Friday, 22 June 2012

The Game Is Afoot!!!

{It's the last day of school; exams are written and it's time to celebrate a bit. Before Robby goes off to see Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter with a friend this evening, we wanted to write another chapter in the Sherlock Holmes vs. the SA adventure. Here goes...}

Holmes, Watson, Inspector Lestrade, Constable Timmins, and the valiant Gladstone crept silently into the cavern that housed the tomb of Holgar the Dane. The trail of the stormtroopers holding Isabelle von Tromp had been perilous and they felt they had lost it more than once. But now, she and her captors were near. Holmes could sense it!

Watson, Gladstone, and Holmes - each armed with pistols and bullet-proof vests (Gladstone had neither, of course.)
{Old Glory figures, but I don't know where Gladstone came from.}
Holmes could hear Isabelle struggling with her captor, Lt. Rustheiser, as he forced here down the steps from the balcony over the cavern. Piles of rubble lay strewn below them and Rustheiser was attempting to force the young woman to find her father's device which lay hidden in the cavern. Moving quickly, Holmes found a clue - a message scratched into the side of the tomb. (Finding this clue allowed an extra Dare! die for Holmes during this game, giving him a better chance of solving any other Dare! locations.) Watson and Lestrade moved across some of the rubble and in doing so drew the fire of Unteroffizer Schultz and another stormtrooper who watched from the balcony. The shots either missed or did not penetrate the bullet-proof vests or steel armour the two detectives wore. Holmes took cover behind the statuary that loomed over the tomb, where he encountered a swarm of rats. He and Gladstone fought the rodents with club and tooth and nail and sent them running, although Holmes sustained a nasty bite from the vermin.
     Rustheiser continued to force Isabelle to cooperate, but she refused, until both Rustheiser and the stormtrooper with him fell to the accurate fire of Watson and Lestrade. The Unteroffizer and his companion continued to fire on the detectives, but with no results. Constable Timmins fell to the fire of the stormtrooper on the floor of the cavern before he fell to Lestrade's fusillade. Holmes ran past in order to aid his companions, recovering Timmins' rifle as he went.
    Shultz ran down the balcony stairs to recapture Isabelle, only to fall to the sustained fire of Lestrade, Watson having moved to take the rifle from Holmes. The stormtrooper on the balcony cowered as Watson fired as accurately as he could in the dimly lit cavern. The brownshirt fell wounded a few moments later.
"Begin your search here, Fraulein!" (Two blue bingo chips = two wounds)

"Here, Watson! You can make better use of this Lee-Enfield than I!"

"Solve the mystery, Fraulein! I'm not so gentle as Herr Leutnant!"
(Two Brownshirts down, a third remains on the balcony.)

Rustheiser and his uniformed thug in better days
    Schultz also fell wounded in the pile of rubble, and Isabelle solved the Dare! point, finding the Knife of Holgar Danske, a valuable artifact. Holmes moved to solve two other Dare! markers, finding a case containing an ordinary pistol and then the Professor's device! Holmes couldn't resist fiddling with the item, which malfunctioned and became inert. Lastly Holmes discovered a Disappearing Belt among the statuary at the other end of the cavern. With that, the adventurers gathered up the wounded Timmins and beat a hasty retreat with Isabelle, the ancient artifiact, and the Professor's malfunctioning device. Rustheiser and Schultz were left groaning in the rubble, wounded but alive.

Lestrade and Dr. Watson
Robby places Holmes and Timmins in place for the beginning of the game.
We were using an RPG mat that permitted us to draw "terrain" and wipe it
off at the end of the game.
 This was "Chapter II" of the "Where Heroes Dare" game Robby and I started on Father's Day. We did play a third chapter immediately... but I can't chronicle it just now. I've got a few things to finish. There will be more later.     

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Where Heroes Dare - - - on Father's Day

June 17, 2012 - my son says to me: "Dad, we haven't played a game, just you and me, for a while. Let's play one on Sunday." So we did, once he got back from archery practise. (I didn't go in order to take my daughter to work.) We dragged out one of our favourites, "Where Heroes Dare", a pulp fiction adventure game by Iron Ivan.

