Wargaming priorities

So decided my quickest and easiest ‘win’ to get something achieved and onto the tabletop will be my Elven-Martians for Space 1889. I have about 50 figures almost completed, just needing some basing detail and some protective varnish. Plus, there’s some odds here and there that shouldn’t be too hard to get painted up to augment those items.

And, the bonus here is that re-staring painting again, I can do so with something pseudo-historical so it’s not ultra important if my painting takes a while to get back up to a reasonable standard, and in itself will be good practice for painting techniques when I do get the historical projects back out.

 

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Proposed menu for Brew-Up

A mix of boardgames and wargames will be the fare for whoever braves the journey to the Wall.

Certainly for wargaming, I want to delve into two of Mr Mersey’s titles – ‘Dragon Rampant‘ and ‘The Men Who Would Be Kings‘.

DR can be used in whatever setting, even for something made up on the fly. It’s useful as you  can mix up forces from some company’s ‘codex’ with something completely historical as it’s opposition. And half the fun is the construction of the Warband and in providing it some sort of back-story. We’ve used Dark Elves against Border Reivers before – and my Reivers won (bless the gods for the wonder that is blackpowder!). Then again, I suspect that we may have been playing the Start-Turn and Activations slightly wrong (Ooops!)

TMWWBK is also another I’m keen to trial with the chaps, as this actually has great potential for the VSF stuff we do, especially any Space 1889 actions. Again, it’s a perfect toolkit of rules that allows you so much potential to adapt them to give the games you want, that can then fit into the campaign setting we already have established. I’ve been steadily collecting, adapting and painting (OK, that last one – others have been painting) allsorts of Elvish forces that I can then use for the Canal Martian forces of the Oenotrian Empire and others for the Hill Martians of the Steppes. I now have quite a few, but it’s a bit of a jumble, as I really need to sort them out into proper units – to set out some of the Bands and Companies of the native enemies of the Humans who’ve come to play out the Great Game on Mars.

As for the boardgaming – well, we are spoilt for choice admittedly, but the ones I think we’ll get onto the tabletop include Classic Warlord, Fury of Dracula (3rd Edition), perhaps one of the COIN games from GMT, and some of the old classics I have too. In fact, there’s so many that are good options, I can leave having to list them for now.

And it means the DoMA (Department of Messing About) gets it’s first proper playing session. While the room out back is not quite finished – two walls still need to be lined inside properly and then a good re-painting and some carpet – it’s been interesting to set up the tables and trugs to see the potential layout. It’s a good space, plenty of spare area around a central flat surface, and the daylight fluoro-tubes certainly improve the lighting too. I’ve even experimented on one of my gametable cloths, a very cheap lump of green fleece – hanging it in the garage while I spray adhesive mounting glue and then shake green flock of various shades all over. The shaker was simple improvisation – an empty Pringles tube with holes pierced in the lid. Load up with a few spoons of flock, spray glue and shake. And the reliable hairspray sprayed last to provide some way of fixing it all. We shall see how it works but it was a fun and cheap exercise to dabble with.

Just some last bits of printing, and then some rules reading tonight to crib up on what’s possible, and then all set to begin tomorrow evening. Been good to get back into the mood too.

Finally, below there’s an overhead snap of the Graustark/Axphain game I set up a few months back. Apologies it’s a bit fuzzy, it was a quick point-&-click on my mobile.

This was a dabble with the TMWWBK rules, showing some of the terrain I’ve made or acquired – and also shows what the greencloth used to look like. That should remind me to take plenty of pix for the games played over this weekend.

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‘Mudd’s Martian Canals & Waterways’

‘Martian Canals & Waterways & the Native Vessels Upon Them’ – Captain William Mudd RN

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There is a wondrous beauty in the straight waterlines of this red planet. As meltwater flows from the planet’s polar caps, so you see the tidal surging, high and low, of the vast broad canals carved out of the surface by long forgotten masters. To have such power to score these lines is a marvel in itself. Today these waterways are the trading lifeblood for much of the heavier cargoes between the City States, and indeed if you are not blessed with the access to the waterways, with your docks, mills, bridges, viaducts, channels, ponds, acquifiers, weirs, gantries, promenades and embankments, many of those remote cities have settled into dust.

Syrtis Major and the Colony are blessed with well-maintained canals and waterways that have seen the city flourish, even more so now that we have brought the designs and formulaes of our Imperial trade and commerce. Fortunes are to be made upon these routes, many have relocated from the Empire on Earth to develop the trade routes on Mars.

