Saturday, 15 June 2019

Seige of Tyre

I recently read a very interesting online article titled Was Pontarii Fighting the Origin of the Gladiator-Type Retiarius? An Analysis of the Evidence. It indicated that the pons fight scenario was a recreation of the siege of Tyre, derived from the following text by Diodorus Siculus 17.43.7-9;

When the Macedonians moved up towers as high as the walls and in this way, extending bridges, boldly assaulted the battlements, the Tyrians fell back on the ingenuity of their engineers and applied many counter-measures to meet the assault. They forged great tridents armed with barbs and struck with these at close range the assailants standing on the towers. These stuck in the shields, and as ropes were attached to the tridents, they could haul on the ropes and pull them in. Their victims were faced the alternative of releasing their arms and exposing their bodies to be wounded by the missiles which showered upon them, or clinging to their shields for shame and perishing in the fall from the lofty towers.

So, using the Munero Sine Missione v3 rules, I tried to recreate the pons fight. Firstly, I had to modify a Retiarius to become a Pontarius (essentially abandoning the net for throwing rocks) - the Moonraker Miniatures retiarius seemed to fit the bill for this as it held the trident in the left hand, allowing for the net to be cut out from the right and replaced with a throwing rock. As to the "secutors", I thought it would be fun to get some secutor/murmillo gladiator figures and replace the heads with Macedonian phalangite heads - the plastic figures from the Spartacus Blood & Treachery boardgame with warlord heads from a Macedonian pike sprue looked like a good fit as proxy roman style Macedonians.

The approach of the Secutor/Macedonians was met with a lot of rock throwing - it didn't cause any damage, apart from knocking off a shield that was then picked up, and gave the Pontarius some virtus points from working the crowd. Eventually, the bridge assault began;

The attack was repelled with a trident thrust pushing the invader off the bridge, and a rock throw bringing about a "double 2" critical event, the save from which was failed. One secutor was down, but the other used the opportunity to try to approach the bridge from the other side;

This began a real tussle, the remaining secutor managed to scale up the ramp and just push the pontarius back, but did not have enough remaining AP to get to the top of the bridge to secure victory;

The pontarius, using the built up virtus points albiet some clumsy attacks, was able to get back on top and slowly push the secutor back down. The secutor was wounded and started accumulating fatigues;

The secutor was determined and was able to scale the bridge again, even losing his shield which fell to the ground out of reach. The pontarius was quite unlucky at this point and had some ineffective attacks, notable some double 3 critical events fatiguing him. A big push from the secutor with an AP roll of 6 allowed him to push back the pontarius and seize the top of the platform;

On top of the loss, the bad luck continued for the pontarius who failed in an appeal to the crowd. So a "historical" result was achieved with Macedonians winning the siege of Tyre.

It was a close fight in the end which could have gone either way, and gives an interesting alternative to the 1 vs 1 fights on sand.

Saturday, 4 May 2019

Panzer Miniatures Rules

Tonight I played Panzer Miniatures Rules with Doug at the Sutherland Shire Gamers in 15mm. We have found these rules to have a lot of depth and better "realism" (if this concept is possible) as opposed to other commercial rulesets. Tank penetration is deterministic - you either beat the armour value or you don't, it is not a random dice fest. The rules are also very fast to play, and we can easily finish a game on a Friday night.

We ran a WW2 scenario using the map from campaign 2, scenario 2 "Panzerschlact" from the Armored Combat Scenario's and Additional Rules for a Sergeant's War and other WW2 Games. The scenario's in this book are quite good, giving intelligent and coherent rules for terrain, and where tanks can get hull down positions etc, even to defining the height of hills.

We ignored the force composition in that scenario and ran with the following (theoretically equal) force from Panzer Miniatures Rules instead;

Soviets (769 pts)
4 x IS2 (496 pts)
3 x T-34/85 (273 pts)
Cohesion/Breakpoint: 4 tanks

Germans (768 pts) 
4 x Tiger I (372 pts)
2 x Panther (200 pts)
1 x Ferdinand (111 pts)
1 x Panzer IV/H (85 pts)
Cohesion/Breakpoint: 5 tanks

This picture shows the Soviet deployment, with tanks either taking up hull down positions of hills, and some being in a gully (the brown felt)

This next picture shows the German armour arrive on table (looking from the perspective of the Russian player);

Initially, an IS2 fired on the Ferdinand but could not penetrate the turret from the range it was shooting at. It seemed a bit grim for the Russians, but the IS2's were able to quickly take out 2 Tigers, and then the Panzer IV who advanced to a hull down position on a hill, but to no avail. Meanwhile, the T-34/85's advanced to a gully to get closer ranged shots in, but experienced very hard going against the Panthers and the Ferdinand. Despite being hull down in the gully, they were slowly being battered, with one being KO'd. On the Russian right flank, a Tiger scored a track hit on an IS2, and the crew decided to bail. The Ferdinand then took out another T-34/85. Each side was now 3 tanks down. The position looked like this;

The remaining damaged T-34/85 managed to load a HVAP round (this is a nice touch in the rules where there is a risk/reward in trying to use better ammo) and took out a Panther. Both sides were now only one loss away from reaching their breaking point.