1936 - Berlin - Sherlock Holmes and his associates have been hired and encouraged by the Foreign Office to find the daughter of Professor Von Tromp, who is engaged in vital research for the War Office. It is feared that she will be captured and used as a hostage for leverage against the professor. The trail has led the intrepid sleuth and his friends to a disused warehouse in Berlin. They are being chased by SA Storm Troopers who wish to find the young woman as well. The game is afoot!

Robby's team consisted of Sherlock Holmes (Super Sleuth, Astounding Mind, with a revolver and a bulletproof vest), Dr. John Watson (revolver and bulletproof vest), Inspector Gregory Lestrade (Two custom pistols and bulletproof vest. Lestrade's abilities include firing a pistol in each hand with +1 shot for each), Constable Smith (rifle and bulletproof vest) and Watson's bulldog, Gladstone.
     I ran a team of SA Storm Troopers (originally German Zeppelintruppen): Lt. Rustheiser, Sgt. Schultz, Sturmmann Weber, and Sturmmann Vogel, all equipped with SMGs and bulletproof vests.
The setting was an abandoned warehouse in a more seedy section of Berlin. A large stack of wooden packing crates (-3 cover) took the centre of the building. A pile of smashed crates and other rubble (-2 cover) was set next to it. The terrain chart called for a stream, which made no sense, so the stream became 36" of collapsed ventilation conduit that had fallen to the floor, providing -2 cover to any on next to it, but no cover if you stood on top of it. The game took place at night, so any firing required spotting first.

Holmes quietly led his team into the darkened warehouse.

The warehouse. The red bingo chips are Dare! Encounters, rolled for when solved by a character.

The Consulting Detective and his intrepid team from Scotland Yard. Watson is obscured by Holmes, but Gladstone
eagerly peeks out from Holmes side. 

The Storm Troopers. They are "Great War" figures of Germans with SMG's painted as Freikorps in the inter-war years.
I've got my eye on true Stormtroopers from Pulp Miniatures.

The Storm Troopers find a Clue! Now the Sturmleiter gets an extra die for solving encounters!
Holmes and company moved quickly to the centre of the building. The SA split into two teams to cover the   centre with their weapons and to do some solving. Their leader solved a Dare! location and received an extra die for solving further Dare! locations. Watson and Lestrade traded shots with Schultz and Weber, but no one was wounded due to the armour. Lestrade could fire 6 shots a turn! (RoF for pistols is 2; add +1 to each for custom weapons and he put out more lead than a Stormtrooper with an SMG!)
Holmes in the lead,  using the fallen HVAC as cover.

The Astounding Mind of the Consulting Detective allowed them to avoid a land mine AND to discover a
Weird Science artifact (the green bingo chip Holmes is standing on) - a Belt of Invisibility! (provides -4 cover
for the wearer! Sweet...)
Watson and Lestrade trade shot in the dark with the SA.
Holmes, Gladstone, and the Constable split off during the shooting, and solved two Dare! locations - avoiding a land mine and finding a Belt of Invisability! The SA NCO vaulted the fallen conduit and solved a Dare! point himself, finding the Professor's daughter hiding in the stack of crates. At that, Holmes, Gladstone, and the Constable rounded the corner. Holmes and Gladstone dashed to stop the SA man from taking the young woman, while the Constable fired his rifle. The Unteroffizer took a wound, but he was able to shepherd the Professor's daughter over the conduit, and begin to run her off the board. The Sturmleiter discovered a hidden tunnel, but left it alone to command the withdrawal of his team with the young woman, who was their prize. Watson and Lestrade continued to fire and Gladstone charged!!!!

NCO Schultz takes charge of the Professor's Daughter (a Copplestone Casting figure)
The Constable reloads, Holmes runs, but is outdistanced by the fearless Gladstone!
Gladstone leaps the obstacle to attack Vogel. I've never seen a bulldog leap, so maybe it was more of a
"fearsome-clambering-over-the-rubble" on the dog's part.
Either way, Gladstone bit his opponent, bit him real good.

Rustheiser moves to assist/take credit for the capture. The small d10 shows he has an extra die for solving Dare! encounters for this game.
Watson vs. Weber - lots of blocking terrain and in the dark.
 Holmes and company must continue their quest, not knowing where the SA have taken the young woman. That's for the next chapter of the story. Robby and I decided to play out 3-4 chapters and chronicle them here. So you'll have to wait for the next thrilling installment!

