Table Adventures in Newark, OH. This would actually be the third Saga tournament GTA had held since the start of the year. I had won the first one with my Picts, but did not play in the second. I set a goal for myself to win two games. There's no way I could get the combination of luck and beneficial match-ups or scenarios to repeat as champion, I warned myself. Just like in January, we had 14 players show up. From earliest to latest by time period, here were the armies and players that entered (with Legendary warlords in italics). Six of the 14 used Legendary warlords, but a number of others (1 Viking, 2 Byzantine) used Legendary units.

    Legendary warlord Scipio Africanus leads Michael Cooper's Republican Roman warband

  • Republican Romans (Legendary: Scipio Africanus), Michael Cooper
  • Ostrogoths, Jeff Gatlin
  • Vikings, Mike Stelzer
  • Vikings, Schawn Hennessy
  • Carolingians (Legendary: Charlemagne), Jason Stelzer
  • Anglo-Saxons (Legendary: Alfred the Great), Andy Swingle
  • Normans, Dennis Lockhart
  • Muttatawi'a (Legendary: Abduallah ibn Yasin), Joe Merz 
  • Crusaders, Ted Hehemann
  • Moors, Mike Demana
  • Eastern Princes (Legendary: Alexander Nevsky), Jenny Torbett
  • Mongols (Legendary: Subotai), Joe Dihrkop
  • Byzantines, Bob Boggs
  • Byzantines, Jim Randall 

The next very important consideration was which scenarios would we be playing in our three rounds? First up was the standard Clash of Warlords. Round 2 would be Desecration, and Round 3 was Change of Plans. Overall, I was happy with the choice of scenarios. None are ones I dislike and equally these didn't seem to be a bad pick for my Moors. We were told we would be given 2.5 hours per rounds, though I think in Rounds 2 & 3 the tourney director was squeezing that time be 15 minutes or so. In all three games, I came close on time limits - hopefully not because of slow play on my part!

I think most of us were also surprised to find that we would be deploying our own terrain. Typically, many Saga tournaments set up terrain ahead of time. Perhaps this is a good way to shave a few minutes off of the time needed for each round? Most agree that placing terrain is part of the skill at the game. However, as long as the tourney director does a relatively fair job of with their preset terrain, most Saga players don't seem to mind. I have been to only one tournament where players (including me) felt the terrain was unfair and hindered certain types of armies. Game Table Adventures provided each table with a packet of the mouse pad material 2D terrain for Saga. Of course, we didn't get to keep it - not that I would expect that!

My Moors deploy against Dennis Lockhart's Norman army - a force that has given me fits in the past
Round 1: Normans

My opponent for Round 1 was someone I hadn't seen in a long time, Newark gamer Dennis Lockhart. I used to see him at the local and regional conventions regularly, but hadn't seen him much lately. His Newark area group is very active, so my guess was he's been getting his fix in locally. He and a half dozen or so others were playing Saga regularly at the game store on Thursdays, so I was curious to see if there was anything different about their style of play from our group. His force was very weighted towards mounted knights - five units of four figures, and one point of 8 warriors split into two units of four. He also had two units of levy archers to use the dreaded Norman battle board ability, "Volley Fire," which allows them to shoot out to 24".

    My warlord encourages his infantry forward to protect the cavalry from Norman arrows and charges

We deployed terrain, with him placing a field in the middle of the board on my left. I countered with a ruins in my right center. He placed a rocky ground in his center rear. I took the opportunity to move his fields onto my half of the board so that I could have terrain to place each of my levy archers in. This seemed to wrong-foot Dennis. especially when my two warrior spear units deployed to the right and rear of each feature and my mounted units clustered along my baseline. We were playing Clash of Warlords, so he generated only 3 Saga command and control dice on round 1. He moved his archers up and loosed a Volley Fire, which caused a couple casualties among my center unit of spearmen.

    Moorish cavalry launches a 'Torrent of Iron' counter-attack against exhausted Norman knights
I countered by shooting with my levy archers and sending my mounted hearthguard forward to toss javelins. Our fire was ineffective, killing only one Norman heavy cavalryman. When he saw me pull back the cavalry and screen them with my infantry -- my normal Moorish tactic -- he seemed a bit surprised. Even though my shooting was poor, he recognized that it should have caused more casualties. He decided to test the strength of my infantry spear wall. One Norman cavalry unit galloped forward and charged into my spearmen guarding the right. We closed ranks and played "Forest of Spears," which ended up meaning we each took one casualty, and he recoiled. On my turn, I sent forward my mounted hearthguard and they slammed into the Normans, destroying them. We then pulled them back again behind the infantry. 

