Friday, 20 April 2018

Top Secret

Beautiful day yesterday, the first really nice day of 2018 and we are only a quarter of the way through, paradise, while the rest of you are 'beeking' the new word for basking presumably (why?) I have just had to go and get a jumper because I am cold. Anyway things were hot yesterday on the games table as well.

I was busy right up until half an hour before Kevin turned up, I have a map project I wanted to break the back of, so I just flicked through the rule book and spotted the 'Top Secret' scenario. As I did not have a shot down plane I ad-libbed, a German staff officer's command half track had been shot up by a passing Jabo and the poor man or Nazi scum depending on your outlook, killed along with the crew, he was carrying plans for an upcoming counterattack outside Caen in the summer of '44. Both sides now had to get their hands on the briefcase.

I went for a fairly open battlefield and an infantry force for both sides, the Germans had a small armoured car and one halftrack while the British had a slightly heftier armoured car and a Bren Carrier, this was offset by the Panzerschrek on the enemy side. My plan was to go straight for the smashed up halftrack and I put two squads in the centre along with my MMG and the vehicles for support, I also put two squads way out on each wing in case I needed to flank anyone. Kevin almost matched me but put his main effort with the vehicles on his left, coming on and proceeding along the road to the objective.

As the action opened I managed after three shots to put his armoured car out of action and aggressively sent my infantry forward all along the line. I lost my left hand flankers due to a bad decision not helped by a German command die coming out first, however my MMG and the LMG's on the Bren Carrier meant it did not become a disaster. I rushed a squad to the halftrack and grabbed the bloody bag, but then had to go to ground as a lot of fire was coming my way, this prevented me making a clean escape. The Germans woke up to the threat and threw everything they could at my boys. Up until now mostly British dice had come out of the bag first, all of a sudden they were all German, I couldn't get my guys to budge and they succumbed to heavy fire leaving the bag on the ground. The damn Hanomag was proving a real pain as it hovered in the area shooting everyone who made a move towards the objective, I couldn't use my armoured car as it had fallen to the Panzerschrek. I eventually got it with the PIAT after a couple of shots but it was too late. My brave commander got to the briefcase only to be shot down.

As the game ended we had both lost five units and neither of us was going to be able to grab the bag and make it off the table. What had at first looked like an easy victory for me and a fast game turned into an exciting struggle over the objective and it ended a draw. That is two Warlord scenarios I have played and I have to hold my hands up and say both have been excellent games. You will notice perhaps that I stay away from snipers and flamethrowers and I do think this helps.

I also present my latest addition to the Seleucid army, Thracian Peltasts, these are Late period so do not have the multicoloured clothes or the funny dog eared cap. You will notice they are 'uniform' as, like most wargamers I suspect, I was drawn to the small note that describes them at the Battle of Pydna wearing black tunics and having white shields. I went back to weathering my shields for this unit, something which I have done for most of my armies but not always with this one, a bit of dust and in some cases blood spatter which Dexter would approve of. I think I am going to go back and sort some of the other shields out.

Next up are the mercenary hoplites, I hope to receive them today so I can get them sorted and primed over the weekend, a bit of a waiting game after that. I am beginning to get 'hankerings' foremost in my head is the mad idea of a Mid Imperial Roman army or perhaps a dabble with the Jacobite Rebellions although I am unsure which rule set would match the latter. There is always Muskets and Tomahawks as well, oh, and don't forget the Tiger tank and maybe some trucks and cars for Bolt Action.

Wednesday, 18 April 2018


I was on my own again for the club meet last night and had not managed to sort anything out, I could join a tryout of 'What a Tanker' from Too Fat Lardies, despite being a rough Jack Tar and North Sea Tiger in my day the childish play on words annoys me for some reason, I digress, the second game was Shadespire a fantasy game based on GW's Age of Sigmar world. I had read a review of WaT on a blog and it reinforced my prejudices about TFL rule sets so I jumped for Shadespire.

