Monday, 23 February 2015

Swap Meet in the snow

This past weekend at the Hamilton Road Gaming Group, there was no specific game scheduled. Instead we decided to hold one of our infrequent swap meets. People bring in gaming materials - games, books, figures, whatever - and swap them for what others might have. It makes for an interesting day. I brought some figures and a wooden box that I had unsuccessfully put up for sale at last year's Hot Lead bring-and-buy. Everybody brought something.

In the midst of all the swapping, we played a few board games. Andy, Beth, Bear, and I played one of Andy's games, Kill Dr. Lucky. (Jonathan left early due to commitments and Martin was not feeling well.) Think of it as a reverse Clue where you don't solve the crime ("Colonel Mustard - in the library - with the candlestick."), but you do the crime, provided you are alone in the room with Dr. Lucky and no other player can see you. There's more to it, of course, but I found it to be a simple, fun game with a few twists, like the fact that Dr. Lucky moves on his own in a predictable path, but he can also be moved by a player or by a card drawn on a player's turn. The box art calls it a "family game" about murder. Some families I know would just draw out the terror and torture, but that's another story.

Nothing like murder and mayhem to liven up a family gathering, is there?

The board has a number of rooms and Dr. Lucky wanders around all the time.
No wonder the family is in a murderous mood.

Then we played a game of Ticket to Ride. Andy sat out and helped Bear who had never played the game before and Kevin joined in. This is a favourite game of my family and I always find it fun. You complete routes through-out North America (well, the USA mostly) and gain points by taking the routes and completing your tickets. The longer the routed called for on the ticket, the more points. For example, Montreal to Los Angeles is a big point run, while Dallas to New Orleans is less so. There is a European version of the game, but I found that one to be rather convoluted with special rules about routes across the Black Sea and the Baltic. It's also a bit complicated for an English-with-a-smattering-of German speaker since the cities are all noted in their native language. (London is London, but Moscow is rendered as "Moscova" or something similar. C'est la vie!) I think Kevin won, but Beth was a close second. I came in dead last.

A great game developed in Germany. Ah, those playful Germans!
Actually I don't think you can beat the modern German board games. They are the best I've seen.
Good development and excellent graphics and playing pieces.

So where shall we go this weekend?
Beth and I had to leave to take care of some family business and give Beth a chance to rest up a bit. She'd been stage manager for a local theatre group and it tires her out a bit. As we were getting ready to leave, Andy, Kevin, and Bear were breaking out a game called Guillotine, a game based on that rollicking fun time in France, the Revolution and the associated Terror. In the game, you try to make sure you're at the end of the line for the you-know-what by interposing lesser cards in the que or shoving your opponents to the front.

Cake to eat is extra.
As to the swapping, I picked up a rule book called Traveller: The New Era. I'm playing the a20 version of Traveller now, but I'll use this title as inspiration, pictures, and ideas. In my Traveller universe, the Empire has never fallen. So there. Beth picked up a Star Trek engineering guide to the Next Generation Enterprise, NCC-1701D. She's been collecting these books for a while.

Beth and I brought copies of The Game of Life and Jenga as well as a bunch of small table games, which Kevin picked up after he realised that his daughter was having a sleep-over for a few of her friends and new games would be just the thing! Kevin also took some WWI figures and vehicles. Andy took the big green box and was glad to see that the bottom of the box was magnetised and just the thing for his small WWI ships. He also got some magazines from Kevin. Bear was thinking about making a Teutonic Knights army for Hail, Caesar! and I had some figures that would be very workable. Truth to tell, I'd often rather give some figures to a friend than sell them to a stranger... although the money is nice, too.

Some of my swappables on a library table. Lots of 15mm stuff, some 25mm, and a few 1/72nd scale figures.

Off to Kevin's house! He said the pink box would be as big a hit as the games with his daughter.

Kevin, Bear, and I check our trip tickets for Ticket to Ride. (Beth took the photos.)
Meanwhile Andy does a fourth or fifth review of the box of Kevin's books.

