Thursday 26 April 2018

For King and Parliament - A Review

A few weeks ago I bought the latest ECW rules to come out onto the market called For King and Parliament. These have been produced by a fellow blogger called Big Red Bat. I understand that these rules are a follow up on the successful To the Strongest Ruleset.

Indeed if you were at Salute this year you may well have seen a beautiful ECW game being run by the Big Red Bat himself.

The Rules come in a rather smart book and at first glance looked extremely professional and comprehensive. Subsequent read throughs suggest that this has been playtested significantly and certainly give a very good feel for the period.

As you would expect they contain all the stuff you need for the period - unit descriptions, movement, combat, constructing armies etc.

As of today I have been fortunate to play two games- both at Mark's place - a local gamer who recently put on the first games of 'What a tanker'. We have played the Battle of Montgomery (the battle listed in the book - My Parliamentarian Victory) and more recently the first battle of Newbury (Marks & Stuarts Royalist Victory) - Mark has kindly put up the order of battle for this on Big Red Bats forum.

Link here

The pictures interspersed in this report come from the second of these engagements using Mark's beautifully painted ECW collection. Its fair to say that his painting puts mine to shame.

Newbury Battlefield - if you look carefully Mark has gridded the table using static grass tufts

Until now the Shed has very much focussed its ECW battles on the Warlord Games Pike & Shotte ruleset. These I believe do deliver a good game and benefit from the familiarity that many gamers have earned over the years with Black Powder.

However For King and Parliament do deliver a game in an evening and that works for me.

The rules call for a game to be played on a grid (much in the same way a chessboard is laid out) with each unit moving and shooting across the grids. This removes all need for measuring devices and negates the need for specific basing, frontages etc that plague so many other rulesets.

Parliamentarian Horse

Royalist Horse commanded by Prince Rupert

Infantry can move one square, cavalry two and ranges for small arms are generally restricted to one or two boxes. Artillery can obviously fire much further.

Aside from the grid configuration it is the activation sequence that makes these rules different but if you are familiar with Black Powder and its predecessor Warmaster you can see its origins.

To begin with each player needs two decks of playing cards. All the picture cards are removed leaving him with a deck of 80 numbered cards.

Once players have determined who is going first the leading player nominates one brigade to activate. This can either be the whole brigade or a specific unit. He then draws a card. Typically anything but an ace will allow that unit to activate. This requirement is modified by the calibre of troops, the terrain and or whether it is a difficult manouever. If he activates the unit performs the action required.

Two regiments of Royalist Infantry advance

Engage !!

This action could be a move, a turn facing, shoot or even something else. Once the first card is played (lets assume its a five) he can either activate the same unit again or move to another unit in the brigade. Secondary actions require the number on the next card drawn to be greater than the first (Think of Bruce Forsyths Play your Cards right). You can switch between brigade units throughout the turn until you either draw an ace (automatic fail) or the card drawn is lower than the first. At which time the brigade ceases its actions and you move onto the next. Once all brigades are activated play passes to the next player.

One of the great things about these rules is the use of commanders - were a commander attached to a unit then this allows the unit to redraw a card if the activation fails (or indeed if a high card was drawn first time round - as it is always preferable to draw low to high). The placement and attachment of commanders is crucial.

Royalists advance in the hedgerows supported by a light field piece

The Royalists push forward against a numerically stronger Rebel force

Assuming units are in range for charges/shooting combat is very simples. A unit that is not disordered typically requires 8+ to hit (each unit gets a number of attacks and can spend extra ammo counters or dash chits to get extra attacks). Each hit forces the defender to save (dependent upon cover, calibre and other factors) - standard saves tend to be 7+. Fails disorder the unit and remove hit points. A typical unit has three lives.

When a unit is shot at/charged the defender can automatically react (without playing an activation card) so following offensive actions the defender can retaliate assuming he is still present and has not been routed.

As you would expect there are rules for rallying weakened units, the impact of routs on friendly troops and breakthrough charges.

Furious cavalry fight on Rebel right wing - the Cavaliers break through

More Royalist Cavalry

Cards or dice (d10) can be used to drive combat - we elected to use dice as this is both quicker and more appealing.

When units ether have more disorders than hits, or all hits are removed the unit routs off the table. If the winning unit were a cavalry unit they tend to then pursue the defeated enemy off the table (all very Cavalier)

These mechanics lead to a very tactical and rewarding experience with my only criticism being that the results can be quite swingy, with a 30% chance to hit and 40% chance to save extremes do happen quite frequently which is inevitable when you use a d10 mechanic. We had the same issue with Frostgrave !

Fierce action in the hedgelines

Victory in a game is achieved when the winning player amasses a certain number of points (with each defeated unit counting towards this total). This does force players to husband their resources and withdraw weakened units from the fray.

