Last Thursday I got my second game of Hammer of the Scots with Chris. This time we knew the rules and it played very differently. I was the Scots again and went for the same strategy as last time, securing the Highlands and trying to work down from there. I had bad luck when a herald failed to get the Comyn to join me and I had to do it the hard way. I also failed to take Buchan when I had 6 counters ready to attack on the last turn of the year and Chris played a Truce card. After that I was driven backwards into the highlands and when Wallace was forced to go into the discard pile I was entirely eliminated on the next turn.

I suspect I was wrong to be in such awe of the English early on, and should have tried more aggressively to hold the centre of Scotland, where I’d be able to recruit and repair more armies. The hidden movement makes the English faction look very strong, but most of it is scattered nobles who aren’t that powerful on attack and need to guard their home area.

By contrast my strategy surrendered the richer centre of Scotland leaving me to fight for the highlands which just aren’t as valuable. Also if I went for the centre of Scotland I might just be able to keep Bruce alive for more than one year as well!

All in all, a fun game. Now I just have to find an opponent interested in playing it!

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A variety of games

29 June, 2011

In the last few weeks with my brother visiting from London and Steve over from Melbourne, I’ve been able to do quite a bit of gaming. With Chris, I’ve played Twilight Struggle, a two-player game of the Cold War. We made a lot of mistakes as we played, which comes from Chris’s having played with a more experienced player in the past and my not having read the rules. However, we figured out where we went wrong and will know better next time! It plays very well, with a clean card-driven system.

We’ve also had a game of Hammer of the Scots, but made even more mistakes and hope to get a game of it tomorrow with a better grasp of the rules. It’s a campaign for control of Scotland during the reign of Edward I of England. It’s likely to be a good deal bloodier next time around!

With Steve we played a couple of three-player games; Seven Wonders is a really nifty civilization-building game that plays very quickly, but is a good deal of fun. Elasund involves developing one’s power in a city set in the world of Catan. It has a Viking feel to the artwork and provides good scope for sabotaging one’s opponents.

With Steve, besides the DBA day at the AWC, I got in a game of SBH (Song of Blades and Heroes) and another game of DBA. I’ll post battle reports soon.

Finally, with the kids and Chris I’ve had a game of Ticket to Ride, railway building in Europe, and Bohnanza, a beanfarming trading game. These are fun games with more strategy than a lot the family board games I grew up with.

Decline and Fall

15 February, 2011

I had a solo game of the short version of this game last Saturday. On the first turn the Goths failed to break through (as did the Vandals). They also failed on the next turn, being left to watch the Huns surge ahead to sack Balkan cities. The Vandals broke through on the second turn and started advancing for Spain. The Goths decided to sit up in Germany away from the Huns and grow. It wasn’t a great strategy. The Huns got very powerful, turning on the Vandals and slaughtering them before turning on the Goths, with enough counters spare to head into North Africa and march for Egypt). The Vandals also got attacked by a daring raid by sea into Spain that overran many of their scattered tribesmen. However, on the return voyage the Roman leader, army and ships were destroyed. The Vandals now had a much safer voyage to Africa and sacked Carthage. They then decided to settle the islands of the Mediterranean, away from Huns; they got to Sicily and Corsica OK, but had a shipwreck on the way to the Balearic Isles. This pretty much sealed their fate (especially when a seaborne raid by the Eastern Empire destroyed their Berber allies). Using the random events, the Goths were struck by plague and then holed up by Huns in Scandinavia! They achieved nothing. However, the Huns were not able to break into the Eastern Empire; a Persian invasion (controlled by the Huns) was defeated by a seaborne response, though the counters from North Africa did succeed in sacking Alexandria.

The Romans won handily. The main mistakes I made were not noting that combined attacks are only possible close to one’s leader. This would have hampered the Huns. I also didn’t do sea movement properly, or carefully enough. Each movement of the fleet has at least a 1/6 chance of disaster. In particular, the move of the fleet to the counters being moved needs to be rolled for, which wouldn’t generally be a problem for the Romans as they only had one mobile army. It was more that I had the fleets in out-of-the-way places, when they could have and should have been with the field armies.

It’s an interesting game, and very nostalgic, as it’d be some 25 years since I played it. It doesn’t play that well solo, as the different players need to negotiate how they will work together; you can’t really play all-out attacks against all the others, as that benefits the Romans too much. The barbarians need to cooperate to some extent.