    Another unit of Norman knights prepares to charge the Moorish infantry, while my cavalry wait
On my left, I continued to send volleys of arrows and javelins into his mounted units, killing a figure or two with each shot. In response to his shooting, I made sure only infantry could be targeted, either keeping my horse out of Volley Fire range or tucked behind another unit. He sent forward another unit of Norman mounted hearthguard on my right and test my spear wall, again. Once again, we took few casualties. I was careful to NOT use his fatigue in melee vs. the infantry, ensuring he would end the turn with two. This meant my Torrent of Iron charge would inflict the third fatigue, leaving him exhausted for the fight and unable to hit my cavalry (once I used his fatigues to raise my armor to 6). Also, those 3 fatigues gave me 6 extra attack dice with "Wholehearted." My tactic of taking his blows with my infantry and counter-attacking the fatigued attackers with my mounted hearthguard was working perfectly this game. 

    Late game: Left, Norman cavalry has been whittled down by repeated volleys of arrows & javelins
After the game, we agreed he should have been more aggressive, and not sent just one unit forward each turn. Instead, he was loading up his Combat Pool to aid his shooting and setting up dice for just one mounted attack each turn. He did whittle down my center infantry to just two figures by the end of the game. However, as cynical as it may sound, that is the role of my warrior foot. They are there to be a wall that the enemy wastes their strength slowly wearing down. On my left, I was more aggressive and sent my other unit of mounted hearthguard forward to toss javelins, sometimes even accompanied by the mounted warriors. The infantry in the field kept up fire, too, supporting their volleys with their own. By the end of the game, his forces were worn down enough that I sent my cavalry forward to charge them rather than skirmish with javelins.

    Dennis' grandson cheers on the Normans while he surveys the battlefield and offers sage advice
All in all, it was one of those rare games where everything pretty much goes according to plan. Once we counted up points at the end, the Moors had a solid win. It was a good start to the tournament, and nice for my Moors to get some revenge against their hated Norman foes!

Round 1 Results

  • Mike D's Moors defeat Dennis L's Normans
  • Joe M's Mutatawwi'a defeat Ted H's Crusaders
  • Jason S's Carolingians defeat Andy S's Anglo-Saxons
  • Joe D's Mongols defeat Mike S's Vikings
  • Jim R's Byzantines defeat Jeff G's Goths 
  • Bob B's Byzantines defeat Schawn H's Vikings
  • Jenny T's Eastern Princes tied Michael C's Republican Romans

    Republican Romans and Moors compete to desecrate each other's objectives (end of turn 1 picture)

Round 2: Republic Romans (Scipio Africanus)

Our round 2 scenario was Desecration, and my opponent was Cincinnati-area gamer Michael Cooper. He's been a regular player in the various tournaments and game days for a year or so. He's done a lot to help recruit and build the community in his area. He was playing his new favorite army, Republican Romans. He'd chosen to use not only the Legendary warlord Scipio Africanus, but also a unit of war pigs! The miniatures are great, with flames curling up on the back of the swine, who are herded towards the enemy by their handlers. He admitted that in a tournament with no elephants, they were of limited effectiveness, but had been looking forward to using them since he painted them up. This tourney gave him that opportunity.

    War pigs, Hastati warriors and Velite levy javelinmen make up the vanguard of the Roman advance
For terrain, I'd placed a ruins on my far left and a marsh on my left, with the intention of hiding objective markers that he had to attack behind them. Michael placed a large steep hill in the center and a woods guarding his left flank. Only one objective may be placed inside terrain, so I stuck mine on the closes edge of the hill, but so that he would have to cross 2/3's of it before he could get to it. My thought was the terrain would slow him down but provide no cover to my shooting. Little did I know that warpigs are no effected by terrain! Still, my archery and javelins should make approaching the objective marker dangerous. Michael did a similarly good job of hiding the objective marker. I identified one in the open just beyond his woods as being the most likely one I could take.

    As war pigs fall due to missile fire, the Velites backed by Hastati continue the Roman advance
Michael opened the game with an immediate advance by the vanguard of his army, which included the war pigs as the tip of the spear, squealing as they labored up the steep slopes. Supporting the swine were a unit of foot warrior Hastati and a unit of levy javelin-armed Velites. The rest of his army (two more units of warriors and one of Triarii hearthguard hung back with Scipio. On my half of the turn, I moved my archers in the ruins towards the center so they could begin to loose volleys at the war pags. My mounted warriors race up to the edge of the steep hill and hurled javelins. They would pull back after throwing, to remain out of charge range of the Romans.


