Sunday 29 June 2014

Reasons to be cheerful

More stuff on the horizon!

I mentioned recently the publication of FoW's Great War rules at the end of July, and given away free with WI 322. This will accompany me on the summer holidays which I await with great excitement.

However, there really is more stuff....

1. Norm Smith

Norm has been working on a hex and toys version of his Into Battle boardgame.  Norm is publishing rules and scenarios shortly and is packing his blog site with support materials and videos. 

Scenario map from Into Battle

2. Stalingrad Solitaire

A little further off but this game, to be published by White Dog, is due out later this year. Now, Dave Kershaw has designed a lot of solitaire games (Solitaire ACW, Caesar, Vietnam, Barbarossa, Irish Independence). Stalingrad is being designed by Steve Kling but it comes from the Dave Kershaw stable. Looking good....

Hopefully the soft furnishings aren't included.

3. Alfred the Great

Out now and published by Red King Games. Available as a full board game or as a set of 1/72 miniatures rules (using two boxes of plastic soldiers). This first game looks at the battles with the Vikings in AD871. I haven't examined in detail but for $7.50 it looks a bargain.

There we go, reasons to be cheerful 1, 2 and 3!

Designing is hard work!

Emerging scenario for Kilsyth 1645

My Venture Fair rules will cover five of the battles from the the brilliant campaign fought by Montrose during 1644-45. The battles were:

Tibbermore 1 September 1644
Aberdeen 13 September 1644
Inverlochy 2 February 1645
Auldearn 9 May 1645
Alford 2 July 1645
Kilsyth 15 August 1645
Philliphaugh 13 September 1645

I don't intend to cover Inverlochy, largely because this was a simple and ruthless massacre with little real interest for a wargames scenario. Also, Philiphaugh isn't on my list. Basically a surprise assault by the Covenanters destroyed Montrose's forces in short order with a resulting nasty massacre of prisoners and civilians. Again, not really good material for a wargame.

I'm not approaching this in any order but have done enough work on Tibbermore and Aberdeen to begin play testing. I've been using Stuart Reid's Auldearn 1645 as my main source. Aberdeen was straightforward but Tibbermore was problematic and I ended up rethinking it significantly. Ironic really as this is the only one of the battles fields I'm personally familiar with.

So I started on Kilsyth the other night not knowing what I would find when I reviewed my earlier draft. Lets not forget I drafted these scenarios out several years ago using the same sources.

So, some days later, I think I have finally got  grip on the battle. Here is my sketch:

Thanks again to DoW and their map editor for M44
The right hand of the map is North. Montrose was between the Covenanter forces and Glasgow and Baillie, their commander, took his forces to find Montrose. He followed the road just off the left hand side of the map towards Glasgow. Montrose had drawn up in position yellow 1, possibly to ambush Baillie as he moved along the road (position blue 1).

Baillie spotted the ambush and took his troops off the road towards the north, using the local hills to hide his movement. However, when the Covenanters eventually moved out of cover through positions blue 2, Montrose reacted to being outflanked by moving his troops towards positions yellow 2. 

The Covenanter commanded shot under a Col. Haldane, decided to have a go at the Royalists and moved into a group of cottages and enclosures known as Auchinvalley, precipitating contact with the Royalist Highland units. This engagement prevented Baillie prolonging his line towards the north so he used his cavalry to seek to outflank the Royalist line (blue 3). Royalist cavalry moving across the rear of their line (second yellow 2 position) from the original positions dealt with this threat. 

Weight of numbers and experience told as the Royalists broke the Covenanter centre and the Royalist right wing destroyed Baillie's left flank.  

I have really enjoyed learning about this battle and think I have now got enough of an idea to make a worthwhile scenario. Interestingly, I only made progress once I turned the map round by 90 degrees, then things began to make sense. Possibly a life lesson there!

Wednesday 25 June 2014

Hard times....

so lets get stuff for free!

I must point out that this does not involve criminal activity and I don't recommend holding up your local garage or Spa. On the other hand, I'm  facing an hour of root canal treatment tomorrow followed by the payment of a very large sum of money to the dentist. Its a fair price and I'm not complaining but if I spent this amount on books and wargames stuff I'd be shot by my wife. In order to cheer myself up and avoid spending money I have revisited two dear friends.