Its all over for the Earl of Essex

So a couple of thank you's

Firstly my thanks to Simon Miller (Big Red Bat) for the rules,

Secondly my thanks to Mark K for hosting these test games

More soon

Wednesday 25 April 2018

Sharpe's Brest

A couple of weeks ago I ran another episode of Sharpes Alternative adventures in the Shed using the Fist Full of Lead rules  - the first of the these can be found here

Sharpes Pursuit

Sharpes Hazard

This time our brave Riflemen has been signed up for a bit of a suicide mission - he has to enter the French Naval port of Brest and kidnap the infamous Irish agitator known as Father Ted. The British authorities are concerned that this man might be successful in leading a rebellion in Ireland and thereby opening a new front front for Napoloeon against the British.

Sharpe would enter the city from the landward side and make his way to where Father Ted was reported to be hiding. Sounds simple ...well the Royal Navy has other plans. During Sharpes mission they have decided to bombard the city from off shore. The Royal Navy's latest three decker HMS Indecisive is shelling  the port.

Each turn a number of random rounds will land in the city potentially destroying buildings, ships and of course our players figures.

Unfortunately I didn't take enough photos in game to write up a full AAR but I was able to capture some shots of the table before I cleared it all away. I hope you agree that the pictures do suggest an early 19th century port.

What of Sharpe - well sadly he failed his mission  - no promotion yet !. Father Ted escaped to the Naval Fort. Most of the chosen men died and HMS Indecisive's newly promoted captain Horatio Trumpetsucker had a really bad day at the office.

Sharpe will return soon...

Onto the pictures

Come back soon

Sunday 15 April 2018

Salute 2018

So another Salute has passed....but what of the pictures I hear you cry

Well this year I decided not to take any pictures.

Firstly I had a great time wandering the hall without having to think if I had taken a picture of a particular game or not.

Secondly I discovered last year that some bloggers got free press passes - nobody asked me and when I wrote to the organisers last year after the show they ignored me. Not too worry there are plenty of good photos out there. Am I feeling bitter...not really

This years Salute was definitely a notch up on last years. Some great looking games (damn no photos), lots of traders and a queing system that works. I arrived at 10.20 and walked straight in.

The Organisers really do deserve a massive round of thanks (and beers) for putting on a great show

However the lighting in the hall is shocking. Apparently you can have different settings for the ceiling lights and each setting costs a different rate. This might be an old wife's tale so requires further investigation. I for one would pay an extra £1 to have a better illuminated hall. Alternatively buy everybody torches from poundland next year

The show this year was a good chance to catch up with old friends and meet some new ones. I even managed to catch up with the Perry twins and thank them for helping me put together my Sudan campaign. Apparently they'd seen the progress on the blog are were impressed (blush) - then Michael or was it Alan tried to sell me a box of Zulus - my response  - you are about two years too late and explained that 800 warriors from Warlord had already been painted two years ago.

A big thank you to Bob Cordery for his book on the Spanish Civil War (and for signing it) - a very generous gift and one that I will read.

So what did I buy,....well apart from some essentials  ie paint I spent £200 on plastic dark age figures from Conquest Games and Gripping Beast. Once I have finished current lead pile (more on this next post) I am starting my Hastings project

I do hope you had a great weekend

Until next time

Wednesday 11 April 2018

What a Tanker - Rules Review

With the exception of my local gaming friend John its not often that I get invited to play on another's wargames table and earlier this week I received such an invitation to take part in a Tank Battle game called ' What a Tanker'.

Great Tilte - and a good looking book

Before I go further with this story I should add that I have finally been persuaded to join the world of Social Media (apparently this Blog doesn't count) and I set up myself on Whatsapp.

Despite all the misgivings i had about signing my digital footprint to some technocratic organisation in Silicon Valley I realised that if I wanted to keep up with the local wargaming crowd a phone number and email account were just not sufficient. The aforementioned John had set up a group thingy and was using this to coordinate games in the area. Fortunately my regular gamers are on the group as well. It appears that this group is useful for posting upcoming games and calling out for players. I managed to respond to such a request and found myself sitting in Mark's rather smart wargaming den on Tuesday evening. Hopefully I didn't embarrass myself too much as it would be great to go back and see some of his beautifully painted minis on the table.

So now that i have dipped my big toe into the murky world of social media can I expect to receive a message from Mark Zuckerberg soon?

Back to the invite Mark was keen to try out the new Tank rules from the Two Fat Lardies - rather amusingly called 'What a Tanker'. interestingly John & Charlie the other two players had also bought the rules as well.

Ill be honest here - WW2 is not really my bag and if I had to choose I would always plump for the early periods. This jaded view has almost certainly been driven by my earliest wargaming memories. Back when I was small lad (mid seventies) my mate and I would re-fight wargames using the Airfix rulebook - he would always field the Germans and I the plucky Brits. Suffice to say my Tommy Cookers lived up to their name against the numerous Panthers and Tigers - there were never any points battles then !

