Sunday, August 25, 2019

Great Turnout at Saga Game Day in August

Clash of Cavalry as Lord Gwendawg of Gododdin faces the strange Saracen foes who have invaded Britain
We have been trying to grow our group of local and area players who come out and play the Dark Age/Medieval skirmish rules, Saga. This time, we had 10 people show up. Andy and Steve P chose to run and assist, as we had 3-4 people who had never played. The biggest contingent came from Springfield, OH, where Mike S brought his son Jason and two nephews, Daniel and Thomas. I had made a concerted effort to recruit them, as I thought they'd enjoy the rules. Both Jason and Thomas had a game or two under their belt, but Daniel, Jenny, and Joe were new to the rules.
Mike S & Jenny square off in a Byzantine Civil War while Jason and Thomas trade jibes as they ready to do battle
We were using six-point armies as we tried to match up experienced players (to help teach) against less experienced ones. This meant a first round that saw Mike S use his Byzantines (Last Romans) against Jenny, using the same list. Jason and Thomas squared off with Vikings vs. Normans, respectively, while I helped teach Daniel (who was using Saracens). Lord Gwendawg and my army of Gododdin (Welsh) was my usual force -- I think this is the fifth or sixth time I have played them. Latecomers Joe and Jeff were match up with Anglo-Danes and Crusaders. Meanwhile, Andy and Steve generously gave up their playing time and hovered around, answering questions and helping out.
The right hand side of my battlefield with center scrub brush and woods on the right
As it turned out, two groups got in two games, while two matchups played only one game apiece. My game with Daniel got off to a late start, as I encouraged Daniel to seize the opportunity of a visit by Steve V, who was selling off his Saga stuff, to pick up the rulebooks and some figures cheap. He ended up purchasing a lot of Steve's unpainted Anglo-Danes, along with the core rules and the Age of Vikings book. I originally was buying Steve's Anglo-Dane dice, but since Daniel was shelling out the money for the army, I let him buy them instead. I still picked up Book of Battles and the Viking dice Steve V was selling.
The center of our battlefield with my two units of warriors, Lord Gwendawg, and then the Saracen battle line beyond
Apparently, after being stopped by Charles "the Hammer" Martel in France, the Saracens tried a back door into Europe and invaded Britain. Lord Gwendawg gather a force of his mounted and foot warriors and was sent by the King of Gododdin to meet the foreign invasion. We met at a semi-wooded battlefield, which we felt favored our foot javelinmen. A large area of scrub brush in the center of the battlefield divided our armies, while a large woods dominated our right flank. Another woods guarded the Saracens' left flank, near their baseline. Lord Gwendawg deployed his two large units of warriors to attack through the scrub brush, while the javelin levy would advance through the woods on the right. The large mounted hearthguard contingent deployed on the left, where they were soon joined by the warlord himself.
The startling, if ill advised, charge of the Saracen warlord, who is soon peppered with javelins two both sides
Opposite our hearthguard was an equal-sized mounted warrior unit armed with composite bows. Beyond the scrub brush were two small units of Saracen warriors, supported in their rear by a small hearthguard cavalry unit, also armed with composite bows. Across from the gap between the scrub and wood were a unit of Saracen levy archers, supported to their rear by their warlord. Extending their left, and seeking to do an end-around flanking move, was another small unit of hearthguard cavalry with composite bows.
Daniel moves his cavalry up to try to break my mounted battle line on the left
Lord Gwendawg ordered an immediate advance, the foot units making their way through the terrain and the mounted Britons sweeping around our left. The flaking cavalry began its sweep, but quickly realized there would be nobody to outflank, as we were advancing too quickly. They began to double back, while sending out the mounted warriors and the right hand mounted hearthguard to meet the ride of the mounted arm of Gododdin. Surprisingly, the warlord himself advanced into the gap between the scrub and woods, but after receiving a shower of javelins from the levy and the warriors, he retreated quickly, badly shot up. Most opponents are surprised by the missile power of my Welsh army. Every figure in the army is armed with javelins. All can shoot 6" as a free action when they move, which often softens the enemy up prior to our charge.
A dogged shooting match ensured between Daniel's Saracen levy and my javelin-armed levy
After receiving a volley of composite bows from the Saracen mounted warriors, Lord Gwendawg ordered them to charge in reply. The entire unit was ridden down, and the supporting mounted Saracen hearthguard withdrew in fear before our ferocity. In the center, one of our warrior units charged into the smaller Arab warriors after softening them up with javelins, and also destroyed them to a man. And so it continued, our javelins and charges causing great losses among the Saracens. Surprisingly, their levy archers drove off not only our Levy javelinmen but a charge of our warriors.
The brave men of Gododdin push the Saracens back, whittling their numbers down with our javelins and charges
The Arab warlord was desperate, though, and sent a depleted unit of foot warriors to charge our mounted hearthguard. They fell to a man, but took a few Briton nobles with them. The Arab hearthguard cavalry also charged in, and they too were destroyed, but in the process, my mounted hammer was down to just two figures. However, we had backed the Saracens into a small cluster of foot archers, warlord, and hearthguard cavalry. The men of Gododdin closed in, hurling javelins. Shouting to Allah, the warlord charged my center warrior line, and went down in a hail of javelins. At this point, Daniel conceded.
First round cousin warfare, as Jason's Vikings left take on Thomas' twice-victorious Norman warband
It was a bloody battle, with Daniel's archery causing the most casualties. My Welsh army continues to be fearsome in both hand-to-hand and shooting. I really like this battle board -- its "advanced abilities" are VERY tactical. I can respond to what other players do AND use other abilities that augment our charges equally. Steve P and Andy both vowed that next time THEY would play me to end Lord Gwendawg's "reign of terror," as they put it. I glibly reminded Steve that our reign began months ago with my first game using the Welsh against his Romans...!