The Biggest Little Game You'll Ever Play

Last Saturday was a fairly quiet day at the Hamilton Road Gaming Group. The weather was warm and sunny, which makes many Canadians go outside. One of our most active members was at an AWI reenactment at Black Creek Pioneer Village near Toronto. So Martin and I plotted to hold a large-army DBA game. Robby and Derrick joined us. Martin fielded a "French Ordnance" Army (1445-1503) while I faced him with a medieval Irish army (dates are unimportant). Since I was short in points, my Nikephenorian Byzantines contributed a lot of cavalry. {Ridiculous I know, but it's a game!}

We laid out terrain and Martin proceeded to take some away by flooding  it by adding sea shore. Ah, well. As a wary Irish commander, I'd have wanted loads of forest and hills, but the French need fields to run their knights through.

Well, to business... Here's a view of the field.

Robby surveys the minimal terrain. Martin took all the photos with his
trusty Ipad.

The initial set-up - Byzantine allies on the far left, Galloglaich at left centre,
Bonnachts to right centre, and Kern and cavalry on the right flank.
French - Knight on their own left, bows and Men-at-Arms, interspersed in
their centre, and Squires and bows on their own right.

'Tis his very self, setting out Bonnachts... and there were
a ton of 'em.

A word of explanation for those unfamiliar with the old Irish military terms. "Galloglaich" (or Galloglass, if you're Shakespeare) "Young foreign warriors", were well armoured troops with two-handed axes and swords with decent morale. Originally of Scots-Norse origin, there were a fixture in Ireland. "Bonnachts" ("Billeted Men") were lightly armed professional warriors who could be as heavily armoured and armed as Galloglaich, but usually were lightly armed. "Kern" ("Warband" maybe? It's controversial.) were lightly armed troops - javelin, bow, light spear, sword, Celtic Hand Rock M1A1. The Cavalry were divided into "Spears" (armoured cavalry with spear or lance and shield) and "Horse Boys" who were lighter and armed with javelins and darts. Sometimes Anglo-Irish true knights, Welsh longbows, and Scots pikes and swordsmen would be joined in. (the Scots were often called "Redshanks".)

Martin and Derrick advanced slowly toward Robby and me. I tried to push the Irish forward but I didn't always get the pips for enough command to do this. (Robby handled the flanks - Irish horse and Byzantines)
When the crunch came, my Bonnachts supported the Kern and pushed through the small bits of forest that were there. The Galloglach were slow to come up, because I didn't push them. I found the French archery - put together in imitation of the English who had cut them up for so long - galling (I know - Ouch!) I had nothing to return fire with, not knowing that the Irish could have bows - an over sight I have corrected with a re-basing project! Martin's Swiss pikes were daunting, knowing their reputation, but that's for later.
     The Byzantine light horse slowed the French advance, but the Cataphractoi only got into the battle later. The "Romans" suffered from the archers, but they held their flank until close to the end, when their morale failed. It was an all-cavalry force and a smaller one whose morale couldn't hold up.
     The Irish horse - Horse Boys, Spears, and irregular knights - faced up to the flower of French chivalry and gave as good as they got for quite a while. When the French knights finally broke through the Irish horse, they faced their nightmare - well armed and supported Bonnachts holding a hill top. 
     My Kern and Bonnachts faced the mixed bows and halbrediers and it was a see-saw affair.  Meanwhile, the Galloglaich went for the archers on the other side of the Swiss and earned their respect. Some faced the column of Swiss pikes (who were heard to chant "Hut-Dich-Baur Ich Komm!” “Look out. Here I come!”)... and threw them back! I was amazed.

Looking from the Irish left - still early in the game. You can see the aggressive
Byzantine light cavalry almost ready to hit the French bows.

Robby faces down Derrick's knights. The Horse Boys are almost spent, but
they're expendable. Kern hold the hill, and the Bonnachts begin their climb.
Soon the Irish knights and spears would mix it up with the French and do
rather well for a while.

From my perspective. Dead centre on the table, the mass of Bonnachts are
almost ready to reach the bows.

