Thursday, 28 March 2019

Border Reiver Project 3: Undercoating

Gesso undercoating: straightforward enough.
My basic painting approach for 28mm figures is to undercoat, wash, block paint, and stain. Finally I make the bases and flags look as good as possible so people don't look too closely at the figures.

The washes and final staining create light and shade and substitute for not using a 3-tone paint effect. The only problem with this approach is that you can’t see how it’s eventually going to look until you apply the final stain.

For this job I'm undercoating with undiluted white gesso. White spray paint would be quicker but it's not the right time of year and I have had a very bad experience with spray paint.

I prefer using a white undercoat. I've used black in the distant past but it's hard to see the detail, more so as you get older.

Although neat gesso looks quite thick while being applied, it seems to shrink tighter as it dries. I don’t want to discover any bare bits of metal later on so the next step is to touch up the gesso, a job best done in good light.
Some pike block figures drying off. Those North Star pikes are lethal.
I'll have to warn people about them when they're put on the table.

Monday, 25 March 2019

My first two games of Dragon Rampant (last year)

This is a belated report of my first two games of Dragon Rampant fought in March and April of last year. While planning my own Dragon Rampant armies, I showed the rules to my friend Ian who includes Games Workshop’s Warhammer Age of Sigmar amongst his many game interests. He already had a lot of Warhammer armies and was keen to design some DR Warbands to try out the rules.

As those who know will know, Dragon Rampant is essentially the same as the Medieval Lion Rampant set, but with the added magical dimension. I have no great experience of Fantasy so I can’t compare these rules with others, but they have all the advantages of Dan Mersey’s elegant rule mechanics coupled with immense army design flexibility. At this point I had not yet played Lion Rampant (or The Pikeman's Lament) though I had played the Colonial variant, The Men Who Would Be Kings.

First Game (March 2018)

The armies we played with are known in GW terms as Sylvaneth and Brayherds. For those not familiar with the GW fantasy world, the Sylvaneth are treemen on the side of Order, while the Brayherds are satyrs on the side of Chaos.

The Sylvaneth comprised a Witch (Summoner), a Tree Lord (Greater War Beast) and two units of Dryads. The Brayherds had a Shaman (Spellcaster), Bestigors (Heavy Foot), Gors (Light Foot), and Ungors (Scouts). Forgive me if I get any of this wrong.

We went for a straightforward 'set-'em-up and kill' game but the terrain determined that there were decisions to be made.

My warband: Gors, Bestigors and Ungors with a Shaman Leader behind.
My Bestigors and Gors move up. The Gors have seized the hill. They are facing Dryads and a Tree Lord, the tall character in the back left of the photo.
My Gors move off the hill in the hope of achieving a quick victory on the right flank. Another unit of Dryads can be seen in the fenced enclosure at the top left.
The first Dryad unit is eliminated but my Gors are weakened in the process.
The second unit of Dryads is summoned to replace the first.

My Ungors inflict missile losses on the Tree Lord assisted by some thunderbolts from my Shaman.The Tree Lord is vanquished. Things are beginning to look very good.
My Gors were taken out, but thunderbolts from my Shaman despatch the second Dryad unit. It's time to go after the Witch who is cowering in the wood but not for long. Total victory is mine.
Throwing thunderbolts about is not the most imaginative use of spellcasting, but it's like having artillery and an easy option for those steeped in historical gaming.

As expected, the rules played well and were great fun. Having not then yet played Lion Rampant this game was also something an introduction to that rule set. One thing I learnt was it's beneficial to have a mixture of different troop types including humble missile troops. This gives you more options and allows you to strike at the enemy when you might not otherwise be able to do so.

I’m essentially an historical player, but I belong to a club which has been attracting more and more fantasy players, so I thought it was handy to have a game sharing Rampant mechanisms that fantasy players might be interested to play. Since then, the whole idea of DR armies has grown on me so much that I'm finding it hard to resist the temptation to plan more and more of them.

Second Game (April 2018)

Unfortunately, my second game was followed by last year's break in wargaming and I didn't make any notes. It's now difficult to remember much about it, but I did take some photos...
The armies were again supplied by Ian. I chose the army of Beastmen (Brayherds and Minotaurs) because I like animals while Ian commanded Blood Seekers - fantasy Vikings. This time it was Ian's turn to win. Herewith a few random photos...

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Border Reiver Project 2: Basing

2p coin bases: stable, stick to magnetic sheets
and only 2p!
I've written a lot recently about using 2p steel coins for basing individual 28mm figures, so I'll just add that my glue of choice for sticking the figures to them is the contact adhesive UHU Power which can be found in your local Pound Shop for £1.

You need to apply it sparingly, let it dry to the touch (about 10 mins), and firmly press the figure and coin together. I do a batch of about two dozen at a time. Once I've applied glue to the last figure and coin, it's time to start pressing the first pair together.