And dear reader, think not of Birmingham canals with their tidy towpaths. These waterways are often two, three or even four or five miles wide.

The Martian watercraft, of which there is a breath-taking variety and number, are quaint contraptions from a bygone age back on Earth. Many are sail-craft, very much akin to the ‘dhows’ and ‘junks’ you would encounter from the Gulf of Aden eastwards to the South China Seas. Some are trading boats, fishermen, luggers, haulers, and some are even family residences. Many have some form of defensive armament, ranging from ballistae and catapults to small lightweight muzzle-loading cannon. All manner of cargo are carried from city to city, and to all the settlements along the well-irrigated and planted banks between the great residences.

Often you see the mightiest Martian vessels, the nobility’s own craft, quite literally you could call these vessels floating palaces. Some of these great rafts and barges will cruise for months upon end, touring the canals on some great parade, to demonstrate the wealth and rank of their owning clans and families. Some of these are transport hulks too, great freighters gliding silent in the Martian breezes, laden with goods of all forms and descriptions. While the skies still have much of the fast traffic, unfettered by the flow and direction of canals, the waterways still carry much of the everyday common trade.

The Martians have substantial naval vessels on the waterways as well. Many follow the similar design principles found on their aerial vessels. So that wind power from sails is still used for many boats, but so too will you find that the ‘handcrank’ has been connected to short stubby paddles. Great reserves of manpower from the lower Martian classes of the City dwellers provide the muscle needed. And of course, those same crew can easily be armed with all manner of weaponry. Frighteningly fierce boarding actions can erupt between hostile opposing clans. The Martian warships are an imposing presence in sight and sound, and thankfully the accounts of blatant piracy involving these vessels are very few.

Generally the Martian watercraft are simple straightforward designs, often locally built and fashioned from the wood resources not used for aerial vessels. Some are competently designed and built, some look more patched-up and ramshackle. Many of the smaller vessels are quite old, twenty to fifty years of service being a steady average life. With a minimal amount of marine life to worry about to degrade the vessels, much of the hazards to contend with are windstorms and tidal surges.

It is still most convenient to refer to the sections and components of any vessel – our own or the Martians – in the best terminology we have employed for the last few centuries.

While more humans employ and explore the benefits of the aerial ways, the canals and waterways will continue to prove to be the crucial arteries of this planet. For it is still Nature’s way that water – the life-giving liquid for humanity and Martiankind alike – remains the single most important asset in these lands.

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‘Taken from an early issue of the renowned Parhoon Gazette, this copy of Captain Mudd’s article is available from the library of the Traveller’s Club, Parhoon.’


This is a sample of some of the background material I have drafted for our Space 1889 campaigns. It means the players can collect an informative folder of details and extras, always useful for future reference. I have a lot scribbled down in notebooks that either needs scanning or transcribing. Another set of tasks for the ‘to-do‘ list.

 

 

Space 1889 Game Notes & Basic Information – Part 1

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1.0 Attributes, Skills and Tasks

1.1 Attributes still range from 1 (low) to 6 (high) as in the original rules. It’s also important to remember that no Skill linked to a specific Attribute can ever exceed the Attribute score. It can however equal it.

E.g., With Strength 4, then Fisticuffs, Throwing, and any Close Combat or Trimsman skill cannot exceed 4.

1.2 Skills are always linked to a governing Attribute. No Skill exists on its own, outside of the Attribute format. For any Task test the Skill used takes precedence, with the Attribute providing just a simple bonus to the Skills dice score.

1.3 Tasks range in increasing Difficulty levels, and remain exactly as they are listed in the original Space 1889 rules. The target number for the Difficulty rating has to be equalled or exceeded in any Task test. Referee will state the Difficulty level for the Task, characters then make their attempts.

Task Difficulty Levels
Difficulty Rating Target Level
Easy Target 4
Moderate Target 8
Difficult Target 12
Formidable Target 16
Impossible Target 20

 

2.0 Task Attempts Method

2.1 This does differ from the original rules. Once a Referee announces what sort of Task is at hand, characters can attempt to achieve that Task with the pertinent skills, backed up by their Attributes. If the character has no relevant skill, there may be an opportunity to use the Attribute alone, depending on circumstance and the Referee’s discretion.

2.2 Once the Task Difficulty is announced, the character has a number of D6 equal to their current score in that skill.

E.g., for a Swimming Task, and the character has Swimming 2, then use 2d6.

Then the governing Attribute is included too, but only as a positive bonus modifier to apply to the total score achieved on the skill dice.

E.g., for the Swimming example above, the character has Endurance of 3 (Endurance being the governing Attribute for Swimming).

