Monday, April 8, 2019

Lion Rampant in the Holy Land

Got together with Chris, his son Nathaniel and Ogre Dirty Dog for our first game of Lion Rampant. I had heard lots of good things about the game and watched several games being played on YouTube before I finally decided to pull the trigger. Plus, at something like $16, I figured it was worth a shot in buying the rules; hell, I've had hamburders that cost more.

The game appeared to have what appeals to me: quick and simple, without being simplistic. A fair amount of decision making goes into each turn, yet it doesn't bog down the game in a quagmire of rules. I won't go into the specifics here as that is not why you are here, plus there are plenty of sites which would and do do a much better job than I in explaining the virtues of this fine game. (Heh heh, he said 'do do'.) I was hoping for a alternative rules set to Pig Wars. We really like that game, but a change of pace is nice; we don't want to play the same rules every time we get together.

Our biggest issue was we had 4 guys and we're not pussies. We didn't want to play an 'regulation' size game as suggested in the rule book and each end up with a handful of dudes; we each wanted our own 'regulation' sized retinue. However, there being no rules in the book for multi-player games with these parameters, we just wung it. We added several tweaks, including shortening the 3" between units to 2" just because the table was so crowded, especially at set-up. We also allowed the Crusaders to go first and the turn order was both Crusaders, then both Saracens. In that way we hoped to mimic the Igo-Hugo turn sequence as outlined in the rules.

Each Christian player had a 24 point retinue and each Musulman had 23 points. (Maths are hard. I added wrong for the Saracens.) We randomly chose sides and it ended up being Chris and Nat as the bloodthirsty, jingoistic, imperialist and un-Christ-like Crusaders and Ogre and I as the Good Guys. The Crusaders were hard hitting, if slow, and the Saracens had lots of shooting and mobility but not so great in a straight up fight. In a happy accident, the make up of retinues mirrored history in that many of the Crusaders were on foot, probably after having their mounts shout out from under them during an impetuous charge, while the bulk of the Saracens were mounted.

The scenario charged the Crusaders with delivering a Christian princess to her betrothed who happened to live all the way across the board. She must remain with the same unit throughout the game and cannot be passed around like the whore she probably is. (At least that's how she's painted.) The local Mohammedans were charged with stopping her delivery and preventing a marriage which would weaken their position in the local politics.

So, without any further horseshit, off we go:

The desert oasis village of Alrijal Aldhyn Yuhibuwn Almaeiz, an important way-station for pilgrims on their way to Outremer. Both the Crusader retinues will start at the corner in the top middle and must needs exit the princess off the road in the fore ground. The Good Guys will start in the two corners, top left and bottom right, not in the frame.

"On a dark desert highway; cool wind in my hair..."

These awesome Middle Eastern buildings were made by Chris from Sculpy (?). I love them and they look great!

My Saracens lay in wait.

Our leader, Hu Aladhi Yartadi Sarawil, on his charger. He will lead the only Musulman heavy cavalry (Mounted Men-at-Arms in game terms.)

The Crusader knights. (Also Mounted Men-at-Arms.) There were two units of these guys and one unit of Mounted Serjeants.

The other unit of Knights. They rather liked it exactly where they are.

Imagine frightening ululations. The Good Guys had several units of mounted yeoman with bows, who proved to be massively effective. (Again, it's nice when a game works a bit like real life.) These guys up front are armed with spears.

The Mounted Serjeants with their little princess.

The knights are chomping at the bit; enough of the freakin' rules explanations already, let us fight!

The Saracen strategy is to trade space for time. Keep in front of the Infidel and shoot, shoot, shoot.

All my cavalry races to get to the cover of the village. A unit of Ogre's already got there. Meanwhile, Chris and Nat's Activation rolls (to move) were horrible to start as evidenced by how far they have moved compared to us.

A view behind Ogre's command. He had two units of the horse archers. With their ability to Skirmish *and* Evade, they proved to be deadly. Every time a Crusader unit got close, they just skedaddled, but not before launching a volley into the Frankish ranks.

Our first Wild Charge ever! The Saracen heavy cavalry runs willy-nilly into a unit of Foot Serjeants, killing three but losing one of their own. Allah Akbar!

