Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Salute 2018 Loot

Only a quick post about Salute. Big Kyle and I had a great time - apart from the awful lighting.... my poor eyes!

Since we went with friends (who are new to all this wargame malarkey), I had decided to pre-order most of my loot. This ensured I picked up the things I was really after. We did have a look around, but to be honest we didn't spend as much time as usual gawking at the lovely tables - so no photos I'm afraid. Instead, I decided the best thing was to get down to the lardies and have a good crack at What a Tanker! I nicked this photo off the lardies Facebook page. Something had obviously tickled me...

Don't let Kyle's appearance fool you, we both really enjoyed playing the game and listening to Rich's attempts at wit ;-) It's a simple tank vs tank game. No massive historical complexity, just tanks on the table going at each other. And you know what? Sometimes we all need to play a simple game like that, so definitely a thumbs up from me. Will I play it week in week out? No, but its light and fun and has encouraged me to finally get my years old early German armour painted. More on that another time.

Enough about the lardies, here's the loot.

If you look carefully you'll see quite a bit of Darkest Africa figures, canoes, burn huts (and even an explorer wondering why he's sat in a pot). I also splashed out on the new SAGA rules. Not had chance to read them yet though. Of course, I did pre-order What a Tanker but also decided to give Chain of Command a go. Looks like a platoon level game that is similar to Bolt Action, but perhaps offers more interesting command and control options. Hoping for a game next week so we'll see.

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Escalation Along the Nziari

I've played several Savannah based Congo adventures but it was now time to head into the Jungle! So on Saturday I played Escalation Along the Nziari with Dan, one of my friends from Friday Night Firefight Club.

Two White Men columns face each other on opposite sides of the crocodile infested Nziari River. Looks like there are also a number of hippos in the murky waters.

This scenario requires the two columns to claim territory by capturing three flags (strategically positioned on sand banks in the river) and carrying them off the opposite table edge.

[numbered tokens represent permitted exit points]

Professor Smut was joined by the famed explorer Big Gun Johnson. On the opposite side of the River, the Retired Officer Banks was joined by some foolhardy journalist who decided to lug his precious camera gear through the jungle.

The Retired Officer was of German decent and was accompanied by a number of adventurers, soldiers, trained askari and rugga rugga. The English scientist had less funds available for his expedition and hired mostly askaris and young warriors. He did have some adventurers, but they seemed loath to venture far into the jungle.

The English slogged their way to the river and started the game exhausted. This was cruelly exploited by the nefarious Germans who made all manner of strange bird calls and beat the buttresses of trees. This was too much for the Professor's askari, who repeatedly failed panic attacks. Professor Smut did persuade one group of askari to enter a particularly thick section of jungle and managed to find a specimen of particular interest...

[my area terrain has removable sections to allow figures to be more easily placed]

The Germans were much more steady in their approach and quickly acquired the flags. But only one group managed to emerge from the river before the commotion attracted the attention of the crocodiles.

The German trained askari dragged themselves from the river, but found themselves isolated and the sound of gunshots rang out.  Falling like flies they were then assaulted by askari and died to a man. One of the flags was now in possession of the Professor's Askari!

Unfortunately, they were somewhat depleted in numbers. Perhaps best to stay out of harms way!

More commotion on the other side of the river, heralded the appearance of a mighty ape. The gorilla set about the German adventurers who took a good thumping but managed to retired out of harms way.

As the weather worsened and torrential downpours threatened to swell the river, the professor's askari and young warriors made one final push for a flag situated on the right flank.

After a kerfuffle, they managed to capture it, but panicked at the thought of crocodiles and retreated from the river.

[dam those terror attacks!]

The professor urged them onwards and they were just about to scramble from the fearsome waters, when night descended and the jungle went eerily quiet...

[in the last turn of the game, a die is rolled at the beginning of each activation phase. On a success the game immediately ends - in our case at the beginning of the second phase...]

Final Score:

Banks eliminated one of the Professor's groups and killed a crocodile scoring 5 vp.

Smut also eliminated one group of enemy askari, disabled the journalist and found some loot for a total of 5 vp! Unfortunately one of the Professor's bearers took a stray bullet and 2 vp were lost.

Dan's Retired Officer Banks won the game by 2 vp!