If done properly the figures and coins will remain stuck together. If you rush it they will come adrift as soon as you start to undercoat them and that can be very inconvenient.

Plastic milk-bottle tops have many uses and I've
collected them for years...
I use the coins tail down as that creates a smoother and more adherent contact with the magnetic sheet in the storage boxes. The bases will be textured etc at a later date.

For painting I then mount the figures temporarily on plastic milk bottle tops using Blu Tack. I've more-or-less given up drinking cows' milk as I've come to believe that's strange and unnatural and possibly carcinogenic, but I have a good stock of the tops.

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Rebels and Patriots - first game

I have lots of Rampant AARs to post, but I will start with the latest - my first game of Rebels and Patriots - as this new set of rules is the most topical.

I chose the 'First Clash At Lament Ridge' scenario for my first game of RAP using my recently acquired American War of Independence companies. We diced for choice of sides. I won and chose the British. My opponent Chris took the Continentals.

I had already drawn up two army lists optimising use of the figures I have. The British had a small elite force of mostly Veteran units, while the Revolutionaries had a lot of ordinary Line Infantry and a unit of Skirmishers. The companies totaled 27 points each rather than the default 24 but as this increase was only marginal we stuck to the 4' square battle area.

Veteran Shock Infantry (Grenadiers) 8
Veteran Line Infantry 6
Veteran Light Infantry, Small 7
Medium Artillery 6

Yankee Doodles
Line Infantry 4
Line Infantry 4
Line Infantry 4
Line Infantry 4
Line Infantry, Large 5
Skirmishers, Sharpshooters (Riflemen) 6

It was a classic match-up of quality vs quantity. In most wargames I put my money on quality, but after reading another RAP AAR I had an inkling that quality came at a price that might not be rewarded.

We threw for Officer Traits. Mine was Wheezy while Chris got Musketry. There was no rough ground so I wasn't affected. Chris used his re-roll in due course to inflict yet more casualties on me.

In comparison with other Rampant games, RAP is the same but different. Activation is simpler, but I got confused between the factors affecting the score to hit and the factors increasing the hits needed to cause a casualty. I've since brought these factors into my homemade QRS.

First turn and the British are racing for the hill, Grenadiers on the left and Line Infantry with Officer on the right. My gun plays on the third American unit from the left.

My Grenadiers manfully marched to within 3" of the objective, and then halted in the shelter of the hill in true Wellingtonian fashion. Although this protected them it was probably a mistake.

The large American unit veers away from my gun so I shoot up Chris' Rifleman, his most valuable unit, instead.

Disaster! My Line Infantry unit is decimated by fire from multiple opponents and my Officer is wounded and forced to withdraw from the field. More anon. Quality indeed proves no match for quantity.

The Line Infantry are almost wiped out. Although my Grenadiers were doing their job, they were not contributing to the demands of linear warfare. By keeping them out of the conflict, I had effectively reduced my army.

With the Line Infantry routed and the Grenadiers isolated and with threatened flanks, I took them out of Close Order and occupied the objective more directly. This was also a mistake. By this stage it was unlikely that the Revolutionaries could have held the objective longer than me before the scenario ended.

My Light Infantry do some damage to the unit opposite them which keeps that unit at bay. At least somebody knows what they are doing.

The Grenadiers were also decimated and forced to retreat. But they are still under fire from American units to their right and rout.

I committed the Light Infantry, again a waste of time, but the scenario ended so they were saved from destruction. It was now time to count the Honour points.

I got +3 Honour for controlling the objective for the most turns. Chris got +1 Honour for causing 33% casualties and +2 Honour for taking less than 33% casualties. To that extent the game was a draw. However, I got +1 Honour for the Honourable wound which made me the winner!

The question is...why did victory look and feel so much like defeat?

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

What's the point of game reports?

From my refight of Gettysburg using Bloody Big
I played the Union and got walloped. It was

an interesting exploration of alternative history.
I've published a few detailed game reports (AARs) and I have a few more in the pipeline, but I'm wondering just how interesting or useful they really are. They are certainly very time-consuming to write in comparison with other posts.

I can think of the following positive justifications for game reports:

1. They show what a particular set of rules is like to play. This is especially relevant for relatively new rule sets. They may extend to discussion of detailed rule issues, like the problems I had with Dux Bellorum.
2. They relate to historical scenarios which may interestingly be compared with the outcomes of the real battles or the experiences of other gamers. This is particularly relevant to games like Bloody Big Battles!
4. They illustrate good or bad generalship.
5. They have attractive photos which are nice to look at. Don't knock eye-candy!

Maybe there are other positives that can be suggested.

I'll try in future to make sure that my own game reports can be justified on one or more of the above grounds, and are not merely blow by blow accounts for their own sake.