Another reason we felt we had to leave a bit early - 5 to 10cm of new snow.
It's been a rough winter here in Southwestern Ontario.
Our temperature has reached -23ºC with a wind-chill factor of -33ºC at times.
(That's -9ºF and - 27ºF if you prefer Fahrenheit)

Next week should be a fleet action and Andy is secretively setting up the scenario. He's been muttering something about a Kraken or Godzilla, but who knows?

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Meanwhile, in Acre... or a whiff of Valentine's Day

Ah, Napoleonics! My ultimate favourite gaming period! At the Hamilton Road Gaming Group, we got together on Saturday to play a Napoleonic game using Shako II rules by Arty Conliffe. I enjoy these games and I'm a little torn between Shako and Black Powder for the period. However using Black Powder exclusively would require rebasing. Well, that alone makes the decision!!

Our game was a little different. Martin has Marshal Lefebvre's corps based for Shako... since that's Martin's family name as well. My wife, Beth, can field Eugene's Italians with some Rheinbund auxiliaries. Andy is working on a batch of French. Me? Well, I can pick from Austrians (my favourite), Swedes, and British. I have American who can double as either Belgians or Portuguese in a pinch. I'm working on French, Prussians, and Russians, but none of those can stand alone yet.
And I have Ottoman Turks... lots of 'em... which met the French/Italians on the table Saturday.

Beth, Martin, and Brian ran the Franco-Italian army while the Grand Vizir Andy, Bear Pasha, and myself fielded the Turks. Andy and I decided early on that our strategy would be simple and un-subtle: We'd charge everything, hell-bent-for-leather - a proper Ottoman strategy, I felt. We fielded 4 massive divisions (as per the Ottoman indosyncratic rule in Shako II) while the Franco-Italian Imperials had about 8+ divisions. In Shako II, each "division" rolls for initiative and then moves and accoding to it's initiative number.
The game was fun. The table was pretty flat and had no forests and just a few hills with two village areas. Since this was supposed to be Syria or somewhere there-abouts, this seemed right.

A brigade of my wife's Italians (NOT Neapolitans - perish the thought!)
She's done the bulk of the painting of these guys herself. I count myself lucky.
This is how SHE wanted to spend Valentine's day!

Turkish cavalry - Djellis, provincial Sipihis, and Mamluks (the four units closest to the camera)
Minifigs, Essex, and Old Glory, mixed together in some units.
The ground cloth was actually a sandy tan although it doesn't show up that way in the photos

The centre of the Franco-Italian expeditionary force with Italian cavalry (Gendarmes, dragoons, Gendarmes d'elite and cacciatori a cavallo/light horse) plus Italian and French infantry.

My division's infantry and cavalry.
Greek Martalos skirmishers followed by Nizam-i-Cedit regulars (with bayonets no less!)
Provincial Sipihis with Yoruks and Djellis beyond. 
Vizir Andy and I ran our cavalry forward, all fast and furious. Bear Pasha demonstrated toward the small settlement which was held by Brian and a brigade of dismounted dragoons. Artillery on both sides first jockeyed for position then pounded the other side. Andy had two heavy gun and I had two medium foot guns, so we formed a grand battery of sorts atop the hill that lay between our divisions. I also had a "reserve" on the far left flank made up of Mamluks, Djellis, and provincial Sipihis. I didn't use these guys as a reserve but galloped toward Beth's one Italian brigade which promptly formed squares. Stupidly, I charged them anyway with the Mamluks and lost two regiments with a third thrown back. It seemed the Ottoman thing to do.

Italian Gardes d'Honour

Here they come! A rather energetic photo of the charge of the Sipihis.

Mamluks and Djellis

Prince Eugene watches the ebb and flow of the battle. With so much cavalry, it was fast moving.
The skirmishers in front of him evaded the cavalry charge of some scumy Yoruks who came apart quickly before Italian regulars.

