Sunday, February 7, 2016

Lion Rampant?

Yup. And Dragon Rampant, too. Do I like em? Yup. Wanna know why? Because they remind me of DBA/HOTT. A lot. And you know coming from me that's high praise.

So how are they similar? Both games primary design goal was for a simple, fast game. DBA 3.0, in its introduction, says, "Our original intent was to provide the simplest possible set of wargames rules that retain the feel and generalship requirements of ancient or medieval battle." Similarly, Lion Rampant states,"Keep the rules simple, streamlined and abstracted where appropriate: don't make players continually thumb through the rulebook. Quick play and minimal record-keeping to allow multiple games in one session." DBA 3.0 concurs: "A game usually lasts less than an hour, so that a 6 round convention competition can be completed in one day. . ."

Significantly for me, their key similarity is the way the combatants are defined. As DBA 3.0 describes: "Wargamers pay more attention to weaponry than did ancient commanders. Surviving ancient manuals lump all foot skirmishers as psiloi whether armed with javelins, sling or bow, defining them by function rather than armament. We have applied the same principle throughout with no apparent loss of overall realism. Morale and training distinctions have also been discarded as linked with function. Thus, most knights are rash, all warbands are fierce but brittle, all skirmishers are timid."

Lion Rampant takes a similar approach: "Embrace medieval caricatures: knights should be headstrong, spearmen resolute, tribesmen fierce, and light cavalry agile. Performance is abstracted: make sure units 'feel' right." Unlike DBARampant embraces unit training upgrades and downgrades, providing some differentiation between "green" and "veteran" units. Again unlike DBA, Rampant uses a point system to build equivalent opposing forces.

Here's a spreadsheet I built showing how the two game systems classify similar troop types in both "historical" and "fantastical" manner. . . I know.

Both games use about the same number of models to represent an "army;" about fifty figures, give or take a few, depending on the army. This permits one to collect a variety of different armies when one has budget or time constraints. Aesthetically, this works in Lion Rampant's favor, as it is designed to represent skirmishes, as opposed to DBA's focus on classic field battles. Another nod to the skirmish level of Rampant is the use of scenarios, which provides some variation from the classic "line 'em up and go at it" nature inherent to larger battles. Models are based individually in Rampant, instead of on "elements" of 2 or more representing larger units in DBA, and this also appeals to the "skirmish aesthetic" because terrain can be more complex and interesting when you don't have to accommodate large bases. I hope it's become apparent that building convincing terrain has become a big part of the hobby for me. 

HOTT (the fantasy companion of DBA) has been criticized (not by me) for an overly simplistic representation of magic, and if that is your assessment, you may like Dragon Rampant's simple but more detailed spell system.

Rampant uses an activation system that has become fairly common today; an activation roll on one or more dice, but gives it a nice nuance by rating each type of unit for movement, shooting, charging and morale, neatly giving each type (knights, spearmen, etc.) a personality and definite battlefield use.

What does all this mean? I am definitely not leaving DBA 3.0 for Ancients "army-scale" gaming, and may use 15mm to get more of that "massed army" feel, but for my Dark Age/Fantasy gaming I am seriously considering moving toward the Rampant family of rules and individual basing, and using some of my F&IW terrain in dual service. Individual bases also have the added advantage of permitting other skirmish rules to be played, too, should I get the opportunity.

And, because someone is bound to ask, "How does Dragon Rampant compare to Saga?" here is my take. I understand why the battleboard system, with special boards and dice for each Dark Age faction, is appealing to gamers of the period. In most wargames rules, one Dark Age warrior fights much like another, so the battleboards and faction-specific rules of Saga give each warband a unique personality. But for me, the system intrudes upon the game "experience;" I am too conscious of the game and its mechanics and less involved with the "narrative" unfolding. 

So we'll see if this goes anywhere. I am deep into the Great 54mm Basing Upgrade still. . .

See ya!


Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Great 54mm Basing Upgrade Goes On. . .

Some more bases completed; General Montcalm and a Native ally shown above. Following are some British and Colonial Officers, British Regulars of the 44th Regiment, French Colonial Marine Regulars, and some veteran French Marines in campaign dress.

Still lots more bases to do, but next up, Cluck Amok considers Lion Rampant and it's growing number of variants.

See ya!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

What Did You Do Back in the Holidays, Grandpa?

Hello, 2016! Happy New Year. And no, you'll get no New Year's resolutions from me. I'm back to exercising regularly (post-shoulder surgery) and I eat better now than in any earlier time in my life, so no major changes needed there. Sure, I'd love to be more prolific in my hobby life, but I'll be damned if I'll trot out a list of all the game projects I want to complete this year, only to have to lament at the the end of the year how little I actually accomplished. My leisure time is too limited for that kind of pressure, and my Butterfly Brain fights me every step of the way.

That said, I did have a few days off work (mostly) between Christmas and New Year so decided to attack the Great 54mm Basing Upgrade by starting with a few troops appropriate for skirmish-sized games. Some Anglo civilians are shown above and below are some Coureur, Native villagers, Virginia Provincials and some assorted "leaders;" Provincial, Native and French Marines.

I have a few more units on deck: some British and French Regulars and some mounted leaders. The filler, texture and paint is on the bases - they just need the final "moss, grass and leaves" step.