On the other battlefields, Jenny had defeated Mike S in the Byzantine civil war in her first game. Thomas' Normans had ridden down his cousin Jason's Vikings. They swapped opponents and Thomas continued his hammering of opponents as he defeated Mike in a scant three turns! Jenny and Jason had a slugfest, but the melee ability of the Vikings won out, and each ended the day with a 1-and-1 record. I am not sure how Jeff and Joe's game ended. They ended up playing 7-8 turns because outcome was still in balance. It looked like it could go either way to me, though the Crusaders seemed to hold the advantage in numbers of troops remaining.

All in all, it was a great day for Dark Age skirmishing at the Guardtower East. Our group is really growing, and our new players are purchasing armies so they can field their own troops. Good times, and Gododdin remains free of foreign invasion for another season, as Lord Gwendawg continues to protect his king's realm.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Gang Warfare Playtest #2 with Smaller Group

City streets are quiet just before the gangs show up to rumble in my second playtest of my Gang Warfare rules
Since I knew we'd only have five of us, this Sunday, I seized the opportunity to try the rules with a four-player game. I wanted to see if the dynamics or play was different with only four, as opposed to six players last time. I also added in the traits for figures, giving all leaders a special trait and three others to be divided among their eight-figure gangs.
The Hilltop Highlanders prowl down the alley past their turf, the Shell gas station
I also shrunk the board down, keeping the 3' depth, but shortening the width to around 4'. I wanted to see how this affected play, as well. All in all, fewer players meant fewer fights breaking out. One gang, the Linden Daos -- who rumbled the most in the last game -- actually never attacked another gang (or was attacked in return). Keith admitted after the game he missed on his victory points that beating up on certain gangs gave him bonus points. So, he completed his special mission, defended his turf, and sent members out to tag nearby buildings.
The Bexley Block Watch keeps an eye on the playground and basketball court
Each gang is given a special mission (+15 victory points if accomplished), turf to defend (where they can lose up to 15 points), bonus points for knocking out other gang members (sliding scale, some gangs being worth more than others to them to represent arch-rivals), points for "tagging" buildings, and negative points for members knocked out.
The Linden Daos emerge stealthily from an alley way, eyeing their objective
The only gang to not accomplish their special mission were the hapless Bexley Block Watch, whose middle aged members once again took it on the chin. They were jumped by both the Hilltop Highlanders and the Japanese schoolgirls. In the end, Brian had only two members still standing. Last time, I made each player's turf they were trying to defend the object of the special mission of another gang. This time I purposely did NOT do that. Each player's special mission required them crossing the center of the board, though, to give them maximum opportunity to mix things up.
Mike S, Keith, and Mike W watch as Brian measures his move, advancing the Bexley Block Watch towards the center
I liked how the traits worked out, though with less fighting in this game, some of the traits (Blackbelt, in particular), did not get used. I will keep mixing in more of them in upcoming games so that I have a good idea of how powerful they are and how many points to cost them out at. I am thinking of dropping the number of gang members per player for larger games to seven instead of eight. Although this game moved along quickly, I want six player and large games to do so, as well.
The leader of the Hilltop Highlanders emerges to see the coast is definitely NOT clear on these mean streets