Ogre's cavalry firmly entrenched in the town. That +1 to your armor from shooting while in cover is a huge advantage. It will help against Nat's very powerful Crossbow unit. They hit on a 4+, the best missile unit in the game in terms of damage. Turns out we needn't have worried. (More on them later.)

OK, hard to explain but here's what happened. During the Crusader Activations, they moved the Foot Serjeants (partially hidden behind the palm trees) forward and then the Mounted Serjeants to where the Foot Serjeants were. During the Arab turn the heavy cavalry Wild Charged again, this time into the Mounted Searjeants with the whore, uh, princess. Almost got the little hussy too, but she and the what was left of her escorts escaped!

Ogre's echelon of Mounted Units. He had them working in well oiled caracole as each would shoot and then move out of the way for the other. Nicely done, Craig.

I love this picture. The Foot Serjeants secure their flank against a building and wait to give someone the business. In the background you can see the Mohammedan leader and the rest of the heavy cavalry. They would not be there much longer. The good news is they have probably deflowered half (FRD) of their 47 virgins by now.

Crusader schleppers take the high ground. Turns out lots of guys with bows and arrows can see you there.

Told you they liked it there. Chris' units of knights didn't activate until halfway through the game. In reality, the dice favored us all game long without question. But then again, we are the believers of the True Faith, are we not? 

My horse archers executing the perfect Evade tactic. They backed up across half the board, peppering the Franks as they advanced. It took about 10 turns before they failed their first Evade test.

Bidowers head to the roof for some easy pickings. (They already killed a knight with four 6's on the first shot of the game!)

An overview from behind the Crusader lines. They are pushing into the village, but at what cost? Check out Chris' knights.

Frankish Men-at-Arms force the Good Guys out of town, but not before a few fall to Saracen arrows. Allah Akbar.

These Bidowers are in excellent position! One would think anyway. They were on the roof for three turns and never got a shot off. Never even got a chance to Activate. Allah's ways are sometimes unclear to the Faithful.

Franks running through the streets killing anything alive: man, woman or goat. It's what the Savior would have wanted.

OK, so the next two pics need to be seen in order because it looks really funny.

Crusaders envelop the village. If you look on the left you'll see a unit of Foot Serjeants heading up the steps. If you look closely though. it looks like they are kind of tip-toeing up the stairs.

Then, BAM! Like a scene form The Life of Brian they come charging onto the roof top! Haha, I think that's funny. By the way, in true Crusader fashion, they massacred the Bidowers without mercy.

The bulk of the Saracen cavalry has not been touched and forms a line between the Crusader position and their destination.

See? Lots of the swarthy buggers.

This unit deserves special mention. These are Nat's crossbowmen. On paper, the best missile unit on the board: eighteen inch range and a 50/50 chance to hit with 12 die rolls; not too shabby. The reality was quite different. Needing a '7' to Activate to Shoot (average on 2 dice, mind you), they failed their Activation a MINIMUM of 10 times! We actually lost count. Like we said, their dice sucked pretty much all night. (Allah Akbar.)

It appears the Saracen tactic of trading space for time worked as the Mounted Serjeants turn tail and head back the way they came. To quote The Glimmer Twins: 'There'll be no wedding today!' Allah Akbar.

So, our first game was a success. Everyone seemed to like the rules. It satisfied what we were after: it played easy and was fun, no rules headaches and it all seemed congruent mechanically. The term 'elegant' is thrown around a lot in gaming but, despite this game's 'small stature', the rules epitomize elegance in game design. It played as a fluid, dynamic sequence of events. The Activation mechanic served to provide real tension. You know it's fun when someone dices to Activate and two people cheer and two people groan and curse!

A fine game!

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Stalingrad, Bolt Action, Take 2

This was the second playing of our 'Stalingrad' scenario. OoB's were essentially the same but one AFV was removed from each side (just for simplicity sake.)

Taking the lesson from the first playing, we switched the board from long wise to short wise with the rest of the scenario being the same: destroy the enemy's CP before they destroy yours. Some of the terrain needed be switched to provide each side with upper storeys for a bird's eye view.
Interestingly, though I was the only player common to both games, strategies were almost identical. I am not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing. With only two playings, it could be mere coincidence. But, it could also be a signal of a design flaw as players feel there is only one option. We'll never know.

For newbies to this blog, we do not play BA as the tournament game it is designed to be, but rather as a scenario driven game. For more on this, if you should give a flying fuck at a rolling donut, see the previous post for more details. If you just like looking at the pictures, please enjoy. Geek porn at its finest.