Big thanks to Dan for a great game that was fun to play with the new terrain.

Monday, 26 March 2018

What Would Professor Jones Have Made of it?!

Last October, Friday Night Fire Fight Club tasked me with building some terrain for a naval game set in Medieval China. The deadline was Cavalier in February. The brief was to create some tall rocks/islands that were connected by a bridge and on which sat a bell...

Hmm - that sounds like an excuse to get some Lost World jungle columns built for a future game of Congo.

It all began with a few rough templates drawn on baking paper...

But how to get the height without making something so heavy it will implode into a black hole under its own weight (or put another way, I'll drop it whilst carrying from car to show).

I don't have any of the high density foam (and it looks quite pricey), so I opted to go the model railway route and use polystyrene. The polystyrene was built up in layers that were attached together using bbq skewers and gaps between filled with scrunched up newspaper.

Over this I put paster cloth, providing both shape and rigidity.

The overall shape was largely dictated by the need to get some height into the structure. The idea was to have rope bridges connecting the islands beneath which boats could sail. But since the first jungle column needed to be accessed by sea, figures had to gain height quickly. In the end I decided to use bark chipping as my steps and these were all carefully selected from a large bag (bought quite cheaply at local pet shop) and glued in place.

The steps were blended into the column using filler.

So, how to do the rope bridges....

I found the perfect answer in a blog post over on the excellent Lead Legionaries blog. A dolls House picket fence! Perfect! And saves an enormous amount of time.

The fence came in a single long piece and I was able to cut it into three lengths (one short length will be used for another project). The pointed ends were snipped off and the end wires were wrapped around more bbq skewers that had been attached to precut sections of mdf. This meant that the bridge could be taken off the columns to allow the whole thing to be more easily transported.

Of course, I needed a way to ensure the bridge could take the weight of figures. I therefore attached small flat magnets to both the rock column and the bridge base. This helped to stop the bridge lifting, but it was still prone to sliding. I therefore cut more of the bbq skewers and these were attached to the bridge base and acted as small pegs that fitted into holes in the main column structure.

The final rock effect was created with more filler that was applied with fingers (swiping horizontally around each column). The real Chinese rock formations are made of limestone and much paler - almost white. But since I wanted to use the terrain for other purposes I decided on a more generic paint scheme and settled on brown/grey to match my other jungle terrain. This I achieved reasonably quickly by spraying the whole structure with grey spray primer and then giving it a heavy highlight with white spray primer. Once dry the columns were washed with various shades of grey, green and brown and the whole lot dry brushes with light grey.

The bridges were finished with thin string (two gauges), that were first soaked in light tan paint and then individually strung. This bit took a while! But the final effect made it worthwhile.

So, what would Professor Jones have made if it all?!

I can't take credit for the bell btw, this was scratch built and painted by one of my club friends, David.

The tops of the columns had already been covered in my normal basing mix of sand and finished to match my other jungle terrain, with green scatter material, clump material, vine and various aquarium plants.

Large spaces have been left to allow movement of figures, but jungle scatter terrain can be added to give a more dense jungle effect when needed. I also have several hanging vines that are removable and can be added to suit a particular game.

Here's the terrain in play at this year's Cavalier.

David and another club friend Paul, scratch built all of the boats. The Cavalier game was based on Blood and Plunder. The aim being to climb the columns, rush to the bell and ring it. All the while trying to avoid being shot to pieces by the crews of the other boats. Lots of fun on the day!

The next step is to build more complementary jungle pieces that can be placed adjacent to the columns for games of Congo etc.

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Kickstarters Aplenty!

Happy New Year Folks!

The latter part of 2017 seemed to have had a flurry of Kickstarters arrive. First there was Battle of Britain...

...along with a few bouncy planes...

... that will apparently be replaced by PSC later this year. We've had a couple of games and found it to be enjoyable, although it will take a few more games before I develop a good strategy for playing the Luftwaffe. The skies of Britain are safe, at least for now it seems!

Then there was 878 Vikings.

Along with it's nice oversized play mat. The game plays a bit like supercharged Risk and is good fun. Not too demanding on the old brain cells.

There was some annoyance on the Kickstarter comments due to the late arrival of this Kickstarter. Apparently our North American friends received their game in August, but the Viking Invasion didn't hit our Saxon shores until November.