A different angle of the same situation.
My cavalry splashed against Beth's and Martin's infantry and either vaporized or fell back for the most part. It was different for Andy. His Shillitar horse guards - armoured lancers with guard morale - charged two French cuirassier regiments and threw them back. Andy also had some better quality "Sipihis of the Porte", so his cavalry made a great hole in the Allied line between Martin and Brian. Some of Bear's cavalry performed equally well, throwing back the Polish Lancers of the Guard. There's a medal or a unit citation in there for someone!

As the Melee continues, the Italian Gardes d'Honour turn the flank of some sipihis to turn them into cottage cheese.

Meanwhile my "Reserve" column of Djellis and provincial sipihis has turned the corner and hit a horse battery in the flank. More cottage cheese ensued.
A view of Vizir Andy cavalry after they had sent the cuirassiers packing. On the left, Shillitars in the lead, two regiments of Mamluks, and another Shillitar outfit. Their facing Westphalian Hussars who's breeches need changing.
On the right, Yoruks, Sipihis of the Porte, and Djillis facing the Poles and some French Hussars.
The red chips signify that the cavalry is "blown" and needs to be recalled to reorganize.
Fighting "blown" is a disadvantage.

Brian's dismounted dragoons hold the village while Vizir Andy's and Bear Pasha's cavalry swirl around them.
The house are Flames of War buildings from Martin's collection.
The red/white/black stick is musketry measuring stick. Shako II is delightfully "old school" in some ways.

Behind Greek skrimishers, the Nizam-i-Cedit and some provincial Sekhans shake out into line. We had to call the game because of a time crunch before they got into action.
Sekhans were infantry of the private armies of the local governors or Pashas. Some were as good as European regular troops, some were sadistic bandits, some were worthless. They were quite often better than the Janissaries.
When the time bell rang (as it were; we don't really have a time bell. Beth had to get home since she is the stage manager of a local theatre production. The weather was iffy and "white-outs" were possible, so we had to watch our time.), Kevin who was watching and was an "uninterested" party gave the game to the Franco-Italians. My "reserve" division was broken but Andy and Bear had slapped around Martin's cavalry and had driven deep into the Franco-Italian line. Another turn or two, the Ottoman infantry would've come into play. The Turks outnumbered the Franco-Italians, but the opposite was true when it came to quality. Most of the Turk infantry and about half of the cavalry was second rate at best. Had we had time for another turn or two, things might have been different. But Kevin rightly declared it a marginal victory for Napoleon and company, from the way things stood at the time of cerfew.

It felt SO good to put Napoleonics on the table again. I didn't expect the Ottomans to win but they can make the enemy sweat and they're colourful as all get out. I think I can put together more British for a Penninsular campaign game or maybe a 100 Days game. I'd like to get the Austrians out of their boxes as well. This is still my favourite gaming period. As usual, we had some "I-don't-remember-the-rules-because-we-play-them-so-rarely" problems but nothing we couldn't iron out. 
Trouble is... I want to play Napoleonics again! And soon!

Where my charge met the Italian troops in column and where the Gardes d'Honour flanked and destroyed some of my cavalry.

The right hand colum of my "reserve" after facing the horse gun but before they foolishly threw themselves at Italian dragoons and Gendarmes d'elite. Mostly Djellis and provincial Sipihis.

Beth's Italian infantry - both line and light - advancing. She chose them because they're colourful and of as good a quality as almost any other country. They're as good as the French in the main. The Italian Guard is rated "elite" rather than "guard" but that's not shabby. Their cavalry is few in number but as good as most of the French horse. Italian infantry and artillery is as good as the French line.

See those cavalry on the hill in the centre of the photo? That's all that's left of my right hand reserve column.
Actually they're all destroyed; what you see there are Italian dragoons and Gendarmes d'elite. Quality will tell.
Beth's infantry brigade remains in square while my regulars and provincials move into lines.
The Turkish "grand battery" is on the hill in the middle ground.

Martin, Brian, Kevin, Bear, and Andy look the field over as Kevin makes his opinion/judgement on the thing.

The cavalry battle got more and more confusing... and more and more fun!

