Monday, September 1, 2014

New Marshes and "Crucible of War"

The new marsh terrain is done, well in advance of Recruits. I built it in two sections, designed to sit on top of any existing terrain surface. Here are some more photos of the marshes on two of my 12" grass squares with a couple of Jenkins 54mm Indians for scale reference. 

They should work great for 28mm, too, for HOTTs or DBA or Saga or whatever.

Next up, I just finished reading "Crucible of War: The Seven Years' War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754-1766"  by Fred Anderson and I can't recommend it too highly. It was published in 2000 so is not a new book, but it took a while to get to it as I was a bit intimidated by its size: 746 pages plus nearly a hundred pages of notes. I learned a lot about the years following the war, leading up to the Revolution. . . and that is part of the premise of the book. . . that the Revolution was not inevitable then, or even desired.

Here's a little taste from the Introduction:

The most important event to occur in eighteenth-century North America, the Seven Years' War (or as the colonists called it, the French and Indian War) figures in most Americans' consciousness of the past as a kind of hazy backdrop to the Revolution. As citizens of a nation created by an act of collective secession from the British Empire, we Americans have always tended to take our point of reference the thirteen rebelling colonies, not the empire as a whole - or the North American Continent. This perspective has generally limited our ability to see the continuities between our pre-Revolutionary past and the rest of our history. Coming to grips with the Seven Years' War as an event that decisively shaped American history, as well as the histories of Europe and the Atlantic world in general, may therefore help us begin to understand the colonial period as something more than a quaint mezzotint prelude to our national history. For indeed, if viewed not from the perspective of Boston or Philadelphia, but from Montreal or Vincennes, St. Augustine or Havana, Paris or Madrid - or for that matter, Calcutta or Berlin - the Seven Years' War was far more significant than the War of American Independence.

Unlike every prior eighteenth-century European Conflict, the Seven Years' War ended in the decisive defeat of one belligerent and a dramatic rearrangement of the balance of power, in Europe and North America alike. In destroying the North American empire of France, the war created a desire for revenge that would drive French foreign policy, and thereby shape European affairs, for two decades. At the same time, the scope of Britain's victory enlarged its American domains to a size that would have been difficult for any European metropolis to control, even under the best of circumstances, and the war created circumstances of the least favorable sort for Whitehall. Without the Seven Years' War, American independence would surely have been long delayed, and achieved (if at all) without a war of national liberation. Given such an interruption in the chain of causation, it would be difficult to imagine the French Revolution occuring as it did, when it did - or for that matter, the Wars of Napoleon, Latin America's first independence movements, the transcontinental juggernaut that Americans call "westward expansion," and the hegemony of English-derived institutions and the English language north of the Rio Grande. Why then, have the Americans seen the
Seven Years' War as little more than a footnote?

Interested enough to read the book? Hope so.

See ya!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

F&IW Scenario for Recruits

The scenario for Recruits next month is loaded and primed ("locked and loaded" didn't sound appropriate for the black powder period). I have a new unit of Indians to varnish and some new marsh terrain to finish, but otherwise the preparation is done.

The scenario is loosely based on the Battle of Lake George and the preceding "Bloody Morning Scout." I used both the latest Osprey Campaign "Fort William Henry 1755-57" and the eponymous scenario in Worthington's excellent boardgame "Clash for a Continent" to guide terrain set-up and orders of battle. I replaced a unit of New York militia with British regulars because I ran out of militia, but otherwise the troops are representative.

The scenario as partially described in "Clash:"

As part of the British strategy of 1755, General William Johnson was to attack Crown Point on the banks of Lake Champlain. The French were well aware of these movements, having captured plans describing the campaign after General Braddock's devastating defeat on the Monongahela River. To counter the British, Baron Dieskau headed south with a mixed force of French regulars, Canadian militia and Indian allies, approximately 3,500 men in total.

Johnson had a force of approximately 3,000 New England militia and a small group of allied Mohawk Indians with which to capture Crown Point. As he neared the objective, he established a fortified camp with the main body of his troops. Meanwhile, Dieskau had moved his men to within striking distance and prepared to ambush Johnson at his first opportunity. Johnson obliged by sending a 500-man detachment, accompanied by the Mohawks, to "find the French." This decision prompted the Mohawk leader, Johnson's friend Thayonaguin, to comment if the men in the detachment "were to be killed, they were too many; if they are to fight, they are too few."