Ah, Martin, Martin, Martin. Martin has a thing for documenting casualties.
Especially when they're his opponents. Yes, the Irish took it on the chin,
but there were A LOT OF THEM! The French were so much more expensive.

When we ran out of time, we declared it a winning draw for the French, with the Celts withdrawing at  nightfall. The Irish had been bloodied, but the French were breathing hard and things were tough for their centre. Both Irish flanks had collapsed, more or less - the Byzantines were demoralised. The French centre was in trouble, facing the Galloglaich and a huge
division of Bonnachts. Even the Swiss were impressed. It would have taken a while, but the Galloglaich might have chewed through their formation, especially since it might have been flanked.
     I do enjoy this set of rules and I'm rebasing my Irish. I hope to try the DBR, pike and shot version. I could make a good showing in that period as well. My wife's Cossack/Polish Commonwealth army could be very, very tough. We'll see and I'll report later.
     I'll leave you with some Wargaming wisdom  from the Auld Sod.

Is fheàrr teicheadh math na droch fhuireach.   ["Better a good retreat than a bad stand."]

Brìgh gach cluiche gu dheireadh.  ["The essence of a game is at its end."]
                                                         ...and the essence of the game is fun!

Monday, 11 June 2012

Butternut and Blue

     Last Saturday saw a small group at the Hamilton Road Games Group, probably because of the nice weather and because of the group meeting in the "small" room at the library, 'cause they had "learnin' stuff" in the big room. No matter! We had a great game, using a variant of Iron Ivan's "This Very Ground" and gaming the American Civil War. This game saw the use of many, many new Zouave figures from both Andy and me.
     Andy, Damien, and Martin piloted the Federal side while Bear, Derrick, and I ran the Confederate. It was an interesting scenario: a Federal assault on a forified Rebel position on a low hill. Each player had about 6 'activations' including the 3 cannon on each side. The Union units were 16-20 figures each, including command while the Rebel units were 12 a piece with command.
     Here's a good overview of the table early in the game, taken by Martin with his I-pad or some such thinking appliance:
Here the Union forces are crossing the small stream after marching over the plowed fields. Most of the Rebel forces
are in fortification on the crest of the low hill, although the flanks have advanced to meet the Union advance.
Derrick's troops on the photo's right fought bravely but eventually lost to the advancing Bluecoats. My troops
went into the woods on the photo's extreme left to deny the cover to the Federals... with moderate success.
Martin on the Federal right pushed quickly to the grain fields and the rail fence on the Confederate side, where Derrick resisted the advance as long as he could, but he was eventually driven back. Damian had loads of freshly painted Zouaves and pushed up the center cautiously. He's a young play and isn't used to the idea that one of the best ways to get out of the enemy's fire is to run up fast and punch him in the mouth. Andy advanced quickly, but all the Union commanders discovered that the Rebel side of the creek was the effective range of the rifled musket. It got messy quickly.

Andy's brigade advances to the creek and to the forest.

Derrick's troops move to make sure the grain field is contested.


My Texans moved to the edge of the forest to stop Andy's Bluecoats.

Federal artillery adding support to the assault. Even without Shrapnel or
Spherical Case or lasers, the artillery made things tough for both sides.

Bear's position with artillery is on the left and mine to the right. Undaunted,
the Yankee line advances.

Things are about to get tough for Derrick in the grain fields.

I crossed the creek in loose order and met Andy's troops in loose order.
Eventually I had no one left to retreat with. Lots of hand-to-hand in the woods.

As things went on, Martin chased Derrick's command far back - mainly by destroying units. Damian's batteries took out two of Bear's and the Zouaves penetrated the fortifications. Andy and I struggled in the forest, but the larger size units and shear numbers told the tale. Some amazing things happened... which I'll show in the photos shortly.

The Zouave unit kept on advancing...

... although some were less enthusiastic and hid behind a hill for a while.

The view from the Confederate fortification on the hill crest.

The same place from a more arial vantage point. The Yanks in the
cornfield were hard to target but they had a tough time shooting as well.

The Zouaves finally broke through and the Southerners made an orderly withdrawal.