Kickstarters are one of those things that are best pledged for and forgotten about. Expecting them to arrive on time is an exercise in frustration.

Having said that...

A large box arrived at Brady HQ at the end of September and turned out to be the much anticipated Mythic Battles Pantheon.

Now unfortunately, these boxes were just the expansions and the actual base game arrived in a different shipment. In early January. But still, the expected delivery was December and given the volume of material included, that's a pretty good fulfilment.

It's taken a while to sort through the boxes. Everything appears to be present and correct and the quality of components appears very good indeed. I suspect many of the figures may well find their way into other games...

One issue with huge games like this is how to store it all. Fortunately I have manage to 'locate' some extra space for storing games. Quick trip to Ikea whilst visiting inlaws and...

I've even managed to get Conan properly stored. Many of the small box expansions in these games include excessive packaging. I've already ditched the smaller boxes for MB and stored figures in Really Useful Boxes (just like my wargaming figures). Once I get a few more boxes I'll do the same with Conan.

Speaking of Conan. We've been playing through the Campaign book and having a real blast with it. Mighty Kyle has taken on the role of Overlord and the heroes haven't had an easy time of it. I've not posted any photos since none of the figures are painted. I wasn't going to paint them, but you never know. The MB figures certainly deserve a bit of paint.

Most of my figure painting has been targeted at Congo recently. Good progress has been made, but more on that another time. I have also been working on a 'secret' terrain project for an upcoming show...

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Congo Terrain - Jungle Trees

I've made good progress with my jungle terrain for Congo. I have enough blocking terrain completed to play games and several of my area terrain pieces are approaching completion (more on them another time).

One problem with wargame jungle terrain is that it often relies almost entirely on plastic plants. Mine is no acceptation - as evidenced by this blocking terrain.

It works and looks ok, but where are the trees?!

I have a little experience of rainforest from the time I've spent working in Madagascar, so I have plenty of inspiration from my own travels to draw upon. The traveller's palm (or Ravenala) in the above photo is commonly found in Malagasy rainforests and I was quite chuffed when I found a plastic version. But gaming jungles should include more than just palms. Here's a photo of one of my study sites at Andranomay - spot the tall Ravenala!

But also note the trees - lots of them!

My Congo jungle needs trees. But we still need to be able to play actual games on the table and the trees mustn't get in the way hindering access to the tabletop. Hmm...

I'll let you into a secret, I've never made a tree before for any of my games. I've made bases for trees that have been bought from eBay and local model shops. But I've never made an actual tree. So constructing a rainforest tree that has some semblance to reality is a bit daunting. However, I decided the end product would be worth the effort so started to do some research.

For individual large rainforest trees (or giants as we used to call them when trying to measure their girth), I found the following YouTube tutorial.

The quality of the final models really is excellent. But probably not something that I would be able to recreate easily. So I thought I would use the video as a guide, but create a simplified version that would be suitable for games of Congo and perhaps help me to learn how go about making smaller jungle trees for area terrain.

Anyway, here's a few photos illustrating a selection of steps that I took with a nearly complete tree at the end.

First off a suitably sized and shaped branch is attached to the base board. Daz (modelling clay) is then used to shape the buttresses at the base of the tree. I added a small sprinkling of chinchilla dust to the dried clay to provide a little texture. Smaller twigs were attached to the top of the tree and brown wood filler used to blend them into the main trunk.

After undercoating black, I followed the video guide to make some bracket fungi and glued them onto the trunk. These are very effective on the final model and I'll definitely be doing more of these. Once these were attached I undercoated again and this time gave a light dusting of grey primer to give some highlights. 

The video had a bit of a convoluted method for creating vines. I did make some using the recommended Spanish moss, but I made the larger vines out of stained and suitably flocked garden twine. Cheap, quick and looks the part.  

Attaching the vines in a realistic fashion was a bit fiddly, but the video guide suggested using clothes pegs to weigh them down whilst the glue dries and this turned out to be just the ticket. The trunk and branches were painted using a mixture of browns and greys with green highlights and finishing with an overall light dry brush of khaki. The base was painted to match my other jungle terrain using cheap art shop acrylics (chocolate brown base, washed with burnt umber and highlighted with tan). Over this I added a little green scatter and some leaves (punched out using the excellent leaf punches available from Greenstuff World).  