Julian took time to explain everything to me and the gameplay revolves around cards, objective cards and 'ploy' cards which you use to gather gold tokens, the winner is the one at the end of three turns who has the most tokens, even though his gang may be all dead. I took a bunch of Orks, Julian Chaos and when Ryan arrived he brought Skeletons, a canny player at Shadespire is Ryan. As the game kicked off the objectives I needed were firmly in enemy territory and my chance of getting there pretty slim, so I thought I would just kill stuff, Julian's stuff.

Despite my efforts I got nowhere, my objectives were out of reach and my cards pretty much useless to my fighters, oh and I might as well mention my dice luck here, it was bad. Both Ryan and Julian ended the game with eleven gold tokens, I had three. I ducked out of the second game as it was not my thing and you couldn't possibly learn much in one play so I left the lads to get one decent game in before closing time.

I wandered over to see how the Tankies were getting on, it was a Sherman and a Stuart vs a PzIV and PzIII, two and a half hours into the game and not one had been taken out, I believe at that point the PzIII had just made it's first hit (no damage). I did manage to catch the Stuart circling the PzIV at one point while the panzer tried desperately to get into position for a shot. I think I dodged one there.

A bit of a red letter day last week, a friend sent me some pictures of his latest work and along with them was a picture of a new Aventine Miniatures Successor general with two Galatian bodyguards, both Gary and I are fans of Aventine and have a lot of their figures (two armies in my case). I messaged Keith at Aventine to ask for his advice about late Hoplite figures I wanted to add to the army and mentioned the lovely Galatians and that no one made Galatians and therefore Gauls had to be recruited to serve instead. He asked me to wait and five minutes later having talked to Adam, the sculptor, said they would do figures for a Galatian unit, how is that for service. The new cavalry will also be out by the time I finish the mercenary Hoplites, my cup it runneth over.

Galatians in the background, beautiful.

Mate Julian very kindly made up a wet palette for me some time ago and I used it but then went back to my plastic palette as I ran out of paper or something just as daft. But the idea has stayed with me and I went to buy a commercial one but found them too big, now a company called Red Grass Games has produced a small version which should be perfect for me. Even though I am almost at the end of my Seleucids I do have other paint related things to do.

What I use now.

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Gangs of Rome

When I first heard of Gangs of Rome I was intrigued then thought why do I need another skirmish game, also I thought the figures were a tad expensive. Julian at the club has dived in with both feet and he brought the game along last night so that I could have a go.

You get so many points to make up your gang and buy upgrade cards, having done this I ended up with four fighters, two male and two female, the females going against all we know of Roman society and the role of women in that society, but hey, its the 21st century not Ancient Rome. That gripe apart I gave one of my gang a shortbow for long range cover and the others decent melee or defensive attributes, I was planning to simply storm my way to victory. In this particular scenario we had to take a tribute from the other gang (a coin) and present it to the god Mars at a place sacred to him, a plinth in the middle of the table upon no doubt a splendid statue will be put. To get the coin you had to kill one of the opposing gang. There are random 'mobs' in the area who move about and into which fighters can blend and pop up elsewhere from another mob or the mob can either run from the fracas or join in on one side or the other.

With the scene set in the countryside outside of Rome but close to the city walls we began, I didn't move far and loosed off some arrows, the enemy also moved cautiously apart from a gladiator who had joined their ranks, he ran forward impetuously only to be cut down and his coin captured, meanwhile another gang member had appeared behind my boys and girls but found he had took on more than he could chew and disappeared back into the mob sharpish. Things were looking very good for me as I had an open run for the plinth with the tribute, Mars for some reason was displeased with me and my fighter climbed like a girl and couldn't make the top of the plinth and fell off, she was a girl by the way. Then in quick succession Julian threw seven dice and got seven hits twice, this doomed my two male gang members, however the women fought on gloriously, killed a second enemy and left another within a hairs breadth of death. Sadly I lost the useless climber and this left Julian's last remaining full health character to jump from the plinth, grab a tribute and then leap back up and offer it to Mars. Game over.