The map above shows the situation as the detachment leaves the fortified camp and approaches the French ambush. . . you can just about feel the French and Indians lurking in the woods, can't you.

See ya . . . at Recruits next month, maybe?

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Return of the Hordes of the Things

The title not only refers to the recent republication of what, in my sorta humble opinion, is one of the great sets of wargames rules ever published, but also to my official "return" to playing Hordes of the Things (HOTTs) after nearly five years.  

I can't believe it's been so long.

Bruce and I arranged to meet last Saturday to play some HOTTs and discuss some local promotion. We invited others to join the game and discussion, but picked a beautifully mild summer weekend in Minnesota, which I reckon led to activities other than HOTTs. And the venue we chose was hospitable and habitable, but not so centrally-located.

So it was just Bruce and me. After getting re-acquainted and kicking around some plans for future games, we got down to the game at hand. Feeling a little rusty, we decided to dispense with terrain (not even a board!) and focus on the basics. We still had to look things up!

Here's a photo of the game a few turns in that mostly shows our 24 point armies.

Bruce brought his Sea Kings Armored Division:
Rider General @ 2 points
4 Riders @ 2 points each
Hero @ 4 points
2 Shooters @ 2 points each
2 Airboats @ 3 points each

Think Renaissance (note the Da Vinci airscrews) Byzantines. . . 

I brought the Undead:
Magician General @ 4 points
8 Hordes @ 1 point each
Behemoth @ 4 points
3 Knights @ 2 points each
Flyer @ 2 points 

The Hordes and Behemoth trundle forward while the Sea Kings dance. . .

And danced some more. . .

Reviewing the rules after the game, I realized this maneuver, as a group move in column, is illegal (not intentionally so!) because at the end of the bound not all elements in the group are in edge and corner contact and facing in the same direction. This is what happens when you play different rules over the years and try to keep them all straight. . .

First blood went to the Undead. I maneuvered the Flyer to a position behind one of the Airboats and then used the Magician to bespell it, forcing a recoil that it couldn't complete because of the Flyer, which eliminated the Airboat. The other Airboat then promptly turned on the Flyer and doubled it, eliminating it in turn.

Then I did it again. It referring to my previous post wherein I lost my army's General in single combat. After a second failed bespelling attempt on the remaining Airboat, the Airboat moved into contact with my Magician General.

The Airboat has a combat factor of 5 and rolled a 5 for a final score of 10.
The Magician General has a combat factor of 4 and rolled a 1 for a final score of 5.
The Airboat doubled the Magician General, which eliminates the Magician.

Game over. Sea Kings win. We shook hands and called it a day.

And on the drive home I realized I DID IT AGAIN. I missed a rule, in literally the same situation as the last post. In this case I didn't add the +1 tactical factor to the Magician's score for being a General. The final score now a 6 instead of 5, it is no longer doubled by 10, so is not eliminated. The result should have been a recoil. Oh well, the moral this post is the same as last: Wargamer, know thy rules.

Here's hoping there's more HOTTs for us in the not-too-distant future. 

See ya!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Undead Mayhem

Last week I joined the Basement Generals for some Mayhem. The Baron knows I love me some HOTTs. He had me check out Mayhem because he thought I might appreciate some of its similarities to HOTTs. He was right. I found Mayhem similar to HOTTs in that:
    • Both rule sets are for gaming "Mass Fantasy Battles;"
    • Elements/Units are defined by battlefield behavior and tactical use;
    • Armies are built using points;
    • In the basic game armies and battlefields are small, but can be scaled up as desired;
    • Players build their armies within basic parameters - army lists are not prescribed;
    • Pips/Command Points are the basic command mechanism 
    • Pips/Command Points are the product of a die roll at the start of the turn;
    • Elements/Units conform/square up when they contact each other for combat;
    • Combat utilizes opposed die rolls with modifiers;
    • Strongholds (military architecture) are represented simply and abstractly;
      And there are others . . .