Rather than (expensive) sea foam plants and tiny railway leaves, I decided to use fine net mesh and clump foliage for the canopy. I attached the netting in sections to different parts of the upper branches and then hoped for the best and glued on the clump foliage. Once attached I made up a bottle of 'scenic glue' (watered down PVA and a drop or two of washing up liquid) and sprayed the foliage to help seal it.

I just have a few ground ferns to add to the base and a final light matt varnish and it's done. Not too shabby and certainly looks the part. Just need to make a few more now!

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Cattle Raid - A New Scenario for Congo

Cattle Raid

Adventure Rules
  • Savannah, cattle, confusion, exhaustion, night, enter on the table, exiting the table

2 + d3 Village Huts 
Cattle Pen
3 + d3 high dangerous terrain (d8 cover)
6 + d6 blocking terrain

The Herdsmen player places all terrain at the beginning of Turn 1 (after both columns draw a Totem Card but before Activation Cards are chosen). A cattle pen containing 4 cows must be placed within M of the centre of the table. The pen is formed from sections of thorn bush boma. Huts are then placed within L of the centre of the table and must be more than S away from each other.  

Area terrain must not be placed within M of another area terrain. Blocking terrain must not be placed within S of another terrain (hut, cattle pen, area terrain or blocking terrain).

After the Herdsmen player has set up the terrain, the Cattle Rustlers may discard a Totem Card to move/remove any one item of terrain (excluding cattle pen). Terrain moved/removed in this way must follow same rules as above for minimum number and placement.

Herdsmen (defender; African Kingdom Column). Must include at least one group of scouts.
Cattle Rustlers (attacker; African Kingdom Column) - start with initiative.

The Cattle Rustlers decide how many points between 35 and 50 they wish to include in their column. The Herdsmen Column will be double this size. 

For example, if the Cattle Rustlers choose 35 pts, the Herdsmen are permitted 70 pts.  

The Herdsmen deploy first. See special rules for deployment of sentries. 
Each remaining group of Herdsmen are either deployed in a hut or are present off table. The Herdsmen player secretly chooses which groups are deployed in each hut (the defender may choose to leave any/all of the huts empty). Only one group may be deployed in each hut. Off table groups enter on the table from a random corner (roll a d4 and consult terrain map when each off table group is first activated to move in from). 

Off table groups arrive from nearby villages and must test for exhaustion when they enter play. 

After the Herdsmen have deployed, the Cattle Rustlers secretly choose a short table edge that represents the best escape route back to their own village. They may only exit the table along this table edge (A or B). The Cattle Rustlers may then be deployed anywhere on the table that is more than L away from the cattle pen. 

Special Rules

Defender may deploy 1 - 3 sentries. These are taken from a single group of scouts and are placed anywhere on the table (outside of the cattle pen) before the Cattle Rustlers deploy. Once deployed, each sentry counts as a separate group of scouts and must remain at their post. 

Remember that columns can still play influence actions, even if groups cannot yet be activated to move or shoot...

During the day, sentries can see enemy groups in line of sight at any distance. 

At night, sentries may detect enemy movement even when there is no direct line of sight (they are listening very hard!). Each time an enemy group ends its movement within L of a sentry, roll a d6 for each enemy figure. On three successes, the enemy is detected. When an enemy group ends its movement within M of a sentry only two successes are needed. Within S of a sentry, the enemy group is detected with a single success. 

Sentries always hear any rifle or musket shooting regardless of distance. It goes without saying that sentries who survive a melee attack automatically detect their assailants! 

If a sentry detects an enemy group that sentry may be activated as normal.  All other sentries remain at their post until they either detect a group (friend or foe!) or the alarm is raised. They may then be activated as normal. 

At night, all groups (including sentries) roll d8 for cover. 

Each time a sentry is eliminated before the alarm is raised, the Cattle Rustlers player may draw a Totem card. 

Cattle Pen
The Cattle Rustlers must release the cattle by moving into contact with the pen and then breaking through. The pen can either be carefully dismantled by discarding two totem cards or broken into by rolling two unopposed successes during melee. In either case, the thorn hedge surrounding the pen is removed from the board. 