My girl cannot climb for toffee.
Julian triumphant!
What did I think, well I enjoyed it and we had a few tense moments and some laughs and it lasted longer than Julian's previous games so we didn't have time to get a second game in. There were a couple of things which stood out for me, fighters reduced to almost no health points still attack as if they were not wounded and suffered no penalties, this fact allowed my girls to kill an enemy and severely reduce the health of one more. I also noticed that the stats of all the fighters were almost the same, so you could not buy a large gang of mediocre fighters and try and overwhelm a more dangerous gang, this may change in the future. Julian did an excellent paint job on the figures but I have seen better sculpts and would be tempted to buy from other manufacturers, but of course, quite rightly, the designers don't want you to do this and you only at the moment get the cards, coins, dice etc. when you buy a specific figure. I would still be tempted to buy elsewhere having got the original figure. I would certainly play again and I hope I will.

I mentioned a few weeks ago I was reading an excellent trilogy by author Ben Kane, on the strength of this I bought a second, big mistake. This second series is about the Roman troops captured at Carrhae and sent to the East to fight on the edge of the Parthian Empire. Great I thought, but I began to wish the main characters had succumbed to a Parthian shot in the desert. One in particular is a soothsayer who is all knowing, all the other soothsayers are charlatans but this one could get you the lottery numbers every week, he is that good. I really couldn't take to this guy, and the prediction that put me over the edge and the book down was 'in three days we will meet a Judean caravan carrying silk, at around half past two', no, the last bit was me but you get the idea. You also have to believe this guy, who is Etruscan(?) hates Rome for destroying his civilisation four hundred years before (nonsense), a long time to carry a grudge, and wants them to pay, pay what? Oh, they also deplore Roman cruelty and the use of slaves, in the Ancient World, come on. I have not entirely given up on Mr. Kane as I couldn't put the first trilogy down, so I am going to get the first one of his Hannibal series and see how it goes.

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Levy Getting a Rep

Off to my son's this morning, early, with a car load of troops both Roman and Seleucid for a Classical show down, I dropped the missus off and then we headed for Stewart's posh offices on the Zetland Estate where we use the conference room table with a little help from a piece of plywood. Stewart chose the Romans so naturally I had the Seleucids.

I took three phalanxes, two regular and one Levy, with Thorakitai and Peltasts to protect the wings, I had Cretan archers and Scythians to provide excellent firepower along with some levy archers to make the numbers up and of course I took an elephant. The Romans had three cohorts, two regular and one recruit along with an Auxiliary cohort, supporting these were Contarii cavalry in heavy armour, horse archers, skirmishers and two bolt shooters.

Once deployed I thought I would attack the Roman right with the elephant supported by the Scythians and Cretans backed up with the Mercenary peltasts, my right I thought could handle the enemy horse archers and skirmishers and I decided to advance two phalanxes and hit the Roman right centre with them, the third phalanx would wait and see. The Romans were a bit cautious which was to be expected with Stewart not having played them before and like most of us suffered perhaps a little from 'elephant fear' hence the two bolt shooters.

Seleucids on the left, Romans on the right.
My right attacks.
I won the initiative for the first move and foolishly gave it away, bolts headed for the elephant and I only just managed to dodge them, during my move I moved Nellie into the small copse and shelter, getting away with my blunder. Unlike most of my games my archers now rained missiles down on my enemies and caused great slaughter, I seemed to have recovered. I carried on with my plan of attack on the enemy left and suddenly thought the phalanx I was pushing to the front were the Levy but thankfully in front of them were the Auxilia rather than a Legionary cohort, but even this could cause me trouble. I needn't have worried the Levy crashed in to the Auxiliaries and quickly routed and dispersed them, my second phalanx on their flank however was in trouble as it failed to beat Cohort I.

Scythians, what Scythians?