Mayhem differs from HOTTs in two significant (to me) ways. 

The first is the way that Command Points (CPs) in Mayhem are utilized as compared to Player Initiative Points (Pips) in HOTTs

Pips in HOTTs are used to move singe elements and groups, and to cast magic (individual spells are not used - magic is analogous to long-range indirect artillery fire). The turn sequence is easy but fixed: Player A moves, both players shoot, then both players resolve melee combat; then Player B moves, etc. Shooting and combat is automatic if within range or if in contact respectively. 

In Mayhem, there is no fixed turn sequence. During Player A's turn, CPs are used to move, shoot and melee with Units, in any order the player chooses. Units can even take multiple actions using the Overdrive mechanism, with an added CP cost, as long as the Player can pay the cost in CPs. Then it's Player B's turn. So the battlefield is more chaotic and unpredictable. . .

It's as if HOTTs and Piquet had a lovechild and named it Mayhem. The second point of difference continues the Piquet reference.  

HOTTs uses a single combat strength rating - albeit the number for distant combat (shooting) can be different than for close combat - plus the roll of a D6 to determine the combat results of a particular element. For example all "Spear" elements have the same rating, regardless of race, differences in armament or training. Per the Introduction in HOTTs 2.1: "We start from the assumptions that spell selection must not be a more important skill than generalship, that the results of magic or command decisions can be shown rather than the minutia of communication or spell casting, and that differences between troops of the same general class are relatively unimportant." 

I COMPLETELY buy into the HOTTs representation of magic use. The idea of spell lists and tracking magical strengths leaves me cold. Utterly cold. I can also rationalize the statement about  differences between troops of the same general class being relatively unimportant in that it makes for an elegantly less complex game, and the chances are high that the positives and the negatives of the different traits might actually balance out. Oh, then the opposed die roll creates more randomness! However, I understand that some players may want to actually "see" the differences in strength, morale, training, armor, or magical ability between their, say, Elven "Spears" and their Orcish counterparts.

This is where Mayhem adds a layer of granularity to the basic HOTTs model. With a more extensive point system, Mayhem models a unit using three basic qualities: Movement, Combat Quality and Ballisitic Armor Rating PLUS Traits, Abilities and Gear (TAG). LIke Piquet, Mayhem uses different die types - 4-sided up to 20-sided - instead of a simple numeric value to represent these qualities. The better the die-type, and in this game a lower number is almost always better than a high number in opposed rolls, the more it costs. Mayhem calls this the Versus system, and adds an innovative twist: whenever a player is called upon to make a die-roll, he must choose Danger or Default. The Default value of a die is half it's value, so the Default of a D10 is 5. Mayhem calls this "playing it safe." Danger is just rolling the die! So every die roll comes with this risk versus reward decision. Once you get the hang of it, it's kinda fun.

There are other differences and more opportunities to "add chrome" to your armies, and until we actually put armies on the table, my Undead, some of The Baron's Orcs and WOR humans and another of The Generals' Orcs, not all of the above was so apparent.

Here are a few shots from the game, taken with my phone in the midst of trying to "learn while we played" . . .

And here's a parting shot of the giant hole left in the Undead line when the Commanding General on his Zombie Dragon "died" (do Undead die?) to a combat result of mutual destruction to some nasty human pikes. . . only to be informed later the General had the "Damage" trait so hadn't actually died, after all! 

One of the reasons I don't generally like games that employ separate traits is that they are hard to remember! My bad for not checking the roster.

So do I like Mayhem? Yup. Even more after re-reading the rules post-game. We did some things wrong (of course) and some things are clearer now (the difference between Beat Back and Drive Back, for example).

Am I prepared to replace HOTTs with Mayhem? Not so fast there, my warm-blooded friend. More plays are needed, and loyalties die hard around here. . . you may still have to pry HOTTs out of my cold, UNdead fingers. . .

See ya!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Wait for it. . .

Yup. The Forest Edge Strips are done! Over twenty-four feet of woodsy goodness completed.

What's next? I plan to make some "rough" wooded sections with boulders and cliffs. Then I have some more Jenkins figures to paint and varnish.