The Russians won initiative, letting them shoot first - this was grim for the Germans as 2 IS2's were in short range of the remaining Panther. The first IS2 missed, but the second got a hit. Luckily for the Germans, and against all odds, the shot only damaged the tank. The Panther now had it's turn to shoot. Despite the negative modifiers for the damage, shooting through hedgerows etc, it hit and brewed up the remaining T-34/85, bringing Russian losses up to their break point.

Any game that finishes this close is good. It easily took less than two hours and just confirmed how good the rules were.

Thursday, 30 November 2017

VSF Diversions with Hordes of the Things

Mark Stevens recently sent me some reports of Hordes of the Things games he had, and kindly gave permission to post them onto this blog. I'll put up subsequent battles as separate posts;

I had a free evening recently, so out came my VSF HoTT armies that haven’t seen action for a long long time.

For both games the French and British faced off at the village of Prosecco, in the Lombardy countryside. There’s obviously a missing back story here, but I can’t find it right now.

Royal Bicycle Artillery to the rescue!

The first battle of Prosecco was a standard 24AP affair. The French were nominally defenders, but with way better PIPs for most of the game they attacked with their customary elan.

The first photo, taken from an observation balloon behind the French lines shows the Foreign Legion (3xSh) advancing up the road to take the village. At the rear of the column is one of the new wonder weapons from Louis Vuitton - a power armour suit (Pd). To their L the line infantry (4xHd) cover the flank. To their R the steam tank is a Bh(G), and on the R flank a cuirassier brigade on the latest ‘bicyclettes’ (3xKn) also advances. The weird Bh thing on the baseline is the French stronghold. Note to self: make a plausible VSF stronghold.

In the distance perfidious Albion awaits its inevitable fate, seemingly transfixed by the sight of the advancing French (or perhaps, a run of terrible PIPs). They have a thin red line (6xSh) supported by a power armour suit (Hr(G)), troop of lancers (1xKn), a Sn (great detective & loyal companion), and a battery of the Royal Bicycle Artillery (1xArt).

The French pushed forward, taking the village and threatening the British L with the cuirassiers supported by the Pd & Bh. The British Sn was swept away (flee move) by the advancing cuirassiers. It played no further part in the battle, although it was beginning to line up an attack on the steam tank Bh(G) as the game ended.

The second photo shows first contact (not counting the Sn road-bump), when the Pd destroyed a company of redcoats, but a cuirassier element was forced to recoil. I bungled that, it should have been destroyed (beaten by Sh with which it has just moved into contact) and didn’t realise until too late to change.

Anyway, the French piled on the pressure. Casualties were low but positionally the French had all the advantages. The British desperately used their few PIPS to hold them off hoping that something would turn up.

Which of course it did! The last photo shows the final turn of the battle. The British L has almost collapsed. And although the British Hr(G) and surviving Sh are giving the French L a hard time, it looks like the Frogs will win by turning on the exposed British flanks.

And then, the gallant chaps of the Royal Bicycle Artillery saved the day. They took a shot at the French Bh(G) and the dice in the photo tell the story. The final score: 4-8G to the Nation of Shopkeepers! The frogs lost a Sh, a Kn, and the Bh(G). The lobsters lost 2xSh.

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Treasure Hunters of Charlemagne

The latest adventure from Ganesha Games in the Four Against Darkness (4AD) series is Treasure Hunters of Charlemagne. I wrote this supplement, and thought it might be a good idea to say a little about it...

From cover to cover, it is 44 pages, and requires two of the core books to play, the original Four Against Darkness and Four Against the Abyss, written by Andrea Sfiligoi. The reason is that the party starts at 5th level, so all the rules in Four Against the Abyss come into play, such as expert skills, madness, lycanthropy, hirelings etc. I really love the additional things Four Against the Abyss brings to 4AD, and this adventure has been developed with those rules in mind.

Treasure Hunters of Charlemagne is set in Europe in the late 8th Century. You use a party of 4 characters which can be of any class, except for elves, dwarves and halflings. Despite being in a real world setting, it is outright fantasy, so you still have wizards with all their spells, clerics, barbarians, rogues, warriors and swashbucklers.

Inspiration is drawn from mythology of the time and works such as chanson de geste. The world is full of mythical beasts, enchanters, and magic items. It is also full of deceit and intrigue, some of which makes its way into this adventure.

The game takes place on a map of Europe. You decide which areas to travel to. Each area has its own fixed encounter and background, so you have a lot of control in the path taken and developing the unfolding story. The campaign is not meant to be scripted, there is no one correct answer. Many different paths that can be taken to achieve the end goal.

Random encounters happen as the party travels around Europe from place to place, from things jumping out of forests and mountains, to bustling towns. The game is meant to play like an "edited highlights reel", where sometimes you travel without incident, at others all manner of things start to go wrong.