Not much to report

28 January, 2011

It’s over a month since I posted and since then I’ve not played any DBA or done any painting. I’ve been out enjoying the summer, which is all good, and the sum total of my DBA has been my involvement in the Punic Peril campaign, where I’ve had a bit of luck (or quite a lot) with sieges. In Etruria I’ve held out for four seasons now, while in Akra Leuke, after a drubbing in spring, we risked another encounter and got lucky with the siege. I’m not sure how long my luck can last, but it’s fun while it does.

Otherwise, I’ve ordered some figures to round out my Hellenistic armies, for when I get to paint next. I also got a short board game, Empire,  by Philip Sabin from the Society of Ancients. It plays very quickly, but I’m thinking it might make for an interesting vehicle for a DBA campaign. I’ll need to give some thought to the interface between the two games.

Getting all nostalgic

21 June, 2010

Our visit to Germany is coming to an end, and we’re on trains travelling back to Britain. A question from my daughter got me thinking about other trips, and I ended up thinking of my first overseas trip, to North America in 1979. The highlights for me consisted of games, no doubt to the frustration of my parents, a frustration I can sympathize with now that I’m travelling with kids of my own! These were games not available in New Zealand then.  My brother got the then.new SPI game Swords and Sorcery. It was our first board wargame and held an enduring fascination for me, despite its rather quirky names. I played quite a number of solo games with a more powerful New Oc Empire (Chairman Naskhund and his lackey were too lame, so I generated some new leaders).

 The games that I got were some of the Metagaming Microgames: GEV and Ogre, Chitin and a few others whose names I forget. It’s a reflexion of a different age when foreign exchange was hard to get and mail orders were more complicated that I was haunted for quite a long time by the desire to get some of the games advertised in the back of these. Steve got a number of them later; and Sticks and Stones, stone age skirmishing, in particular, didn’t live up to expectations, though The Fantasy Trip (TFT), the advanced version of Melee and Wizard, was a lot of fun.

 A number of these games were really enjoyable to play. One, from memory, involved Boppers, which were post-apocalyptic robotic weapons factories that churned out rather thick and cheap robot tanks to fight each other.

 Another was Ice War, a futuristic Russian attack on the US’s Alaskan oil fields. It had a fun hidden movement system for the Russians.

 Chitin, harvest wars of the Hymenoptera, was a game that had some very neat giant insects. It came with a promise of an expansion that was sadly never fulfilled. The insect types were given stats for TFT, but I doubt any figures were made of them, a pity as they’d make a great HOTT army.

 For a long time board games seemed more attractive to me, as they held the potential to fight larger scale actions, and I couldn’t afford many figures. I had some Airfix figures, but not enough to satisfy my grandious schemes for refighting Napoleonic battles. I also lost interest in these after painting them without any undercoat nor knowing about protective varnishes, only to see the paint all peel off.

 Eventually I found some boardgame rules by SPI in an issue of their magazine for refighting Quatre Bras. However, back then I didn’t have the technology for making new counters, so plans to use these rules to refight Napoleonic battles.eventually got shelved, not, however, before I got Avalon Hill’s War and Peace second-hand. I never really played it, though a friend, Chris, played it solo a lot. He commented that Napoleon’s army ablated in action, which seemed a fairly accurate reflection of attrition.

 In that period, I played quite a lot of role-playing. Gamma World and The Fantasy Trip were the systems that got the most actual use. Gamma World was heavily modified, with a colourful critical hit system and encounters drawn from the Sci-Fi films of the time, particularly Terminator. However, the system I looked at a lot without ever getting a campaign going was Chivalry and Sorcery. It had a marvellous amount of detail for generating feudal holding: the number of knights, sergeants, yeomen and peasants in a barony, as well as land area and the size of the castle! It also had a really interesting character generation system and combat system, but they were a little too involved to play easily. As for the magic system, it took this complexity to another level again.

 Board games that actually got played were generally multiplayer Avalon Hill ones. We played Dune quite a few times. Steve remembers a memorable win in which as the Bene Gesserit he successfully predicted that I would win and on what turn. I don’t think I saw the funny side at the time! We also played Civilisation fairly regularly, despite the results being a bit predictable for anyone held back a turn by missing a civilisation advance.