This then creates the necessary details for the Task Attempt and its Target Level. (The character’s abilities are especially useful to then enter into the Rolz online dice-resolution system.)

E.g., Continuing with the Swimming Task Attempt – it is a Moderate Task (Target = 8) – the character has Swimming 2 under Endurance 3, providing a 2d6 +3 for the Task Attempt.

2.3 Dice are rolled and the score is modified by the Attribute, to then see whether the final result means the Task Attempt has been successful or not.

E.g., the 2d6 are rolled, scoring ‘2’ and ‘3’, for a total dice score of ‘5’. With the Attribute of ‘+3’ then added on the final result is ‘8’ – the character has just passed the Swimming Task.

2.4 Any dice roll that scores all ‘1’s is an automatic failure, and the Referee has the discretion to apply additional penalties or problems. In contrast to that, if all the dice rolled score ‘6’s, then this is an overwhelming success, and the Referee may decide to reward the character, there or later on.


Link for the Rolz site: https://rolz.org/

Kill Zone Rules – a futuristic blast from the past

Nick Lund’s Kill Zone – well, to properly give it’s full title as ‘Future Warriors: Kill Zone‘ – were a nifty set of simple rules from Grenadier UK, that we used in many a multi-player game. It provided a robust, no-frills quick-play combat session where you added the chrome yourself. No imposed codex, no approved figure range – although the 28mm figures you could get (and still available today) suited perfectly. The system was so easy to work with, I used the basic framework to ‘mod’ them into other genres.

A short while back, on one of the rare weekend meet-ups I managed to make, one of the chaps decided to run a few skirmishes with them. I luckily remembered I had a few items archived in the back-ups, and printed some stuff off. It was so quick, to get back into the game-play, you were left wondering why it was we moved away from these rules. Granted, there was no fluff or detailed theme, so you had to construct that yourself, but that was never beyond my abilities, or indeed for some of the others. Perhaps we were swayed to try something else, now long forgotten about?

In an age where sometimes the more recent rules are over-produced with gorgeous ‘eye-candy’ photos and quite often, minimal amount of explanatory text or useful examples of play, the basic simplicity of the ‘Kill Zone’ content was a refreshing change. It’s probably my age – or impatience. Probably why I have enjoyed some of the recent Osprey Gaming releases, like ‘Dragon Rampant‘ and TMWWBK. Despite now being in a better domestic situation where the games I want to play can be set-up, left in situ, returned to when I want too, I still find I enjoy those games that require less set-up time and prep work. On that note, if I’m ever to return to large-scale Napoleonics, then I need to re-discover that old attraction of pre-game design and preparation.

So, Kill Zone was a fun nostalgic re-visit. I even re-discovered a VSF version of a Kill Zone QRS I one made up for Space:1889 when I got home. I’ve attached the PDF here in case anyone would appreciate seeing it.

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Dalliances with Danger – The Saxmundham Viking Treasure – Part 2

(This was the second part of the briefing for the same wargames weekend)

The SIAS officers, now reinforced by more volunteers, some of them armed, send out a patrol to establish just what has been going on in the countryside between them and the sea, while Judge Cooper and Mr Geach the Mayor put the town into a state of readiness. All set their hearts and minds to the task ahead and then grave news is announced – the Telegraph lines have been cut!

The two Police Constables finally make it back to town with their new ‘friend’. Hopefully, Old Jock Trubshaw is reasonably sober to have told of his midnight encounters “wiv some nasty ‘Uns..

But now more information is needed – as to how many, and where they are, and what’s their intentions in coming here? Who leads them in this odd ‘invasion’ of East Anglia – surely this isn’t some scheme dreamed up by the Kaiser? Is the ‘Teutonic Twit’ really that hair-brained? Or can it really be the Arch-fiend himself?

The Light Railway has already proven to be a valuable link to Leiston and the coast, and the Station staff and signallers have worked hard with the Enginemen in getting the light engines and carriages made ready for another venture out. With the sun slowly rising over the North Sea, time is crucial and the enemy must be found and observed.

The SIAS party and their growing band of volunteer forces must now defend the centre of the town of Saxmundham from these raiders, prevent them from looting and carrying off any spoils, and capture any of them to interrogate and find out why they are here.

The Judge and the Mayor have done a fine job in preparing the town against these foreign agents, and lookouts have been posted, a dressing station has been set up for any wounded, and gallons of hot tea and piles of bacon sandwiches are available for the gallant defenders of East Suffolk.