The last of my Mamluks keep a wary eye on the Italian squares. My attack orders lean on the division commander's stand off to the right.

When ever the Italian troops are fielded, Beth adds Dr. Lurray's Flying Ambulance. She's really likes the model and the person it's based on. Since she was once a petty officer in the US Navy hospital corps, it seems appropriate. So she has the Baron, the ambulance, and a stretcher team. We call such colourful stuff "table clutter" since it has no bearing on the game itself, but looks good.

The plan for next week is a "Swap Meet" and some board games. Beth and I will bring things like Carcassone, Ticket to Ride, and Cheating Moth. I also heard Guillotine mentioned. We'll see what games come in and what goodies come to be swapped.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

The Devil To Pay... and a much needed revival!

Last week I missed the gaming at the Hamilton Road Games Group due to the remnants of the "flu." I had taken the flu shot but it appears that the vaccine was unable to do the job, because the wrong strain of the flu showed up! Such is life!

This week, I was able to be there. Martin, Kevin, Derrik, Bear, and Brian all showed up and a friend of Bear's stopped by for a time. Andy was "under the weather" and couldn't make it. We played our American Civil War variant of Iron Ivan's This Very Ground. Andy has more figures for this period than I do and has a large green ground cloth. Since I didn't know he was not coming, we scrounged up a green PVC sheet that Kevin had squirrelled away at the library for just such a situation. Martin and Bear brought their ACW figures which, added to mine, made a respectable force for each side.
We decided to do a small version of the first day at Gettysburg with Buford's dismounted Federal cavalry attempting to hold off the Confederate advance down the Chambersburg Pike. Derrik and Martin pushed Federal lead while Kevin and Bear captained the Confederate side. (No surprise there for Bear.) I served as referee and Brian kibitzed or served as war correspondent for Harper's Weekly.
The Federal cavalry (2 units of 15 troopers each with a cannon in support) set up to start the game. Each full turn, the Federals rolled for reinforcements. (a 7+ on a d10 was what was needed.) All of the Confederates were on the board at the start. 

Martin's company of dismounted Union cavalry

Derrik's company with the cannon and the colonel commanding

A ground level view of Martin's horse soldiers

Two of the Rebel artillery pieces

Kevin's troops with the Texas state flag.
Yes, the gun crew in the foreground is in Federal uniform.
Let's call it a "loan."

Some of Bear's force - some rather idiosyncratic Rebs here.

Bear wanted a different outfit so I painted these up as a Virginia company.

The Stonewall Brigade? Why not?
The Rebs advanced quickly - at a dead run, actually - and the dismounted cavalry, armed with carbines and revolvers could do very little to slow them up since their weapons were very short ranged. The Union artillery piece did some damage but the crew took fire from on of Kevin's companies, lost a man, failed morale and fell back to the cover of the backside of the small hill the gun was set on. I remember reminding Derrik and Martin that standing on the top of the hill made them the proverbial sitting ducks. They took my advice and dropped back to the hidden side of the crest.

May as well take cover while you can!

Some of Kevin's troops in the railroad cut which served as heavy cover
since it actually is a locomotive-sized trench.

The original gun in support of the cavalry in their fall-back position.