Only one new building (Stelzer Steel Industries) was added to my urban landscape this game, but there should be more by next game. I have decided that I really like the dark wool felt I use as the base cloth. In photos, it LOOKS like asphalt, I feel. However, I am going to replace the lighter gray felt as concrete. I hope to find styrene at a reasonable cost to create concrete city blocks, and will flock those so that the board has a more three dimensional look.
A three-way rumble breaks out between the Bexley Block Watch, Hilltop Highlanders, and the Japanese Schoolgirls
No major complaints from the players. I think they are enjoying the games. The interaction between gangs is good, as they attack each other when one gets too close in their eagerness to defend their turf. I may even expand gangs' turf next game from one to two buildings/structures.
A menacing line of martial artists - the Linden Daos take up position to guard their turf, remaining surprisingly passive
I hope to do another playtest in September, and maybe even run it on Saturday night at Advance the Colors. Stay tuned for more gang warfare!
Sneaking through the parking lot seemed like a good idea, but brought the Block Watch too close to Hilltop turf!
Keith watches, keeping an eye on Brian's movement of the Bexley Block Watch -- making sure they don't come too close!
For all their posing, the Linden Daos never attacked another player in this game
The rumble between the Block Watch, Highlanders, and Japanese Schoolgirls rages in the street
The Highlanders get ready to break into the diner to steal some grub for tonight's party
The Highlanders did a good job of protecting their turf in this dust up -- the Shell Gas Station
And then, the gangs cleared the streets - was it the sounds of sirens they heard that made them disappear?

Sunday, August 18, 2019

20mm Mirage III first jet in my modern air force

A 3-D printed 20mm scale Dassault Mirage III, painted in South African Air Force colors
The next step in my Wars of Insurgency modern skirmish rules is to create mechanisms for close air support. I am pretty happy with the helicopter rules I've playtested at conventions the last couple of years. Now, it is on to fixed-wing aircraft!

The problem with that is where to get them from in 20mm or 1/72 scale (which is close)? My first choice would have been die cast metal ones. That is, until I saw the prices not only for the planes but also the shipping ($10 on Amazon). Even though I won't need many for my battlefield, paying $30 a crack was too much in my book. Kits were available, and cheaper, yes. However, my days of assembling 50-piece model kits where you glue antennas and miscellaneous tiny fins on a model are long since past. So, what about 3-D printed ones?
This Mirage III will appear in playtests of my close-air support mechanisms for my Wars of Insurgency rules
I searched on Thingiverse, and found four that were used by the air forces of South Africa or Rhodesia. None were in the right scale, but I had been told they are relatively easy to "scale up." So, I contacted my go-to, 3-D printer guy, Joe. He said no problem, and within a week I had a Mirage III, Blackburn Buccaneer, Hawker Hunter, and propeller-driven Lynx.
Top down view of the model - you can see some of the 3-D printer pattern on the wings that I tried to sand off
I painted up the Mirage first because it was one of the smaller models (you should see how huge a Buccaneer is in 20mm scale!). After sanding the models down to make the surfaces look smoother, I spray-painted it Krylon black acrylic. I followed that up with a 50/50 mixture of black paint and water, to seep into the smallest cracks. Then I did two coats of each base color -- the leathery, khaki
color first, then the green second. I then highlighted each color in a lighter and more watered down version of each color. Details were hand-painted on -- no decals (as you can probably tell...ha, ha!). I particular like how the canopy came out. Very understated. I simply put three different colors of blue on the upper portions of the canopy, on top of the solid black color.