Now it’s known the enemy are coming straight for the town, but many rumours abound as to why. Some are saying it’s a deliberate attempt on the capital, seize the railway and ride into London, others say that Colchester is the real target, again by using the railway. But most have now heard from Old Jock that the raiders are after some sort of Viking item that’s here in the town – and yet no-one knows what or where it is. The Mayor has ordered a few trusted seniors to investigate further, but a scour around the Bell Inn, and the small Museum by the Market Hall have found nothing and now the town elders are pouring through the town records.

So all the defenders can do now is await the assault and to see where the attackers aim for – and hope to stop them in their tracks before they can plunder the town and escape.


This part of the briefing led all the players to participate in the tabletop battle, with a lot more forces present. The actual game saw Deveraux’s forces push aside some of the hastily raised and poorly armed civilian bands, and some deliberate evil naughtiness occurred when some of Les Enfants Perdu shot down some nuns that had been taken hostage. A typical Deveraux Outrage!!

Amongst all that panic and indignation the forces of villainy broke into Saxmundham Church to raid the crypt for the Viking treasure, and hot-footed it back to the coast. The SIAS re-mustered what they could, including some Volunteer Riflemen of the Suffolk Regiment who had dashed into town from Sudbury, but alas they could not prevent the ‘Man of Blood’ from departing.

All-in-all, it proved the variant SG2 rules worked, and that it was also possible to mix gaming styles together too, to satisfy both wargamers and role-players attending the same games weekend. It’s something I should plan to repeat again sometime this year, now that we have IHMN and TMWWBK – two sets of rules that lend themselves perfectly to this concept.

Dalliances with Danger – The Saxmundham Viking Treasure – Part 1

(A prequel campaign, this was used as a ‘tester’ of the adapted Stargrunt II rules at a wargames weekend several years ago)

That ‘Man of Blood’ is loose again in the world. After his deprivations in Imperial China – taking advantage of the feuding Governors and Warlords – he’s now believed to be running opium again back into Western Europe. It’s also believed that Von Ludecke is still with him – Beck is reputed to be somewhere in North America & D’Allange is said to be in the Middle-East.

Deveraux has been gathering his forces of anarchy and mayhem, and the Imperial Powers have managed to set aside their differences and recognise his threat to all their regimes.

His many acts of outrage – the raiding and sinking of French steamships in the Gulf of Lyons, the bombing of the Hotel Excelsior in Sarajevo, the abduction and subsequent ransom of Princess Elenia of Moldavia, and the derailment of the Ottoman Army’s Smyrna Military Train – are just the latest in a long line of sinister events all perpetrated by Deveraux and his minions, Les Enfants Perdu. Their exploits blaze across the front pages of the Western Press and all clamour for direct action against the Arch-fiend.

Now, strange sightings of lights afloat in the darkness off the East Anglian coast has prompted Horseguards to send some officers to Saxmundham to investigate. Before they are able to arrive however, the train journey is interrupted.

The northward train has been stopped just south of Saxmundham by unknown hijackers, who have removed the engine and tender, leaving the passenger carriages stranded. The party of officers have then resorted to walking up the line, in the dead of night, to the station and there they meet the Stationmaster and two Police Constables.  On the Platform stand Detective Inspector Symonds and Judge Cooper, who address the assembled throng of servicemen in the Passenger Waiting Room. The London-bound Express has also lost its engine and tender, blocking the line coming south from Norwich.

Peculiar happenings have also been occurring in this area, in the dead of night, close to the shoreline, and two Police Constables managed to signal earlier using Morse Code with their patrol lanterns, that they have under guard a valuable yet delusional witness. Gun flashes and then a considerable noise of gunfire were observed and heard from their direction, and Symonds now needs assistance in finding and bringing back his two Constables and their valuable witness.

To that extent, Judge Cooper has just proclaimed the Local Emergency Powers Act in the town’s marketplace and a small band of volunteers have been gathered, some armed with shotguns, to assist. What’s desperately needed though, is leadership and military training and that’s why the Judge and Symonds are glad of the officers arrival.

The town is buzzing with unusual night-time activity, the gaslights are burning brightly tonight, and the townspeople move about the shadows with a determined purpose – what mystery waits out there in the darkness. Some of the apprentice boys have been dispatched westwards, on bicycles, to pass on news of the situation and to seek more assistance.


This was the first part of the briefing for the game weekend and was resolved with some combined ‘kriegspiel’ and role-play, along with a few tabletop skirmishes. The participants soon got ‘into character’ – it only needed some reminders of Jeremy Brett and Basil Rathbone as that man Sherlock, and away the game went.