 Kingmaker was less fun, as it tended to degenerate into people sitting in power bases, North Wales, the North of England or around London and battles only occurring if a random event took someone away from these places.

 Down with the King was a game I remember fondly. There was something nice about having the Minister of Justice and both judges in your faction, concocting a rival’s execution, and then swearing vengeance at his funeral (on a random table)! However, when I bought a copy some years back I found it much  more complex than I had remembered. I think Chris had done all the thinking for us, or computer games had made us soft!

 To bring this all back closer to the present, computers have changed the nature of boardgames hugely. The ones that still have appeal are ones that are playable. Avalon Hill ones were generally better in this than SPI ones. Similarly the rational for figure gaming has probably shifted a little too; computers, in theory, can create more detailed simulations. In practice, I think they tend to emphasize flashy graphics for kids. Again, playability, for the same reasons, ought to be a priority, and it certainly is for me. However, the visual appeal of figure games give them an appeal that boardgames to a fair degree lack. Having said that, the construction quality of boardgames, perhaps in response to this situation, has improved.

 Anyway, hopefully today I’ll get to see Decline and Fall. How much I’ll ever play it is another matter, Similarly I don’t know if I’ll act on nostalgia to get Swords and Sorcery. I got Britannia and Medieval last year and have not had a chance to play either of them other than solo.

I’ve made use of my visit to Britain to get some figures without paying for postage. So far I’ve been pretty modest, and only got some Goblins (though quite a few!). These are from Magister Militum and will allow me to use my Goblins as just about any DBA army.

Inspired by Craig’s comment that he liked my ‘Classical Goblins’, I decided to get them some real chariots. The ‘Platform Carts’ of  the Chariot range aren’t that good, but I’ve managed to get them to provide solid wheels from their Sumerian range, which will make them look cruder.

I’ve also got some rhinosauruses that should be able to be used as knights, and more goblins that can be based as 4Sp/4Pk. To make the ‘elephants’ (behemoths in HOTT) more regular, I got some more of their ogres (armoured ones for variety). I’ll mix these in and make one of them a command element with a goblin standard bearer and drummer. Then I’ll have three ‘elephants’ with a clear commander for them. I can also create pike armies with the spearmen (stand-in successor armies until I paint one!). In time, I should have some endlessly morphable Goblins for practice fights.

I’ve also bought a second-hand boardgame for nostalgia value. It’s WRG’s Decline and Fall. I had a lot of fun playing this years ago, not that it’s terribly well balanced, but it was going cheaply enough and again I could save on postage.

Otherwise, I’m considering making my post AD 450 Early Muslim North Africa and Sicily (III/33). It occurred to me that these were a loose form of Carthaginians: same geographical place and some similarities in the army; they don’t have elephants or warbands, but they have similar amounts of cavalry (one more 2LH than the Carthos), spear and psiloi. they have the option of ditching the spear and going for lots of auxilia, which would make them very mobile, and potentially a headache for elephant armies.

I’ll need to research the history of this army a little more. Are there any colourful personalities that led it? But it has the potential to satisfy my requirements for an army. It has an interesting mix of troops and they’d fight in a similar fashion to the Carthaginians (not that I’ve mastered them with the Carthaginians). It has potential to hold my interest, especially as I’m thinking of getting some of their enemies for a campaign: Andalusians (III/34b), Fanatic Berbers (III/74), Feudal Spanish (III35b) and Sicilians (IV/5a). The figures for these have a degree of internal morphability, so wouldn’t need to be done all at once. They’ve also got a lot of psiloi, which would make them cheaper and quicker to paint.

The Fall of Catan

15 July, 2009

The Deviosi dynasty are licking their wounds after failing to dominate the Six Islands. The only ray of sunshine in this encounter was that the threats of the Kushites proved vain. The victors were the Hyskos, villainous Asiatics, who proved more devious than any of the Deviosi. The speed of their victory gave clear evidence of their total lack of scruples.

Their most egregious act was to land on an island to which the Deviosi clearly held first nation status and to build over the foundations of a settlement the Deviosi had started. With the wood they looted from this lawless act they went on to construct an impressive navy that united their far-flung holdings. And though there’s no denying the quality of the ships they built, that changes not a bit the black-hearted scurvy dogs that crew them!

Hail Lawrence, tyrant of Catan!