Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Oh Dem Bones

Yesterday I decided that I needed a day to chill so I gave notice and retired to my room. I wanted to do a bit work on some figures or terrain but I also wanted to play a quick, simple game. It didn't take long to  decide that a fantasy game using some of the Elastolin 40's would fit my mood best despite the makeshift state of those armies.

Flipping through Thomas's One Hour Wargame I selected Number 27: Disordered Defence. Despite being inspired by Shiloh it takes place on an empty table apart from a crossroad as objective. I added some low hills and then scattered a few bits of vegetation around with the result looking rather like an arid uninhabited plain on the North-Eastern frontier of the Midlands. The caravan trails didn't meet at the right spot so I cast my eyes about for a suitable marker. Last year, my friend Lawrence, who made the Balloons for me, bought himself a 3d printer. He brought some samples to a group game last fall and I couldn't resist asking for one of the enlarged orange plastic dragon skull keyring tags (OK probably considered a Dinosaur skull by most). At the time I wasn't sure exactly how I would fit it in but it looked like it had potential. Yesterday I decided that with a lick of paint it would look just the thing for an objective marker in the desolate wastelands of the frontier.
Stand-To for man and monster as dawn and the enemy approach.
(the lighting was too dark on one side and too light on the other for the poor smartphone to handle)
I had wanted to delay playing more games with the Elastolin's until I got them sorted and based with names and back stories established and so on but the need was great so I persisted.  I'm a bit embarrassed to admit it but I am yet again looking at my table as I contemplate renovations to take advantage of changes in life. One attractive alternative that arose last year but wasn't practical then was to have a smaller permanent table with a larger surface for full games. It is practical now so the question is whether to keep the existing table with an option to expand temporarily to 6'x5' or go down to a more convenient 4'x4' with a 4'x6' extension. To test the 4'x4' I walled off the last foot of table and expanded the 3'x3' OHW map to fit a 4'x4' area. On the suggested 3'x3' table. two of my 60mm stands fit within lower end of the 4" to 6"  unit frontage recommended by Thomas giving me at most 12 units. On the larger table 3 stands fit with the upper end adjusted for a larger table allowing me 18 units and a bit more depth to the game. The armies themselves are planned to be about 36 stands for full scenarios. Since I was using adjoc forces assembled from various armies I didn't have enough clearly marked command stands so did not use the optional command rules.

The situation then was this. The Great King of the East (TBD) has sent a force of wild barbarians (name?) backed by fierce lizard men (name?) to seize the famous skull of the dragon Pryntahd, a creature of ancient myth and legend. Attached to the skull is a large golden ring said to have once held a magical ruby which, if restored, would bring the dragon back to life and obedience. Getting wind of the Great King's plan, the King of the Midlands has sent the Earl of Belmont to drive off the intruders.

On table, the Barbarian Earl Helgin has deployed his force carelessly while he awaits the arrival of the Wizard. 3 companies of tribesmen hold an insignificant rise to his front left, 2 companies of archers and his single company of horsemen hold the front right while his bodyguard and the lizardmen camp back by the skull itself.  He expects the Wizard to arrive soon with 6 companies of horse archers, a company of Crabhan and Blaug the Terrible.

The Earl, almost as thoughtlessly diced for his deployment and placed 6 companies on his left, 2 each of swordsmen, bows and handgunners, a cannon and 2 stands of pikemen in the centre (one freshly painted)  and himself with 3 companies of knights on the right.  

(Note I included the Wizard (name TBD) and the Enchantress as I was thinking of including some magic but ended up with my hands full and they defaulted to mere window dressing)

I started off with the rules as used for the Atilla game in April. Three turns in and it was clear that the combination of scenario, units chosen and rules was not working for me. Since I liked the forces chosen I decided to revisit the rules, something I'll cover in a separate post. I reset and all went well except that almost all of the few crappy pictures that I did take got accidentally deleted.

The game began with an unprecedented successful bombardment of the Lizardmen by the artillery. If you want a dull, predictable solo game, don't rely on dice!  The 2 on 1 assault by the Midlish left had some tense moments but those dice interfered again and eventually the barbarian right was cleared away with the loss of only one Midlish stand. On the right the Knights stormed up the hill into the barbarian shieldwall. In the aborted game they had obliterated it without breaking a sweat, this time there was plenty of blood spilled before the shieldwall was dispersed.  The fight between the Lizardmen and pikemen was fierce and it was only the casualties carried over from the bombardment that tipped the day in favour of the Midlands. Helgin did his best to hold the Skull by himself (well, with his hearthguard actually) but was surrounded and shot down. So far, so good. Then the 2nd wave appeared.

The mid-point of the game. Helgin was disposed of as the reinforcements appeared. Now the Midlanders brace for the counter attack.

The horse archers were down right annoying and scary. On the Midland left, there were enough foot archers to make it an even fight but on the right there was nothing to answer them with and no one fast enough to catch them. Nothing to do but endure and be thankful for armour, or die. 

At last, in the centre, came Blaug and the Crabhen. Poor Blaug his tummy is larger than his wings so he only got to hop at heavy cavalry speed and I didn't give him the aerial target benefit. I did let him breathe fire and have lots of melee dice and top endurance. He just couldn't bring himself to hurt people though, or remember to cover his tummy when shot at. The scenario as most OHW scenarios calls for armies to fight to the last man but old habits die hard and I called the game when Blaug rolled over on his back and the Eastern hordes hit their normal breakpoint. 

(I did go back this evening and play out the last few turns but neither side was destroyed and the Midlanders still held the objective so nothing was changed.

As Blaug sinks to the ground the Evil, nameless, Wizard arises to confront the Enchantress. They exchange dramatic words then, realizing spells were not in play, the Wizard vanished in a puff of smoke and the game was over. 

My next post will include comments on the respective strengths and weaknesses of the two competing turn sequences and on the revised combat system which draws inspiration from my new 19th Century rules as well (hopefully)  as pictures of a refight using the move, move, all shoot, all melee sequence with the revised melee table.


  1. That looks like fun...It's been noted on many occasions, thoigh, that one of the advantages of solo is that you don't have to be concerned by balance issues. I've always liked to inject a lot of randomness into solo games (e.g, it's a great time for random reinforcement arrival).

    1. The high random componant of the combat system like Charge! and like the early Rough Wooing means you have to be prepared for things to occasionally go sideways. Makes a lot of other injected randomness less needed. The chance cards (not used in this test game) are a good addition though, organizer limited potential mayhem.