Sunday, 21 January 2018

Ghost Ships

Having got my Galleys & Galleons head back on I played another game this afternoon. One thing I've not tried yet are the magic rules, so I decided to see how they work out. I put together a fore consisting of a galleon escorting three merchant ships. The galleon carried a priest (theurgist) because in these waters lurked ...

Ghost-ships! A ghostly galleon and two boatloads of spectral warriors.

All three of these vessels were Spectral, and I also gave them all the Unorthodox trait, which makes their movement unpredictable, but unaffected by the wind. I thought it would nicely reflect some kind of magical propulsion.

The convoy deftly negotiated some shallows.

Unfortunately it then failed to turn to avoid the shallows around an island, and one of the ships scraped its bottom.

It all got a bit messy. The final ship in the convoy was obviously not going to safely clear the island by following the others, so broke off to go around the other way.

Meanwhile the ghost ships were blundering around trying to move into position. The Unorthodox trait makes life very difficult indeed; more than I thought.

The two galleons approached. The priest tried his exorcism ritual against the spectral foe, but to no effect.

A boat full of intimidating spectral warriors slipped past the galleon and menaced one of the merchant ships ...

... who slipped away after firing an ineffective broadside.

The galleons passed each other. Both fired broadsides and the escort was damaged, but the priest's ritual also bore fruit, damaging the ghost-ship.

The spectral ships continued to blunder about, unable to turn fast enough to catch the convoy.

The lone merchantman that had gone the other way found a ghostly boat in its path, but was able to evade it.

The escort turned up into the wind and fired more broadsides. The priest blessed the cannon as they fired, and the now holy weapons caused severe damage to the ghostly galleon.

The lone merchantman escaped, although not via the designated exit point.

Still, the other two did.

Then, finally, the escort.

The escort galleon took one hit from firing, and one merchant vessel had damage from the shallows. Otherwise the convoy escaped unscathed.

Basically a group of ships with Unorthodox propulsion are very difficult to control or coordinate, relying as they do on activations for even the most basic moves and even then having no idea how far that move will be. It's very much a trait for a one-off ship in a force I suspect. I might retry this scenario with more points loaded onto the Ghostly Galleon (and a higher Q value) and maybe drop the boats.

Here are the ship stats:

Escort Galleon - Q3 C3 - Galleon Rig, Drilled Soldiers, Chasers, Magic User: Theurgist, Razee, Trained Gun Crews

Merchantmen x 3 - Q4 C2 - Galleon Rigged, Merchantman, Veteran NCOs

Boats of Spectral Warriors - Q2 C2 - Intimidating, Iron Grapples, Spectral, Unorthodox, Unarmed

Ghostly Galleon - Q3 C4 - Spectral, Unorthodox

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Return to the Azores

I've been meaning to get Galleys & Galleons out for a while, but with finishing off my Six by Six Challenge last year, and getting delightfully caught up in the Portable Wargame after Christmas I hadn't got around to it. This afternoon, though, I managed a quick game, replaying the Ambush in the Azores game I played almost exactly one year ago today. In this game, a Portuguese treasure-ship heading home from the Indies is ambushed by two English galleons.

The treasure-ship Nossa Senhora da Guia, accompanied by two escort brigs, Flor de la Mar and Cinco Chagas.

In the distance are the two English galleons, Auk of Onan and Popinjay. They are faster than the Portuguese galleon, but much lighter. Whilst the Nossa Senhora da Guia worked downwind to avoid the sandbank in the middle of the board, the two brigs moved across the wind in order to attack the English from the rear.

First fire! the Portuguese galleon fired a mighty broadside at the lead English ship, the Auk of Onan, damaging it.

The English returned fire, but failed to make an impression on the Portuguese leviathan.

Faster and more agile, the English raked the Nossa Senhora da Guia, but still couldn't damage it.

There followed several turns of terrible activation rolls for both sides. All three ships basically spent their efforts in turning to avoid islands and each other; despite being at close range, no-one was able to use their activation rolls to fire.

Popinjay collided with Nossa Senhora da Guia, but neither ship was damaged.

The Nossa Senhora da Guia was heading for the exit point, whilst the escort brigs were finally coming up in support. Fire from one brig damaged the Auk of Onan, and a shot from the Portuguese galleon's chasers crippled it.

The Cinco Chagas collided with the Auk of Onan, and both ships were so badly damaged that they sunk.

This left the Nossa Senhora da Guia free to escape, giving the Portuguese a decisive win.

It took me a few turns to get back into the swing of the rules, but they soon came back to me. As ever tracking the ship's relative positioning with regard to the wind was the biggest drain on my frazzled brain, and I may need to make myself a gadget to assist with that.