The table with initial set ups. You can see both sides poised to enter the main factory. It's interesting. That factory really held no specific tactical importance except a spot in the center, yet both sides, both games, were determined to control it. In retrospect, it would seem a token resistance there would deny the enemy it's benefits, while one could use the valuable resources elsewhere. 

German Heer squad ready to dash across the open streets to gain purchase in the central factory.

The German HQ centrally located at the tip of the spear to lend morale boosts to the assaulting forces. The Pioneres are in the top right.

On the other side, the Soviets' two tommy gunner squads are being exhorted by their Kommisar to disallow the Gerries ingress.

Fuck, those guys are handsome, and fit looking!!!!!!

The Chermans have a foothold, but the tommy gunners, with LMG's, are ready to give them what for.

Soviet eyes in the sky. Both the OBA observers and spotter for the 81mm mortar choose the top floor of the worker's apartments for their hide.

Boom! Soviet artillery is spot on again, and again (!) fails to directly hit any unit but still passes out Pins on the Germans like so many corsages on heaving Prom night breasts! (God, I hope that offends someone!)

Damn, that was close, Hans! ( I so wanted to say 'Fritz, they shot Fritz!', but not a single casualty.)

I made the damn explosions, I'm going to post pictures of them.

To follow up the barrage, the tommy gunners got the first opportunity to murder a squad of Gerries in the factory: the Pioneres, no less. 10 tommy gunners and a LMG open up at close range. An incredible total of 23 shots needing 6's to hit! Sigh... nearly one. This, coupled with the OBA's inability to take anyone out, really set the tone for fight in the factory. It became a 5 turn slug fest, with each side just mauling the other, whilst feeding more and more units into the fray. It was satisfying in a way, as it mimicked so much of the real fighting in the city. Dying by the half squad: the story of Stalingrad.

Strike while the iron's hot. Too bad there were dice involved.

A Soviet T-34 enters the board, hunting for targets of opportunity.

Welcome to Stalin's city. We decorated it just for you.

Still the battle rages in the factory and still the T-34 looks for bigger game.

Be careful what you wish for Comrade.

Also, similar to the last game, the Soviet rifle squad is tasked with eliminating the enemy CP. They would get no closer than their predecessors. They advance up the left flank making good use of cover. So far.

A look from the German side with all units bearing the red badge of courage. Or Red Badge of Pinning, in this case. Unfortunately for Gerry, the air observer was whacked before he had the chance to call in the Stuka. It could have tipped the balance in a fight like this.

The StuGIII opens fire into the factory while the T-34 tries to sneak a shot from around the corner. Each AFV was ineffective. This was a PBI shit sandwich from the opening move.

Just like last week, the Germans reveal an identical ambush. One Heer squad...

...and the MMG open fire on the rifle squad approaching their position, thus ending the only Soviet threat of the evening.

As close as they would come. Lookie the Germans across the yard, safe in the building, behind barbed wire, etc...

I just like these guys, it was they who took out the German Luftwaffe observer. No smoke this week, however.

So, two playings, two draws, but I hope two times the fun. It was a lengthy project in the making but worth every minute, if the guys had half the fun I did playing. 

As mentioned, both games were very similar in tactics and outcomes, still not sure why, or if it matters.

Further similarities include the Pak40 never firing a shot, this time neither did the Zis3 (and only once last playing.) This would seem to either make the guns superfluous, or the players very canny. 
In both games, the Soviets chose to use their Fanatic conscripts *and* their MMG to protect the CP, and in both games, neither fired a shot in anger as the Germans never got close enough for them to spring their ambush. In my head, I had imagined the conscripts being used in CC as they will almost certainly maul any unit on the board with their Fanatic bonus.

I think next time, when we bring the game to New York for my brother Tony, who wasn't able to make it in, it would be interesting to try and not spend so many resources in the center, as counter intuitive as that may seem. Maybe even better, change the layout so the big factory isn't *in* the center. That's an option that just occurs to me, though it has probably occurred to the astute reader already. That is the affliction I live with.

Regardless, we play games for fun, and I think we succeeded on that count. Many thanks go to all the players across two states who made it so enjoyable for me. Special thanks again to our hosts, Mondo and Chris, who graciously open their homes for us to invade.