Derrik's dismounted cavalry behind the crest of the hill with a small wood to their left.
(I'm rather embarrassed to say that I forgot all my trees.)
One of the most interesting moves of the game came shortly after all this. (More will be said about this soon, but the incident needs to be reported BEFORE any judgement is given.) One of Bear's companies moved up to the crest of the hill and faced Martin's dismounted cavalry. Martin declared that he was going to fire a volley at the Rebs... with his pistols (rate of fire = 2 per turn) As referee, I allowed the volley but only one shot for each; I felt that the two shots would be devastating. The cap-and-ball pistol does have a rate of fire of twice per turn, with a rather short range and a reduced hitting power which means it's harder to wound a figure that's been hit. (Example: an infantry man with a rifled musket, like a Springfield or and Enfield, must roll a 5 or less to hit and wounds on an 8 or less on a d10. A pistol hits on a 5 or less but wounds on a 6 or less.)
Kevin proclaimed that Martin has broken the game and we all roared with laughter. I gave Martin a much-deserved award... which I'll say more about later. It made for a wild few minutes.
By this time, the union had received reinforcements - over three turns, two infantry companies and a cannon had arrived. One company reinforced Derrik's troops and hunkered down behind the hill along-side of the cavalry. The other company, from the 42nd Pennsylvania Reserves - the "Bucktails"- came up fast to help Martin and took up a position in the small woods on the hill that had been Martin's original set-up. The reserve cannon set up on the edge of the board and began to bombard Kevin's troop in the railroad cut.
Bear charged the Bucktails with his Virginians and a serious and desperate hand-to-hand battle started in the woods.

Martin's troopers facing the Southern onslaught just before hitting the back-slope. 

Bear's right flank unit is about to get the Remington treatment from the cavalry.

The Virginians advance toward the Bucktails.

More of Bear's troops with their colonel move toward the cavalry held hill.

Well, the Bucktails got the worst part of the melee - the Pennsylvania boys were wiped out!
Kevin's cannons actually took out the two Union guns on the board while his troops in the railroad cut pinned down both the cavalry and their reinforcement infantry company. Bear dispatched a half-company and set it under the command of a steady NCO to take the first Union gun on the small hillock. The remaining crewman and the Federal colonel retreated to a safe distance.

The Rebels capture the Union gun and make faces at the gunner and the colonel.

The rest of Bear's right flank and centre companies slug it out with the cavalry.

Kevin's companies hold the railroad cut.

A close-up of Bear's colours.

The colonel and his adjutant... who actually is holding a Bible.
Isn't there a line in a movie: "We Southerners like our men polite, religious, and a little crazy."
Finally in the last turn, after two fruitless rolls to bring in reinforcements, Martin and Derrik received a large boost with the 146th New York, a Zouave unit, arriving. They marched on, volleyed, and eviscerated one of Bear's companies. Since we had reached curfew (which I imposed since I had a wedding anniversary dinner planned with my wife. She still puts up with me nicely after 27 years!), we declared the game a "winning draw" for the Confederate side. Kevin had tied up Derrik's troops for the entire game while they were well protected in the railroad cut. Bear aggressively attacked Martin's positions, but paid the price, especially when the 146th arrived. Had the Zouaves not come on the board, the result would have been more of a real Confederate victory.

The 146th New York Volunteer Infantry, just after the volley.
The four blue bingo chips represent the smoke and the necessity of reloading.

The Virginians watch the Zouaves' advance from their hill vantage point,
This game allowed us to iron out some small wrinkles in the rule variant we play. It also helped us stay familiar with the flow of the Iron Ivan rules;.

Now, the most important part of the day. With Martin's "pistol volley" (something more appropriate for Thirty Years War trotting cavalry. Can you spell "caracole", Martin?), he was immediately inducted into the ranks of the holders of the coveted "Golden Mentula Mustalae" award. In my previous wargames group, we often awarded this geegaw to the player who pulled the most overtly-legal-but-of-dubious-morality-and-ethics move of the game. A small statue/figure of a badger in Highland kit (in either gold or silver depending on the seriousness/originality of the move) was awarded to that player. It is a high honour, accompanied with gales of laughter, awarded especially to the guy who can take a joke.

Imagine this in gold or silver.

So as of 7 February 2015, Martin is the FIRST (but surely not the last) Canadian recipient of the revived
What does the Latin gobbledygook mean, I hear you say.  Well, "mustala" is the Latin word for ferret, marten, or... weasel. "Mentula" is an old Latin profanity for male genitalia.

"Mentula Mustalae" could be translated roughly as...
Oh, dare I write it?
... "weasel dick."

Luckily Martin can take a joke better than many.

Our plan for next week is Napoleonics! We're considering French vs. Ottoman Turks using the Shako rules. Should be quite a mess.