Saturday, 13 January 2018

The Battle Of Hookham

Oh, all right, it's not really Hookham - it's just Hook's Farm with a different name. I decided it would be fun to have a go at the classic HG Wells scenario using my ECW forces. I set up two equal armies consisting of six units of pike & shot, three of horse, one of dragoons and one artillery.

I decided on Hookham rather than Hook's Farm because the eponymous farm became a village for the purposes of this battle.

Firefly Church remained a church, counting as an enclosure. Firefly is a odd name for a church (unless you take you classic TV sci-fi very seriously indeed), so perhaps we'll call this feature Hook Hall.

Anyway, controlling Hook Hall and Hookham were the objectives of this particular battle. Purists will note that the cottage and hovel weren't present. I decided that the granularity of the game didn't allow for them.

Parliament pushed forward, occupying Hook Hall. In the centre the Royalists occupied a small field which gave shooting cover to foot and forced horse moving through it to stop.

Parliament also managed to push quickly forward and grab the village, but came under immediate attack from Royalist foot and horse.

On the other flank a brisk cavalry action took place. I love the phrase 'brisk cavalry action'. Parliament had massed all of their horse on this flank, and it proved a good move. Although the action was constricted by the board edge and a wood, they were able to pull damaged units out of the fight and replace them with fresh, leaving the Royalists under constant pressure.

The Royalist horse was soon driven off, and they were forced to swing some of their second line of foot away from the advance on Hook Hall in order to cover their flank.

However on the other flank they managed to capture the village with an heroic push of pike.

The woods on that flank were occupied by Royalist dragoons, who kept up a steady fire on their Parliamentarian opposite numbers. This action was to last all game with no conclusion.

The Royalists had enemy cavalry in their rear, and responded with their surviving unit of horse, supported by the guns.

In the centre, Parliament's foot had broken against the Royalists along the hill and in the field, although they kept up a fierce counterattack on Hookham.

Meanwhile Hook Hall was now under attack.

Parliament's foot was looking distinctly shaky, with many units on their last hit. But the Royalists were close to their exhaustion point as well, and if their attack didn't succeed quickly they would have to break off.

One last push and they took the hall.

The Royalist guns held off an attack by enemy horse.

The Royalists consolidated their position in the grounds of the Hall.

Another Parliamentarian unit broke, leaving the army exhausted. With both objectives in Royalist hands, and unable to engage in offensive action, they withdrew.

The Portable ECW rules worked pretty well here. I made all units average, because I'm beginning to have reservations about how the Portable Wargame as written covers unit quality, but I'll play with that in another game, and probably witter about it in another post. Let this post stand as testament to a smooth-running, closely fought and entertaining game.

Friday, 12 January 2018

Memoir '44 Maleme

Only Gary and I seemed to be available for gaming last night, so we abandoned the University and held the club meeting at my place. Gary brought us food, we ate, and then we played Memoir '44.

When I asked him what he fancied playing, he said that in the past he'd enjoyed a set of scenarios based on the German invasion of Crete in 1941. Funnily enough I'd found them and printed them off just before I went on holiday in November, so I dug them out and we gave them a go.

Actually we gave one of them a go - the first one covering the attack on Maleme airfield. Basically we decided that setting a new game up each time was too time-consuming. We didn't even swap sides; Gary played the German in all three games, whilst I played the plucky New Zealanders.

This is the basic setup, with loads of German infantry (all with the Special Forces ability), but with the New Zealanders dug in across the board.

When Gary made his first few moves I wondered how long the New Zealanders would last; the move two hexes and still fight that all of his units has is very useful indeed. But you're only as good as the cards you draw, and the ANZACs have a good defensive position. They also have the Commonwealth Command Rule, which allows them to battle back in close combat. This contributed to whittling down the German forces almost as much as my own actions.

The first game saw Gary attack strongly on his left and capture the airfield, but in attempting to score points elsewhere he lost it, and the game. 6-2 to New Zealand. In the second game I picked up some useful activation cards early on, whilst Gary held back trying to get a decent hand together. When he attacked I was able to hold the line and pick up another 6-2 win. I think this was the game that I advanced the 2-strength armour unit right onto the German baseline.

The final game was a lot closer. Gary attacked the forward hill, and took it fairly quickly, whittled down a few units elsewhere, and ended up rolling for the game - he just needed to hit an artillery unit. He failed, and I used my next turn to pick up my last victory medal instead for a narrow 6-5 victory.

We think the New Zealanders do have an edge in this scenario, but it was an interesting one to play, and we'll move onto the rest another day.

After he went I set up the Gazala scenario from the Terrain pack so I could try out the desert board I'd bought ages ago but not used yet. This is a great scenario for tank fans, consisting entirely of tanks and artillery on a basically open board. The Western Desert rules allow them a bonus overrun move as well, so the action if fast, fluid and deadly.