I am pretty happy with how this 3-D printed model turned out, and it was MUCH cheaper than either the die cast or kids. Next up, the Buccaneer!

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

28mm Sarissa MDF Factory #2 Completed!

The Wangs hang out at the back doors of my latest 28mm MDF Sarissa Factory
When I cleared off the modeling desk in the spare bedroom, I knew it would make sense to begin another one of my 28mm Sarissa buildings for my urban terrain. I flipped through the five I have left from my last purchase from Wargame Tools. The motel? Nah...looks complicated! The 2-level store? Maybe. The newstands? Nah. What about the second factory? That was a quick build, and I'm going to be busy getting ready for the start of school...SURE!
The Wangs (Mega Minis) practice their moves in front of another building named after another Sunday night gamer
There are at least four different versions of the Sarissa factory, and the biggest difference with this one was that it had two sets of double garage doors on the front AND rear sides of the building. That meant you have to be a little  more careful when handling it to paint the interior and sides. The doors are made of cardstock and perforated so you can easily depict them open or closed. Several times while I was shifting my grip during the painting process, I felt the doors begin to give and separate. I wasn't too worried, as I fully intended to print off (rather than paint) them. The paper glued to the exterior and interior would strengthen them enough so I wouldn't have to worry about their strength anymore. I really like how the doors I created in Photoshop look, too. I think they're better than the ones I made for Finn's Industrial Fasteners, the first factory I built.
Who put that graffiti on the factory side wall? Well, I did...downloading Google images, cropping, and printing them out
Speaking of naming, I continued my new tradition of naming the building after one of our Sunday night gaming crew. Thus, Mike Stelzer now apparently owns a factory in Columbus (where I am setting my gang warfare games). Otherwise, I did this factory exactly like I did the first one I built -- so you can check out that entry for details on how I painted and modeled it. I changed the trim color from dark red to deep blue, but otherwise, I did it identically, other than the name, of course!
I decided to have some fun with the "Days Missed" safety sign in the factory
I decided to pose my first gang I painted next to it because they haven't appeared in any of the Urban Warfare posts, I think. That's because I actually painted them years ago for our Pulp games! They were the Order of the Fire Coral in our Southeast Asian 28mm Pulp games, using Pulp Alley rules. In the 1970s & 80s Columbus, they are the Wangs. I named them after a gang in the movie, "The Wanderers" -- which I really do need to find a copy and watch, again. Why the Wangs? Well, Rodney Dangerfield's sidekick in "Caddyshack" was named Wang, and that's a great movie from that era! They are some pretty cool poses -- all but the leader holding the pipe are from 28mm Mega Minis (who are sadly, out of business, it appears).

So, what building is next? A brewpub, in honor of our usual host on Sunday night, who brews his own beer!

Sunday, August 11, 2019

More Britons for my Saga army!