Over on my left I was making headway and had chased away the enemy skirmishers on that flank and had the elephant in a good position to either go after the Contarii or swing in to hit the cohort of recruits. I got my horse archers too close to the beast and it spooked them, so much that they left the battlefield never to return, the enemy cavalry meanwhile took no notice at all of the elephant. Luckily for me I had brought the Cretans around to face the Contarii and they dropped enough horsemen to make the Romans also flee from the field, I sighed with relief. My third phalanx led by the King had now come into contact with another cohort and although not running also did not fight well and it took a lot of effort to simply keep it in the fight. I had a dilemma, I could throw my peltasts into the fight with the King or turn them to take on the Recruits and hope to beat them with the help of the elephant, I decided to leave the King to his own devices and went for the almost sure thing. It would seem I made the right choice as the Mercenaries smashed the recruits without the aid of the elephant and sent them packing.

Just before the King routs and the Thorakitai charge.
Beware Greeks in the rear!

As we surveyed the battlefield the Romans had at last routed two of my phalanxes but one of the victors had been caught in the flank by the Thorakitai while the returning Levy moved to charge its rear, the second cohort had an elephant bearing down on their flank and the hard fighting Mercenaries to their rear, Stewart called a halt to the slaughter.

A good game and a learning curve for Stewart and myself, I think my sixteen man units need beefed up to at least 18 or maybe 20 as the Thorakitai suffered quite a bit from missile fire although they still managed to do their job, the Mercenaries wiped away the shame of running from Kevin's Numidians while the Levy phalanx once again defeated their opponents. I still have to get the hang of these damn elephants.

View From The Window

We have at last had a couple of lovely days, still a bit cool but it has been a long winter, I hope we don't get hit with all this again next year as round about this time I am off to Vietnam. I really must make an effort this year to get out, even if it is only into the garden with a coffee and a book of a morning or a cool drink and the same book in the afternoon. You will notice that none of this involves working in the garden although with the onset of the good weather out will come the power washer to get the paths etc. spruced up, my job sadly, although I have yet to read in the small print where that is specified, but the missus assures me it is in there. Almost a crime special this week.

I wanted some rice the other night and the rice jar was empty, so I opened a new packet, used some and poured it in. I was accosted the next day for not using the proper jar, but they are all the same says I and two were empty, yes but you filled up the wrong one! I also made things worse by not putting the long grain rice jar next to the basmati rice jar when I had filled up the wrong jar.

I got a punter in the other day, he comes in now and again, waxes lyrical about being in show business and hints at big names which he may or may not be managing, met or hangs out with, he then proceeds out to his banged up, twenty year old car and drives away. Anyway the subject of Russia comes up and he explains to me that it is all a plot by the Americans to embarrass them because they, the Americans, are making a fortune from shale gas and want to sell it to Europe rather than Europe buy Russian gas. While trying hard to take this in he then assured me that everyone in charge in most countries are, wait for it, Zionists, and then having obviously spotted "MUG" on my forehead proceeded to enlighten me about the secret societies running the planet. I did respectfully tell him that was a bit far fetched but he assured and warned me in no uncertain terms as he headed, at last, for his old banger as my fingers hovered near the security buttons, off no doubt to meet up with Bruce Springsteen. I had the same thing years ago during the Jimmy Saville furore, as well as the Zionists the Devil Worshippers were involved in that one I was told, say no more.

I watched the news as they reported the death of a burglar when the victim, an old guy of 78, fought back and gave him a mortal wound. Incredibly one of the thief's relatives had turned up and laid a bunch of flowers while praising him for being a nice bloke, and that he didn't deserve this end and something had obviously gone wrong. Well, yes, the owner of the home he broke into and threatened fought back instead of meekly staying in the corner while some low life 'career' criminal and his mate ransacked his house, that's what went wrong love. It transpires the Police were already looking for this guy in connection with other robberies, not very efficiently it would seem. However if you disagree with one of our many victim groups they will be on your doorstep before you can say "Ello, ello, ello, what have we ere then?"

While we are on the subject of crime our newly refurbished Coop supermarket in Carnforth, which opened its doors only a week or so ago, now has a lovely big hole in the wall where the ATM used to be and several feet around it. A few lads short of a bob or two for the weekend, stole a JCB, drove it at the ATM and made off into the wild blue yonder. No one heard a thing presumably, I wouldn't put money on them being caught, or am I being too cynical?