Remember This

These rules are best described as the equivalent for Tank Warfare as Wings of War was to WW1 dog fighting. In other words each player commands a tank and attempts to knock out the enemies. The rulers are easy to learn and the game play is fast.

If anything maybe too fast - we played 4 games in just over two hours,, with each game consisting of four players each with one tank. The problem is that when a tank is hit it does have a habit of blowing up and thereby knocking the player out of the game. In my mind this game should be seen as a filler for when the big game has finished early and you just want to roll some armour across the table. The issue almost certainly becomes worse if you had a large multiplayer game and some players are knocked out early. Lots of twiddling thumbs,

Unlike Wings of War where tactical play is encouraged with some luck , What a Tanker is probably 80% luck and only 20% decisions. Perhaps I am being unfair here but when you roll your command dice there is no guarantee you can move, fire or even reload. How you use your dice is the decision bit.

Given that long ranges effectively cover most table lengths, the battlefield becomes deadly unless significant terrain is employed.

So how does the game play - well before I start let me first say that it is great fun but would I want to play this week in week out - no.

My Sherman - trying not to get killed

The games we played all featured two American Shermans versus two Pz IV's. Which according to the comprehensive tank lists in the rule book are relatively well matched. At the start of the game every player gets a random special card (eg Dead shot, Nice Bush, Sandbags etc) which they can use once during the game to influence a command decision/dice roll. The more tanks you kill the more special cards you receive and of course eventually you become an Ace.

At the beginning of the turn everybody rolls a dice to determine initiative - the highest goes first. Personally I think this is a real issue for the game. Given you only have one unit (and it might not even do what you want it to do) actually detracts from the game. Their is no sense of simultaneous action in the same way you get from Wings of War. I have a thought on how this might be addressed shortly...

With initiative determined the first player rolls six command dice - these represent his actions for the turn. Each dice reflects an action he can take

1 -Move
2. Acquire Target
3. Aim
4. Fire
5. Reload
6. Wild (can be anything)

It is possible when you roll the dice you may not be able to move (no ones or sixes), your nice shiny panther his sitting directlty behind that Russian T34. You have acquired the target, you've aimed and your gun is loaded but with no 4 or six you cannot fire.

Even if you can fire you have to roll a to hit dice and then roll a penetration test. There are just too many dice rolls. Lady Luck is very important in this game. It does however lead to some great story telling - Last night we had plenty of occasions when tanks found targets but could not get their guns loaded.

This is very much as our friends across the pond would call a 'beer and pretzels' game, just be prepared to drink a lot of beer if your tank goes pop ion the opening salvo.

Charlies Sherman also not trying to get killed

So I did mention that I had an idea for correcting the initiative sequence - this only came to me on my commute into work so it has not even been mentioned to the folks who let me play last night.

How might it work?.....

If you have played the dice game Perudo yuopu will know where I am heading

Every tanker rolls their command dice at the beginning but keep this secret from the others. They then bid on how many dice of a certain value are on the table- sixes again are wild. Each bid has to be bigger than the last

Player one says there are four fours
Player two says five fours
Player three says six fours
Player Four says no....!

The players then reveal their dice - on the table are four fours and three sixes - player three was right there were six fours (actually seven) correct so he starts the round. The player bluffing would start last with the table moving round clockwise from P3

secondly the fact that all the command dice are now on the table gives every play ther chance to evaluate what their opponent might do and accordingly plan their strategy.

Finally when you roll two of something you don' t need discard them for a dice of your choice (eg two reloads could be exchanged for a fire)

Big thank you to Mark for hosting

A whole heap of German Trouble

Hope this review is of interest....

Must now get round to finishing my write up on Mondays game...Sharpe's Brest

Catch up soon or perhaps sooner if you are at Salute !!

Tuesday 3 April 2018

Sharpe & Harper

If you have been fopllowing the blog you will be aware that I have set my Fist Full of Lead games in the world of Sharpe & Harper  - this of course meant that I would need suitable figures. In particular I would need a Harper Figure with his seven barrelled Nock musket.

By chance I was browsing ebay and came across two figures perfect for my needs. I believe that they were manufactured by Chiltern Games but I cant find them on the website.

As you can see in the picture below they fit well in size with the Perry and Warlord Rifle ranges

Whilst painting up Sharpe I decided to add a bit of extra clutter to my Peninsular town. Some time ago I bought two Olive trees from Noch - these are a bit to small to be stand alone trees but they work quite well as town plants. The larger one is planted in a coaster the other on a wooden disk. The brickwork has been done using eva foam

The board these sit on is a new village board (30 cm x 30cm) which can used as a town square - just swap the planted tree for a fountain..

In the background are three more planters using some aquarium foliage

Sharpe & Harpers adventures will return after Easter