    Michael's Velites toss javelins at my Moorish spearmen, who stand like a wall protecting the cavalry
Michael continued the advance of his vanguard, with the velites slipping in front of the Hastati to screen them and toss their own javelins. I continued to pour archery and javelins in an attempt to stop the implacable Roman advance. War pigs squealed and died on the slopes, and Velites fell. The Hastati shouldered past the skirmishing youths and prepared to charge. The Moorish warriors leveled their spears and made ready to repel their charge. Once again, my Moors closed ranks to minimize casualties. And once again, the cavalry launched a Torrent of Iron counter-charge on my turn and wiped out the tired enemy. The infantry climbed onto the slopes to place themselves between the enemy and our objective marker to protect it.

    The Velites withdraw and Hastati ready their pila for a charge into the men of Andalusia
Once Michael saw his legionaries eliminated and the ranks of the Velites depleted, he began to move his reserves to his right to reinforce the attack. This was the opening that I'd been waiting for. My mounted warriors darted forward and charged into the objective marker that was now unprotected. With 8 dice hitting on 4+, I should have caused four hits. However, I caused only one. Michael rolled two dice to save the objective marker and rolled equally badly, missing both. This gave me the comfort to stay back, defend my objectives, and keep wearing down his troops. With the last war pig dead and one unit of legionaries gone, I felt I had  a comfortable lead.

  Desecration is the scenario's name, and my mounted warriors obliterate a Roman objective marker 
I sent my units of mounted hearthguard forward to begin harassing the advance the Roman reinforcements. The Velites had retreated to the steep hill slopes to avoid the cavalry. Scipio advanced on two fronts with his reserves. Half threaded their way between the hill and the forest, while the others advanced across the open at the waiting Moorish cavalry. The terrain and forces I had defending the objectives proved too much, though. The Romans were unable to attack any markers and their charges were frustrated by closing ranks and defensive abilities of the Moors. 

    The infantry open lanes for the Moorish horsemen to ride through and harass the Roman advance
Meanwhile, the cavalry continued to dart forward, toss javelins, then retired out of range or behind the infantry. The Romans still had a strong force left, but they simply ran out of time and could not come to grips effectively to score enough points to win. Although I had my challenges with dice rolling this game, I was able to do tactically what I set out to do. Once again, I think things might have ended differently if my opponent had advanced more aggressively. However, I was 2-0, which was my goal in this tournament -- to win at least two games.

Round 2 Results

  • Mike D's Moors defeat Michael C's Republican Romans
  • Jason S's Carolingians defeat Joe M's Mutatawwi'a
  • Bob B's Byzantines defeat Andy S's Anglo-Saxons
  • Mike's Vikings defeat Jeff G's Goths
  • Jim R's Byzantines defeat Joe D's Mongols 
  • Schawn H's Vikings defeat Ted H's Crusaders
  • Jenny T's Eastern Princes tied Dennis L's Normans

    My 3rd round opponent would by Alfred the Great's Anglo-Saxon horde of 84 levy figures!

Round 3: Anglo-Saxons

I fully expected to be matched up against one of the other three undefeated players this round -- Bob B's Byzantines, Jim R's Byzantines, or Jason S's Carolingians. I wasn't sure which army would be the better matchup, as all would likely have significant missile fire to counter my own. Much to my surprise, Andy waved me over and said he was my opponent for the final round. Andy was 0-2, though his first game against Charlemagne's Carolingians was a squeaker, I was told. He was fielding an all-levy Anglo-Saxon horde. The scenario was Change of Plans, which I also don't mind. The goals of the first two scoring phases are to kill enemy troops while preserving your own, which I think is pretty much the goal of any wargame, right? And with no missile troops of his own, shouldn't my cavalry have free rein to run forward, toss our javelins, and retire to safety?

    The Anglo-Saxon hordes raced down upon my left, outnumbering it quickly

Andy had other plans, of course. He was playing Alfred the Great who has incredible command and control ability. Every turn, he starts off the Orders phase placing any two of his Saga dice on whatever ability he wants and with whatever face he desires showing. Plus, he generates two Saga dice. So, the chances of whittling down Andy's levy forces enough to make him run short of Saga dice this game were slim. The net result would be Andy could move the bulk of his forces forward aggressively and more quickly than you could imagine. We were riding the horses, but they would be moving around the battlefield almost as quickly.

    As more Saxons flooded my left, the Moorish cavalry began shifting to the right
Another thing I hadn't counted on was a repeat of what happened in my last game against Andy. His dice -- particularly when it came to saving throws -- were phenomenal. At one point, one of my cavalry charges caused 14 casualties. He saved 10 of them! I got an early inkling as the game got underway. I raced my cavalry forward to throw javelins at his advancing troops and he kept saving against my hits. Repeatedly. After two turns, I had caused less than half a dozen casualties. Meanwhile, his pell-mell double advances had allowed him to crash into one of my Moorish warrior spear walls. His Anglo-Saxon levy smashed that wall down to half strength in one attack. On the next turn, he followed up and eliminated it. 