Quick and Easy Games

This outfit is run by Clayton J Callahan, former soldier, former sheriff and now SF RPG designer and author. The main line is Star Run an SF adventure system. Supporting products include hats and badges for the various protagonists.

What caught my eye was this:

Its great, get two boxes of toy soldiers and have a go. Although the Dark Dream stuff is not easy to get hold of, I have a big set of Robogear stuff which would work just as well. It looks good as well.

Clayton has something about him and I just enjoy his stuff. Also look out for Battlefields, a generic skirmish rule set for less than $6.

Panzer 8

Mr Pz8 is, I believe, Italian. This is not relevant in any respect except that his works have an elegance and simplicity which is reminiscent of fresh seafood eaten on a beach in Sicily. On his website you will find a collection of two page rules covering land, air, sea and space. Plus a selection of skirmish, fantasy and ancients rule sets.

Mr Pz8 has a Yahoo group which contains many contributions from others very much in the style of the master. What I want to mention today is a magazine by a contributor known as Sam_ACW. This is called "Roll Sixes 2" and is the summer edition. 

A very nice little free magazine with articles covering the design of naval games, ancient naval rules and an ACW scenario. Sixteen pages of enthusiasm and inspiration. If you had to put a price on this stuff you simply couldn't! 

Monday 23 June 2014

Kiss Montrose's...

New scenario for Tibbermore

I'm still finding the story of the minister and Montrose's backside amusing but have stuck with the blandest of titles for this scenario.

I have revisited the forces and reached different conclusions to my original views. The Covenanters now have some "regular" troops and the Royalists some levy. My source is Stuart Reid's Auldearn 1645 (Osprey Campaign 123), a marvelous book on the whole campaign.

Play testing will be interesting because I think this may turn out to be more evenly balanced than the historical result. I may have to make further adjustments in due course.

In the meantime, I have roughed out the deployment:

This is a bit simple but I am working on getting the details of the units onto the map. A technical challenge so I'll have to ask the kids how to do it.

Sunday 22 June 2014

More Venture Fair

Tibbermore 1644

I have spent an hour or so working on the Tibbermore scenario for Venture Fair. In doing so I have changed my mind about the orientation of the battlefield and also now feel the need to reconsider the forces involved.

Why the change in thinking? Well I have re-encountered the Montrose Society's website today. I had looked at this site before but at that time I was not very impressed. The site now, however, is very much improved and full of interesting information. Their magazine is called Venture Faire which I think is very cool (obviously!).

The traditional view is that the Covenanters were drawn up along high ground (Lamberkine Ridge) facing North with the Royalists on lower ground facing south. This has never made much sense to me as the Royalists would have their backs to the Almond Valley leaving no line of retreat. The Montrose Society propose that the Covenanters left Perth marching east, meeting the Royalists marching west. They therefore met across the huge expanse of open countryside around Tibbermore with Lamberkine ridge to the left flank of the Covenanters. 

There is a great story that convinces me. The minister of Tibbermore Church gave water to Montrose on the day of the battle. After the battle he was defrocked for helping the enemy. He said in his defence that "there was not one of them who would not have kissed Montrose's backside on the day of the battle". If Montrose has come from Tibbermore why would he swing the Royalists across the face of the Government army? It is more logical that he would be facing them directly across the plain.

My view of the battle field now is:

The Royalists form up in front of the church facing the Covenanters who have Lamberkine Ridge to their left and the Hunting Tower to their right rear.

This is now a nice map (thanks to Days of Wonder) and it brings back happy memories of my Brother in Law's wedding reception at the Hunting Tower. 

Now just to have another look at the troops involved....

Saturday 21 June 2014

Keeping it up...

Morale that is!

Over the past few weeks I have seen my team Saracens lose in two finals, the England rugby team lose three on the trot to New Zealand and, to top it off, the England football team having an early bath. This requires urgent morale boosting activities....and that does not include watching tennis!


Activity number one involves Saalfeld by Decision Games. I got this out the other day and started taking the counters off the sprue with a craft knife as I know these things can be tricky. The Decision Games counters are quite nice but their separation in the die cutting is not very good.

Given that these counters are in the tufty club I resorted to counter clipping. Not something that I ever imagined I would spend time doing. However the results are good.

The rules for this series are not the same as the old SPI Napoleon at War/Last Battles folios. They are more complex and, as yet, I haven't decided if I like them. I'll have a couple of goes during the coming week and get a flavour for them.