28mm Briton reinforcements for my Welsh Saga army
These are the last of the 28mm Britons that I had in my unpainted drawer. Since I am having fun playing Saga once a month with a group at the Guardtower East in Columbus, I figured I may as well get the rest of them done. As it is now, I have to draft some Saxon infantry to fill out my 24 (3 points worth) of warriors. And I also have to draft some Picts to field a unit of 12 Levy javelinmen. Getting these figures done means I have to borrow that many fewer figures to field my "Welsh" Saga army.
Two more Britons that will help fill out the ranks of my two units of warriors
I honestly forget which company these 28mm miniatures come from. I actually received them many years ago when I was helping judge the Origins Awards. The manufacturer sent a very generous amount of samples, and the detail, personality, and posing meant they got my vote! I still have a few mounted figures left from the samples, and I'll get around to painting them soon. Since I use only 8 mounted hearthguard in my army, I already have plenty painted up.
Three more javelin men for my levy unit in Saga
This last batch of three will probably be used in as javelin levy in Saga. They are unarmored, unlike the middle two, and are in a more active, "throwing" pose. Of course, one of the great things about Dark Ages troops is they can be used for so many other kingdoms. There was a lot of similarity in what troops looked like in this period -- at least as far as I have read. The horn blower in the first photo will probably take over as my Warlord's attendant. I like to base my Saga warlords with one leader figure, a musician, and a standard bearer. I know that under the rules they count as one, but it just looks better, I feel (and so do some others, I know!). The other guy in the first picture looks like a "battle line" type of troop. So, he will also fill out the warriors. Speaking of lending figures, he will likely one day get "borrowed" by the Picts when I get around to fielding a Saga Pictish army (which I will field as Scots, because the Picts in their lists are the "Ancient" ones that fought the Romans. The ones that fought the Vikings (the part of the Dark Ages for all my other figures) fought very similar to Saga Scots with bands of infantry with long spears.

What's next? More MDF buildings and -- believe it or not -- jet airplanes! 

Monday, August 5, 2019

Mean Streets: First Playtest of 28mm Urban Gang Warfare

Gangs battle it out for control of Columbus' Mean Streets in our first playtest of my Urban Warfare rules
It was a busy week and weekend getting ready for this Sunday's playtest of my new Urban Gang Warfare miniatures rules. I picked out a new groundcloth, finished painting a bunch of plastic civilian figures that Keith had given me, and even bought new dice. On Saturday, I spread the ground cloth out on the carpet in my house and set up the board to make sure I truly did have enough terrain to create a 28mm inner city.
Allen moves his Bexley Blockwatch on the tabletop loaded with the urban terrain that I have been building
One thing I really liked was my charcoal gray "wool felt" ground cloth. Rather than finding a material to represent roads, I thought why not have the tablecloth be the roads? And place terrain to be the city blocks on top of that? I really like the look of that felt -- it has enough of a pattern that it looks like asphalt. I may even try to cut strips from the material and paint the dotted yellow lines to place in the middle of the streets to give the effect even more. I am of mixed opinion about my mottled light gray felt for concrete. The long-term plan may be to actually create those out of flocked styrene or something.
My Eastmoor Kings prowl down the street where the Bexley Blockwatch has staked out the intersection
It was really fun to get nearly all of my urban terrain out onto the tabletop -- my MDF buildings I'd been making, my scratch-build basketball court, 3-D printed billboards and market stalls -- it looked great, I thought. The gang figures looked good, too. Since one of our regulars couldn't make it, I ended up playing the Eastmoor Kings and really thought they looked cool on the tabletop. Same with the other gangs, including Mike S and his Japanese schoolgirls gang. He was the only one of my players who supplied their own gang. I fielded the other five.