Once the pen has been breached, the Cattle Rustlers may capture cattle as per the rules on pg. 71. The Cattle Rustlers must first initiate a melee and declare how many cows they want to steal. The Herdsmen roll 3d6 per cow. 

Unattended cattle will exit the pen following their normal movement rules and will attempt to remain in base to base contact with each other. The frightened cattle consider groups from both columns that are in line of sight as enemies for the purpose of determining movement direction. Any fleeing cattle that exit the board are lost to lions.

Huts may be plundered as per the rules on pg. 72. 

If a plundered hut contains a hidden group of Herdsmen, a melee is automatically initiated (instead of rolling on the plunder table). If the hut is plundered before the alarm is raised, the attackers roll melee dice as normal, but the sleepy defenders immediately draw a stress token and roll only half their normal dice (rounded up). Once the alarm has been raised, the tables are turned and the defenders roll melee dice as normal, but the surprised attacking group immediately draws a stress token and rolls only half their normal dice (rounded up). 

Once activated for movement, a group in a hut is moved by placing a measuring stick next to the hut (any face). 

Groups may neither shoot from a hut or be shot at whilst occupying a hut. 

Groups inside huts count as off table with regards to rules such as picking up the pace, night etc. That is, groups within a hut are ignored. 

The alarm is raised when: 
  • a sentry moves into contact with a hut concealing a hidden group
  • a group of Cattle Rustlers fires a rifle or musket (defender must roll at least one success with 1d8 per shooting figure)
  • a group of Cattle Rustlers attempts to plunder a hut and disturbs somebody (ie rolls 1 on the plunder table)
  • a group of Cattle Rustlers attempts to plunder a hut and finds it occupied by a defending group (alarm raised at end of melee if at least one defender survives). 
  • a group of Cattle Rustlers attempts to break into the pen (alarm raised at end of melee, regardless of result - startled cows are noisy!)
  • the first time the cows move out of their pen (either with a group or on their own - lots of mooing!)

Once the alarm is raised, the Herdsmen receive 1 totem card for each surviving sentry. The current turn then immediately ends. 

A new turn begins with both columns subject to confusion for one turn. 

During each subsequent turn, both columns are activated as normal. 

Help from Afar
At the end of activation phases 1 & 2 during turn 7, the player with the initiative rolls a d6. On a success, the player chooses whether the game immediately ends as armed men from nearby villages suddenly jump out of the elephant grass. If the player chooses to continue the game, his opponent may draw a Totem Card. On a failure, the player passes the initiative to his opponent and the game continues. 

Victory Points

Each enemy group eliminated 3 vp
Each cow in possession of Herdsmen 5 vp

Cattle Rustlers
Each cow in possession of rustlers and removed from board 10 vp
Each other cow in possession of rustlers 5 vp
Plunder taken from huts in possession of Cattle Rustlers 3 vp

1 (night)
2 (night)
3 (night)
7 (help from afar)

We had a lot of fun play testing this scenario - it may even encourage me to finish painting my African Cattle!  Let me know if you decide to give it a go. 

SELWG 2017

Another year, another trip to Crystal Palace for SELWG!

This year Friday Night Fire Fight Club put on a participation game based on a simplified version of Deadzone that borrowed some ideas from our last Bolt Action game set in Stalingrad! This time the plucky participants had to try and get to the jump ship whist avoiding being eaten by radioactive zombies (controlled by members of the club).

The board was split into two levels and participants could find themselves in either. Luckily, those unfortunate to start in the tunnels could find an express elevator that would zip them to the surface (and onto the second board). Unfortunately, most participants also found that they were zipped straight into the clutches of a waiting zombie! Sadly, at least one participant managed to beat the club and get two soldiers to safety on the dropship. Of course, it was a pity about the pilot....

I spent the morning rushing around to try and get all of the items on my list. It was a long list, a very, very long list and I only managed to get a fraction of what I was after. Still it was a decent haul...

Was pleased to pick up the new Congo campaign supplement. Already read through this and may write a short review if there's interest.

Quite a few demonstration and participation games. I spent a good part of the afternoon helping with the club game so didn't get chance to try anything else. I did grab some photos though.

See you at Cavalier in 2018!

If all goes well, we'll have something special to show...