Despite a superiority in numbers, the British are up against it in this game; the Germans have loads of artillery that can pick off damaged units from afar, whilst the British tanks are limited to a two-hex move. In addition they only have four command cards to the Germans' six.

The Germans won an easy 6-1 victory in the first game (only needing five medals, but picking up the sixth out of spite). The second game was closer after the British left held the initial German attack and then decimated it by swinging reinforcements across from the other flank. A fun feature of this scenario is that both sides start with virtually nothing in the centre, so you are almost fighting tow small battles on opposite edges of the board. The Germans won the second game, but it was 5-4.

If you look closely at the first Gazala picture you can see that I fielded a mix of tank models, some of them ahistorical, for sure, but the added to the variety of the game.

Note to self; I need some khaki Commonwealth figures. I either need to pick up the 'proper' set, or get hold of some Airfix or Matchbox 8th army and 3D print some suitable tanks and artillery.

Update: We played the Commonwealth Command Rule from memory. Bad idea. We got it wrong. We allowed any NZ unit that survived a close assault to battle back. In fact it's only a unit reduced to one figure that gets the bonus,

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

The Battle of Midsomer Wellow

I set up and played another game in my Midsomer ECW campaign last night. The background, setup and basic campaign rules can be found HERE. The previous battles are here:

Midsomer Barrow - In which the two sides met for the first time, and Causton declared for the winner.
Ford Florey - In which both sides battled for control of some strategic river crossings.
Morton Fendlow - In which a Parliamentarian raiding force was ambushed by Royalists.

This game was the first in a new phase of the campaign, which now sees the Royalists preparing to advance and take Causton for the King. Rather than use my modified Neil Thomas rules, I decided to use it as an excuse to test out my Portable Wargame variant. Few changes were required to the campaign system described above; I had to change the way horse were classified to take into account Trotters and Gallopers, and I had to drop the pike/shot ratios for foot because the Portable Wargame is not granular enough to allow for that kind of distinction. I rolled the following forces:

3 x Poor Pike & Shot
1 x Average Dragoons
1 x Average Trotters
1 x Elite Trotters

1 x Elite Pike & Shot
2 x Average Pike & Shot
1 x Poor Pike & Shot
1 x Poor Dragoons
1 x Poor Trotters

The scenario, from One Hour Wargames, was Flank Attack (1).

Because of the precise nature of the One Hour Wargames scenario objectives, I didn't use the Exhaustion Point rule for this scenario. In addition I randomly added some areas of woods and enclosures to the otherwise open battlefield.

Now fully supplied, Lord Standing was ready to lead his Royalists in an attack on the town of Causton. Expecting a siege, Sir Thomas Barnaby began to pull back all of his troops in the county towards the town. The main part of his force was marching along the road from Midsomer Wellow when it encountered what appeared to be a small force of Royalists ahead of them. It soon became obvious that it was, in fact, part of the main Royalist force, who descended rapidly on the Parliamentarians. Sir Thomas quickly prepared his troops to smash through the Royalists and and reach the safety of Causton.

Here's the setup - Sir Thomas's troops were marching along a road, whilst ahead of them were two units of Royalist foot. The remaining Royalist units were heading towards the right flank of the Parliamentarian column. Parliament had to exit three units off the road in order to win.

The Royalist flanking force consisted mostly of dragoons and horse.

Sir Thomas went for an aggressive assault on the Royalist blocking force, swinging his horse onto their flank whilst assaulting them from the front with his personal regiment.

He covered the flank and rear of his force with the dragoons and some militia, who quickly found themselves under attack by the Royalist horse.

Amazingly the dragoons held off the attacks, and with the help of the militia soon put pressure on the Royalists.

The Royalists supported their foot on the road with dragoons in the nearby enclosures, but it wasn't enough and one unit broke. Sir Thomas kept up the pressure on the other unit of foot, aiming to force it away from the road to clear his escape route.

It was at this point that he fell, seriously wounded, whilst leading his horse in an attack on the Royalist flank.

Despite this, the Parliamentarians maintained their discipline as they moved along the road, holding off the Royalist attacks as they went.

With the Royalists seemingly unable to apply any serious pressure, Sir Thomas's army escaped.

This was a pretty quick game, and was over in five or six turns. Parliament were able to mount an effective attack on the Royalist blocking force, and clear the exit point, well before the Royalist flanking force could exert any serious pressure on them. Royalist shooting was abysmal; on one turn they failed to inflict a single hit on any of Parliament's units.

The Portable Wargame provided a perfectly adequate alternative to the Neil Thomas rules, and I'll probably try the next game, in which the Royalists have one more chance to move on Causton, using them.
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