Cardboard mountain

Activity two is admiring the contents of Heroes of Normandie which I got on Father's Day. No fluff or tufty bits here. In fact it is difficult keeping the counters in the frames while I figure out how to store them. Admire these pictures or else...

The game itself is like a euro miniatures game, if that is possible. Lots of fun to be had here. 

Buying more stuff....

Yes, stuff that is not shopping, shoes or gardening equipment. However, times being what they are, merely stuffing things on to a card is not an option. One regular purchase of mine is Wargames Illustrated and the August issue (so available end July) is looking very interesting.

Flames of War are releasing "The Great War", a new set of rules and army lists for the last year of WW1. These are free with WI 222 and so are not to be sneezed at. They are an adaptation of FoW so will probably not be my cup of tea but I'm certainly looking forward to having a look. See the details here. I will not be needing to spend lots on the official figures. My extensive Revell, Airfix, Emhar and HaT toys should see me through.

Saturday 14 June 2014

To him Pudel!

Aberdeen scenario for Venture Fair

I now have two things, a headache and the greatest respect for designers who make things look nice! 

I have made great progress with the Venture Fair rules, however, while they are drafted they are not yet crafted. The rules themselves need some more work but this can only be done by some hard play testing. Hence the work today on getting the scenarios into some shape to play.

So, here is the first one.....Aberdeen.

I have been desperately trying to get the information into a one page scenario brief. When I think about the amount of information the Flames of War people get into their books, guff or not, I'm ashamed that my effort looks pretty rough. See the evidence for (I gratefully acknowledge that the map graphics etc belong to Days of Wonder).

I'm hoping that Father's Day will involve my children completely ignoring me as usual so I can crack on with the other scenarios. 

Wednesday 11 June 2014

Hurrah, I've done something new!

I've backed a game on Kickstarter....

So, not that new for many folks but one for the diary for me. As well as the pleasure of doing something different I'm quite excited.

This is Worthington's new game, Scotland Rising: The Battle of Bannockburn 1314. Having just been to the Bannockburn Battlefield Centre I have developed a great interest in this game and am very much looking forward to playing it. 

You might ask, why not wait until it is released over here, surely the postage alone will make it unattractive? Well, yes you do pay for the privilege of living outside the US, $27 to be precise. However, this is a mere bagatelle given that the stretch goals are included in the basic pledge ($45) level. Subject to funding, this includes a hard mounted map board and two additional games, Falkirk and Stirling bridge. 

As to "attractive", the whole package looks great.

Worthington also now produce presentations for their games badged as "learn to play in five minutes". The link for this one is here. The game is due in August, just in time for a game with the wife before the big vote!

Saturday 7 June 2014

Thoughts at D+1

When do events become history?

I find it hard to believe that it is 70 years since D-Day. When I was a child in the early sixties, playing with my Airfix men, D-Day was less than 20 years old. Memories of the war amongst family and neighbours were vivid and often painful. When I started work in the 1970s, my colleagues included many ex-servicemen who had fought in Normandy and across the globe. They were then younger then than I am now. Suddenly, time has passed to the extent that there are few remaining veterans. Perhaps this is the point that D-Day now becomes history, a poignant thought.

Firestorm Overlord from FoW
Still, I'm pleased that the wargaming community has plenty going on to commemorate the event. 

Flames of War have contributed a new Firestorm module, Overlord, which is free and available from their website. At first sight, this looks great. There is also news that the second half of Firestorm Caen from earlier this year will be released at some stage covering Cherbourg and St Lo.

The M44 world has been particularly busy. I've already posted about Days of Wonder's massive D-Day landing expansion. As of yesterday we now have:

  • Brummbar's Battle Commander module for M44 which provides a way to play linked but variable scenarios from Juno Beach to Falaise.

  • Derek Whaley's 108 page M44 scenario compilation for the western front, including all the Normandy scenarios (except those subject to ongoing copyright). Phew!
On an Android note, I have been playing D-Day by Invertbit on the train. It is very similar to an old hex and counter game, reasonably historical and quite enjoyable.

My Father's day present arrived earlier today. Not to be touched until next weekend of course. It is Heroes of Normandie. I'm really looking forward to this to say the least. I opened the packed to check that it was OK (that's my excuse) and found these extra counters in the parcel. Nice!


Also, check out The Atlantic which has some great then and now style photos from Normandy. Well worth a look.