Then I watched Star Trek Into Darkness and inspired the Butterfly Brain. I finished off the week with a little work on a Klingon Bird-of-Prey to go with the little USS Reliant I built last year for my 1/2500 scale Star Trek: Attack Wing project. The base green and "shadowing" is complete and ready for the application of various hand-painted greens to simulate panels of  ablative armor (THAT will be fun).

 See ya! Go Chiefs and Go Vikes!

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Modern MicroArmor?

Here's something you may never see again on this blog - Cold War action! Or in this case Cold War gone hot. I was invited to join a game of Challenger 2000 (I think) at our local Recon gaming event. 

I was on the Russian team, tasked with clearing the Americans from the urban area, somewhere in Europe, pictured above. American armor and infantry held the urban center, with armored support in the wooded areas on both sides of the town. While my team mates provided fire support on the American armor on the flanks, I was tasked with rushing two companies of Soviet infantry in BMPs into the town from the cover of some woods and a white phosphorous smoke screen. "Expect some casualties," I was told.

 My small armored company of T-90s suppressed the American tanks in the woods initially but were soon destroyed in turn. My infantry then dismounted behind the smokescreen and headed toward the town on foot, with the BMPs racing ahead to try to neutralize the American infantry in the buildings.

Then suddenly a British armored column appeared on our right flank and started a turkey shoot on my BMPs!

 While my infantry worked its way into town, my team mate (Bruce) chased the American armor out of the woods on our left flank . . . and into the town where I assume the rest of the fighting took place. 

I "assume" because I had to leave the game before it was finished - a definite "party foul" on my part but couldn't be helped. I wonder if "we" cleared the town, too. 

See ya!

Oh. . . and Merry Christmas!


Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Brazen Chariots

I had heard somewhere that Brazen Chariots was an amazing book about armored warfare in North Africa during World War 2. Some time later I found a used hardback copy of the book and put it on the shelf, to await the appropriate opening in the reading queue. I pulled it down last week on a whim and, as it is only 240 pages long, ended up tearing through it in less than a week.

Amazon describes it thus:

"Unquestionably the finest narrative of tank warfare to come out of World War II."
Los Angeles Times

A tank officer's story of the desert war in North Africa, "Brazen Chariots" is one of the most widely praised war books ever published. Major Robert Crisp recounts Operation Crusader, the great tank battle waged against Rommel's Afrika Korps on the borders of Egypt.

The story covers just a little more than 2 weeks of war in the desert, but it is exceptionally well written; dry (pun intentional), witty, raw and at times, heart breaking. I found myself stopping to admire turns of phrase and wondering about a man who could write with such frankness and eloquence. I was not surprised to learn Robert Crisp worked as a journalist; his story beyond the war can be found in part, here.

I highly recommend you read Brazen Chariots, and be prepared to want more when the book abruptly ends!

See ya!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Fistful of Lead: French and Indian War Style!

A lot of you that look at this blog arrive here via The Baron's blog, so you already know about The Baron's Kickstarter for his Fistful of Lead: Reloaded wild west skirmish rules. 

To the rest of ya, if ya want to game in the Wild West at the skirmish level, and ya want to have loads of fun doin' it, ya cain't go wrong with Fistful of Lead: Reloaded!

And if yer still in need of convincin', Varmint, you can even game in the Horse and Musket era (aka the French and Indian War) with a tweak or two, as The Baron and I did just a'while back at Recruits. Check it out here and then run, don't walk, to the Fistful of Lead: Reloaded Kickstarter and get into the action!

Go Molly!

See ya!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Hannibal: A Hellenistic Life

Project-wise I don't have much progress to show. . . spray-varnishing minis and re-building woodland terrain does not make for dramatic documentation, so I'll share a "book like" instead. I just finished Hannibal: A Hellenistic Life, by Eve McDonald. Amazon describes it thus:

Hannibal lived a life of incredible feats of daring and survival, massive military engagements, and ultimate defeat. A citizen of Carthage and military commander in Punic Spain, he famously marched his war elephants and huge army over the Alps into Rome’s own heartland to fight the Second Punic War. Yet the Romans were the ultimate victors. They eventually captured and destroyed Carthage, and thus it was they who wrote the legend of Hannibal: a brilliant and worthy enemy whose defeat represented military glory for Rome.

In this groundbreaking biography Eve MacDonald expands the memory of Hannibal beyond his military feats and tactics. She considers him in the wider context of the society and vibrant culture of Carthage which shaped him and his family, employing archaeological findings and documentary sources not only from Rome but also the wider Mediterranean world of the third century B.C. MacDonald also analyzes Hannibal’s legend over the millennia, exploring how statuary, Jacobean tragedy, opera, nineteenth-century fiction, and other depictions illuminate the character of one of the most fascinating military personalities in all of history.

My wife asked me, when she saw me reading Hannibal, "Are you reading the same book about Hannibal, AGAIN?" Well. . . sorta. We only have so much information on a man that lived over 2,000 years ago. That said, Hannibal is a solid biography with copious notes and an extensive bibliography. It's focus is more socio-political than military, with some emphasis on "myth management" and use of propaganda, and places Hannibal and his Roman opponents squarely within a thoroughly Hellenistic Mediterranean political arena. 

From a "wargamer" point of view, then, this book is way more about "strategy" than tactics; in fact there is not a single battle diagram and battle descriptions are taken mostly from the primary sources and used to provide context for the narrative. Still, an interesting read.

See ya!