Here are the promised "Amazing Things." It'll never be a series on the History Channel, but it made for good conversation at the table.
Amazing thing #1 -  One of Andy's units balked and lost its nerve in an open
field. The next time they could move, the went prone. (The blue Bingo chip
represents that.) Prone makes you harder to hit, but you are at a great disadvantage
in melee. This was the first time a unit went prone in our ACW games.

Amazing thing #2 - In our variant of the original rules, if a unit in melee is
outnumbered by 3 to 1, that unit is captured. Here the reminent of the unit
with the Texas flag is marched off to captivity by a drummer and a bluecoat
private. This is the first time the "capture" rule came into play. (I doubt my
Texan wife will ever forgive me.)

Amazing thing #3 - although this photo doesn't show it, officer casualties were
high. If a unit takes casualties from fire or melee, one of the players rolls a d10.
If the result is equal to or less than the number of casualties, the unit's officer
or command figure is a casualty. The game's casualty rate for brass hats?
Just under 50%! Officers were dropping like flies! Seem right for ACW, doesn't it?

The view just before the Zouaves broke through. All in all, a winning draw
for the North. Bear remains inconsolable, y'all.

Our home brewed variant of "This Very Ground" continues to entertain and make a good game. The action is bloody and fast. Officers are in trouble. The addition of sharpshooters (which we left out this time) would usually make it worse. I think we'll see the Blue and Gray again before long.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Our Stoney Creek experience

On Saturday, June 2nd, the whole family went to the reenacting event at Stoney Creek, ON, right in the middle of the city of Hamilton. It was a great setting for a great event. Everybody received a ticket for a complimentary lunch cooked by the Kiwanis Club. Burgers, hot dogs, or sausage... all large and really tasty. Weapons inspection was done at the drill time and everybody who passed received a stamp on their reenactor card. This is a good idea to my way of thinking. The weather was wonderful and we all enjoyed it. Both Katie and Robby served with the 21st as light infantry. This was Katie's first time on the field and she did fine. It was cool enough for her to handle the uniform and everybody looked out for her. Beth set up and kept our camp and was the center of the camp social life. It seems everybody there came to sit with her at some time or other. I had the great honour of... well, you'll see later.

The Battle of Stoney Creek was a set-back for the American Army in 1813. The British were retreating from Fort George and turned to meet the advancing Americans at Stoney Creek before they reached the Burlington Heights. In a night battle, the out-numbered Crown forces - British regulars, Canadian militia, and First Nations warriors - beat the US forces and turned back the invasion. Of course, there's more to it than this, but that brief description will serve.

So to the photos:
The morning drill - the 17th joined the 21st and a few others

Sergeant Mark drills Robby while I make helpful suggestions and Katie smirks.

Katie at drill. I think she generally enjoyed it.        

Lt. Watson takes his place in the column.

The narrator for the afternoon battle - the Retreat from Fort George            

I didn't fire a shot all day! I was the ensign for the afternoon battle. My friend Andy was colour guard. It may seem silly but it was an honour to carry the US National flag in the reenactment.

The American troops advance, chasing the retreating Crown forces.

A good battalion volley!

The 16th skirmishing.
The Crown forces skirmishing as well.

The 21st (with Katie and Robby) and the Kentucky Volunteers advance before breaking into skirmish.

The line troops - the 22nd and the Canadian Volunteers and a unit I can't remember cut loose a volley.

The Crown Colours.

The 16ths fires a volley.

The Crown forces give way.

When the order "Independant fire!" came, Andy and I moved up to the redoubt.

After the battle, the US forces marched back to camp. Colonel Turmbell led the way, followed by Lt. Watson and the 17th/21st. Katie's marching like a veteran now. Behind them are the Kentucky Volunteers in black, the 16th in their green pants, and the Canadian Volunteers in gray.

Robby at drill. The kids like those undress caps.

Yes, I'm out of step but I was still honoured to be the ensign for the day. That flag fought me all the way in the rather windy conditions. The 22nd is right behind us. I was carrying their colour.

The evening battle - which is the attack on the US camp with the Americans unprepared, went well but we took no photos. I hurt my leg earlier, so Andy, Katie, and I "worked the crowd" in uniform - explaining, teaching, and generally enjoying ourselves. The day closed with fireworks

This was a great event and it's on our list for next year.