And there's some local talk about organizing some HOTTs games. . . that will most likely inspire some new armies.

See ya!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Happy Father's Day, Dad!

My dad probably won't see this post, but don't worry, I wished him a Happy Father's Day personally. While thinking about my father today, it occurred to me that if it wasn't for him, this blog wouldn't exist. No, not for the obvious reason - that without Dad, there would be no me - but because he introduced me to wargaming. Indirectly.

When I was a kid in the 60's and 70's, my father built models; classic cars at first and then WW2 aircraft. So I built models, too, and we built some together. In the 70's Dad began collecting WW2 "militaria," mostly Luftwaffe medals, badges and uniforms. So I got the WW2 bug, and then became interested in military history, in general. He didn't collect for long, but he met some interesting people while collecting, and I got to meet some of them, too.

One of these interesting people, seeing my wide-eyed interest in WW2, GAVE me 4 Avalon Hill boardgames.

I couldn't get into D-Day, but I played the others over and over well into my high school years. And the rest, as they say, is history. 

Thanks, Dad!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Not Leapster. . . Liebster!

"All" my friends have a Liebster Award . . . now I do, too! Thank you, Sean, for the nomination, here. Sean said I could just accept the award and not play by the rules, but of course, I'll play.

The rules are:
  • Link back to the blog that nominated you
  • Nominate 11 (or pick a number) other blogs with 200 or less followers
  • Answer a couple (or more) questions
So. . .

Link back to Sean: check.

Nominate other blogs with 200 or less followers: check. The first couple are good guys I've met in the "Analog World:"

Curio Clashes 
Essjam's World

Some other blogs I enjoy (and I have no idea if they've been "Liebstered" already): 

Lead Gardens - Big Toys and Hexes, not always at the same time
Here's No Great Matter - Ancients - Command and Colors: Ancients and Lost Battles, two games I like - plus other goodies
Chicago Skirmish Wargames - Inspiration while I contemplate skirmish gaming (and I lived outside of Chicago for a while as a kid)
Iron Mammoth's Studio - LOVE the model-making

And on to the questions. . . and check.

Why did you start blogging?

My blog is two years old now. I realized I wasn't gaming very much due to a geographical move and busy new job, but was still thinking - and building - about playing games. Seemed like a good way to "feel" involved in the "community" until I actually "went analog" again. Or maybe it just feeds my vanity : )

If you could change one thing about the wargaming hobby, what would it be?

There's too much choice - scales, periods, rules, models! Okay, so I wouldn't actually change this, but I have noted (along with others) that this golden age of choice has led to fragmentation within the hobby as we all decide which rules to play for which period, and then which scale of model we like. It's hard to get semi-like-minded individuals to agree on everything. And the abundance of choice also leads to decision paralysis as we decide - or don't decide - on the combination of factors that get us playing what we want to play - and then hope something shiny doesn't appear to dissuade us half-way down our chosen path. Or maybe it's just me. . .

What is best in life?

Love. It's that simple.

Fame or Fortune?

Fame has too big a down side. I think I could live with Fortune's downside.

What miniatures are you most proud of having painted?

My HOTT Undead Upgrades

How do you deal with burnout?

I don't. I don't burn out. Real life always interrupts before I approach burnout.

Why is a Raven like a writing desk?

This question became a learning opportunity as I couldn't figure it out. . . so Google took me to Wikipedia where I learned that Lewis Carroll first posed the question in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Carroll later admitted that the riddle had no intended answer when originally invented. So, we'll move on. . .

Star Wars or Star Trek?

Star Trek. I'll hazard no explanation.

If you could only buy from one miniature company from now on, which would it be?

For 15mm, Xyston. For 54mm, John Jenkins. For 28mm, Foundry, if I'm forced to choose, but this is where my rant on choice earlier starts to break down. . .

What is your favorite takeaway (take-out)?

Literally, I think the only two places that I have gotten take-out from in the last several months has been Subway and Five Guys' burgers. I'm losing my taste for fast food.

What do you like most (or least) about blogging?

I like the interaction with people. I hope I get an opportunity to meet some of these on-line characters someday : )

See ya!