    The Moors pinwheel to the right leaving the Saxon hammer blow to fall on empty air
I tried my tactic that had worked earlier. I did not use his fatigue when he charged my foot, and then counter-attacked with my cavalry on my turn against his units with two or three fatigues. When my Moorish riders charge home with Torrent of Iron, it tends to completely wipe out enemy units. In this game, Andy would close ranks and I would cause perhaps 2-3 casualties. That simply wasn't going to do it against an army of seven units of levy foot (84 figures). Andy was ahead on points after the Turn 3 scoring. I kept hammering, though, hoping for his saving dice to cool off. Half the game was still left. A cold streak could make up ground quickly. 

    The ruins in the center was hotly contested - many Saxon charges were beaten back by my archers
Meanwhile, my cavalry retreated around behind the center ruins, where both my archer units were huddled, and towards the right flank. Andy did his best to follow my pinwheeling movement, but even with Alfred the Great's command and control, he was still foot troops trying to chase down cavalry. I actually was able to pull ahead on Turn 5 when we counted up Survival Points. Here, though, I made a critical error. The right hand spear warriors moved into the ruins to try to interpose themselves between the Anglo-Saxons and my archers. I should have been advancing them towards the enemy half of the board in preparation for the Conquest Points counting at the end of the game. I should have realized that after Turn 5 casualties are completely irrelevant. All that matters is you cross the midpoint of the battlefield completely with your unit. The more figures in your unit, the better.

    Andy was thinking ahead, and knew he had to get his levy "bum rush" across the center line
My attacks finally began to hammer a few of Andy's units, but then again, did that matter? He had rolled great saving rolls for the part of the game where it mattered. His aggressive advance had ensured the bulk of his army crossed the midpoint and scored as best as they could as levies. Only my mounted troops were able to cross the midpoint -- the surviving three foot units were mired in the ruins, which were on my half of the table. I think Andy cleverly realized the shift in focus of the game before I did. Still, it would be close. 

We counted up points and it was a dead-even tie! We recounted them to be sure, and it remained 47-47. The Anglo-Saxons' tough survivability coupled with Alfred's excellent command and control effectively countered the Moors maneuverability and punch. Andy played his army excellently. He used his battle board abilities in the correct order and with great effectiveness. Although it was not a loss for me, it still felt like one. With all of the Moors shooting and melee punch, plus my fairly extensive experience with them, I could not overcome the Anglo-Saxons in a fair fight with favorable terrain.

Still, it was a fun game (it is always fun playing Andy), and a great tournament. I had attained my goal of winning at least two games. To me, it proved January's victory wasn't an anomaly in view of my previous snake-bitten, Saga tournament performances. The only questionable part of the day was the questionable way the tournament director ran it. Not only were winners not matched up against winners for the most part, he used a bizarre scoring system that somehow failed to award victory to either of the 3-0 players. He declared a player who was 1-2 as victor, which left us all scratching our heads. Somehow, he said I was second, but with both Jim and Bob being 3-0 with their Byzantine armies, I counted myself as third place, at best.

Round 3 Results (scenario: Change of Plans)

  • Bob B's Byzantines defeat Jason S's Carolingians
  • Jim R's Byzantines defeat Michael C's Republican Romans
  • Mike D's Moors tie Andy S's Anglo-Saxons
  • Mike's Vikings defeat Jeff G's Goths
  • Joe M's Mutatawwi'a defeat Joe D's Mongols 
  • Jeff G's Goths defeat Schawn H's Vikings
  • Ted H's Crusaders defeat Jenny T's Eastern Princes



Finished 3 wins, 0 losses

  • Bob Boggs, Byzantines
  • Jim Randall, Byzantines

Finished 2 wins, 0 losses, 1 tie

  • Mike D, Moors 

Finished 2 wins, 1 loss

  • Jason Stelzer, Carolingians
  • Joe Merz, Mutatawwi'a

Finished 1 win, 1 loss, 1 tie

  • Dennis Lockhart, Normans

Finished 1 win, 2 losses 

  • Schawn Hennessy, Vikings
  • Joe Dihrkop, Mongols  
  • Ted Hehemann, Crusaders
  • Mike Stelzer, Vikings
  • Jeff Gatlin, Goths

Finished 0 wins, 1 loss, 2 ties

  • Jenny Torbett, Easter Princes

Finished 0 wins, 2 losses, 1 tie

  • Andy Swingle, Anglo-Saxons
  • Michael Cooper, Republican Roman