Each gang had their own individualized mission (ahem, finally typed out on Sunday morning!), with multiple ways to earn (or lose) victory points. There was a primary mission which would earn the gang 15 victory points if they completed it. My Eastmoor Kings had to cross the board to the Shell station and steal a car from their service department. I sent my Warchief and three punks to accomplish the mission, but had to peel off the three punks when we started getting attacked by two other gangs. We also had to protect our turf -- the park -- and keep anyone else from entering it. We could earn victory points for "tagging" our logo on other buildings, which I supplied in the form of round stickers for players to actually place on the structures to keep track of...!
The Linden Daos were super-aggressive in the game, charging into contact with the Blockwatch's leader on Turn 1
In a free-for-all, multiplayer game like this, I want to give players some choices. Each gang had two other gangs on the tabletop that they needed to settle a score with, too. They would earn extra victory points for each gang member from those groups that they put out of action. This lets players who just want to fight mix it up. It also allows players who want to be strategic and divide their forces to accomplish missions do so, as well. What's more, I generally made their objectives a good amount across the table. This forces the players to mix it up and encounter (and possibly fight) other gangs. For example, Allen's gang, the Bexley Block Watch, jumped my group headed to the Shell station even though we had not intention of entering their turf. We were "too close," he said. That was the kind of randomness I was trying to allow to happen.
The Hilltop Highlanders, in their starting turf of the weekend market, prepare to move out to accomplish their mission
Of course, the Bexley Block Watch took it on the chin the worst of all, ending up with a negative seven victory points! He was jumped on almost immediately by Keith's Linden Daos (Why? Allen's gang was in his way...ha, ha!). For some reason, Allen had left his leader all alone, guarding a narrow alleyway. He did a good job playing Herodotus at the bridge and holding off the Dao's leader and two other of his punks for several turns, but eventually was knocked out. Shortly after Allen jumped my four gang members, the Japanese Schoolgirls -- showed up in the street and joined the fray. With the Block Watch beset by three gangs, it was only a matter of time before his eight gang members were whittled down, and they began to flee off the table.
Our mission was to get past these guys - the Sons of Thor - and steal a car from the gas station
The Hilltop Highlanders proved the most cautious, completing their mission, tagging a number of structures, but backing down from mixing it up with any other gangs. Even when he had a chance to jump several members of his hated enemy, the Sons of Thor (German Village Chapter), he decided not to engage. Once my Warchief's group got attacked, I quickly brought my leader and his three punks over to help out. We lost one punk to both the Block Watch and the hated Schoolgirls. It galled me, but when a lull in the fight occurred, I backed the Eastmoor Kings off and let the Blockwatch and the Schoolgirls fight it out. I was waiting for Mike S to split his forces -- he had all eight of his gang members together. Once that happened, I was going to jump them. Meanwhile, we formed an arc to protect the park and prevent other gang members from sneaking in or tagging our turf.
There were two main complications to my plans -- the Blockwatch, and these mean-spirited, Japanese Schoolgirls
Amazing, the Warchief actually completed the mission on his own. He raced across the table into the Shell station. Snatching a set of keys from the wall, he ducked back outside and hopped in the matching car. Squealing the tires, he sped off and raced off-table, garnering me 15 victory points. I knew I wouldn't win the game, but that kept me in the running. As it turned out, Mike's Schoolgirls racked up the most points. After the Blockwatch was defeated, they sauntered in, beat up the manager of Jack and Benny's Old Time Diner, forcing him to pay them protection money. That was the Blockwatch's turf, and they were supposed to prevent that from happening. They also tagged a goodly number of buildings, and knocked out a good handful of gang members (including one of mine...grrrh!).
Mike W's Hilltop Highlanders racked up a lot of points "tagging" structures, like this billboard
The Hilltop Highlanders came in second, mainly by maxing out victory points and minimizing losses. My Eastmoor Kings came in third, barely edging out Keith's Linden. They did not achieve their mission, but racked up points -- chiefly on the strength of them causing the most carnage. They decimated the Blockwatch and followed that up with a massive dustup with the Sons of Thor. Although neither were his main rivals and earned big points, his steady knocking of opposing gang members out of action racked up the points for him. The final score was:
Luckily for my Warchief, the Sons of Thor were elsewhere when he showed up at the Shell station!
  1. 40 points - O-renishii School of Finishing (Mike S)
  2. 28 points - Hilltop Highlanders (Mike W)
  3. 25 points - Eastmoor Kings (Mike D)
  4. 24 points - Linden Daos (Keith F)
  5. -1 points - Sons of Thor (Joel S)
  6. -7 points - Bexley Block Watch
The Linden Daos at the start of the game, deployed in front of their turf (named after Keith, who was running them!)
Everyone seemed happy with the rules. Next game, we will introduce some of the special skills that gang members can have. I wanted to ease into the new set of rules, and playtest one bit at a time. I think I may even split the board into two halves, with no more than four players mixing it up on each half. We'll see, though. For now, that means I need more buildings...good thing I have another Sarissa Factory assembled on my desk right now!
The Daos at the end of the game -- still kung fu fighting, this time in a knock-down, drag 'em out with the Sons of Thor