Towns are very important, it is here where a party gets to recover and engage in other activities; there might be a jousting tourney for warriors, thieving opportunities for rogues, wizards might try to track down ancient books for spells and clerics pray in a monastery. You might also bump into interesting people and hire some help. Things can also go terrible wrong here, such as characters getting into drunken brawls and even be arrested.

Another aspect I wanted to model was party unity, or fellowship. Unlike a one-off dungeon bash, here the game could represent many months of travel, so keeping the party motivated becomes an issue. The party will face tests of its fellowship, that could see a character storm off!

The ultimate aim is for the party to find clues, survive all the various challenges, including political and other intrigues that may be thrown its way to recover the spear of destiny and deliver it to Charlemagne. No doubt that once this happens, new chapters will be added to the chanson de geste!

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Disposable Heroes 2: Somewhere in the Ardennes

This year I painted up a platoon of 28mm US forces so they can be used in some 1 to 1 scale gaming. After having tried some other rulesets at the Sutherland Shire Gamers, we are starting use Disposable Heroes 2 (DH2)which has only recently been released.

One thing about playing games at a club, is that there can often be more than one player per side, and it is good if the rules can handle this. We found the Chain of Command rules struggled somewhat in this regard, as one side had to wait until all opposing players made their moves, with a possibility that, due to lucky dice rolling, those players could get even more multiple moves.

With DH2, each side instead alternates activations, which makes the game far more engaging with multiple players a side. Each activation gives a unit 3 tactical points, most commonly each tactical point is spent either shooting or moving, and tactical points can be shared. You can also activate the same unit all the time, so it makes for some interesting tactical choices.

In the most recent game we played, we had Rafael running his panzergrenadiers, and myself with Stephen running the US, using 1,000 points for each force. This gave us roughly 10 or so units side. The US ran a HQ with bazooka team (2 units), three rifle squads with AT grenades (6 units as each squad has two teams), 2 Shermans, and an 80mm mortar that was kept off table. The Germans ran a HQ with LMG's, 2 infantry squads (with panzerfausts, AT & HE grenades), a panzerschrek team, a sniper team, an 8cm mortar (off table), a PAK40 75mm L46, and a Stug IIIG. The table looked as follows;

Initially, there are no units on the table. Each side gets 5 deployment areas, and units are preassigned to each, showing up within 6" of each as they are activated. Both sides used their off table mortars to do a barrage on a single enemy deployment area, but both failed to hit anything. The germans deployed a team (unpainted 😢) that moved onto a hill. The US had an infantry squad get up to a hedgerow and get the first fire! (This is quite a tense mechanism - whoever shoots first has the ability to really inflict damage - it is called "all hell breaks loose", as both sides know the fight is on!). It does create suspense for the start of the game, and there is a cat and mouse game involved as to who gets it first. The BAR team went ahead, but with some really bad dice rolling, only inflicted one casualty. This seemed to set the tone for the US, who in general, couldn't hit a barn door throughout he game.... The scene is below;

Eventually, we had more units deploy on board. On the right flank, a US squad took a ruined building, but then came under fire from some MG42's, and a Stug IIIG. This was probably a tactical mistake on my part, as I moved the US team too far forward without support. I had to throw in a Sherman to try to counter the German tank threat as below;

As it turned out, the US teams got supressed and were starting to fall back to regroup. The Germans used a push activation (this is a bonus activation you can get if you pay for better training) to charge the infantry into the building. The Germans won the fight, but only had 3 figures at the end of it, so the hand to hand was quite brutal. The Sherman tried to shoot into the ruins, only managing to inflict a couple of supressions, and then used a push activation to move in front of the Stug and shoot. The Sherman acquired and hit, but failed to penetrate the armour. In reply, the Stug rolled almost perfect dice and blew up the Sherman. Things were starting to look bad for the US.

On the right flank, the US brought out the second Sherman, but the road was covered by an off table German 75mm anti tank gun - quite luckily, the Sherman survived being shot at a few times. In response, the US off table mortar put down a smoke screen to cut the beaten zone;

Eventually, the Stug now moved across and took a pot shot at the Sherman, failing to acquire. The Sherman shot back, using a normal activation and push activation to shoot, missing on all attempts. The Sherman's luck ran out as the Stug came in for another direct hit, scoring its second kill.

At this point (we were about two thirds of the way through the second turn), it was decided the US position became untenable and promptly withdrew.

Overall, we found the DH2 rules worked well. There was some infantry shooting, but I think as happens in WW2 games, once tanks show up, they steal the action. There is a learning curve with tactics, and we will probably house rule a few things. One thing is that we will probably use the lists in the v1 army books, eg from the "Blood & Guts" and "Angriff" supplements, as they are far more extensive than those given in the main rule book

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Rogue Stars Skirmish

After a bit of a hiatus from sci-fi skirmish gaming, I had a game of Rogue Stars, using the WoTC Star Wars miniatures with Martin at the Sutherland Shire Gamers. Rogue Stars are a very interesting set of rules, as they are a complete revamp of the original Songs of Blades and Heroes activation mechanic.

They use a d20 rather than a d6, have increased interactivity with reaction moves, and you can continue with your turn, even if you roll multiple failures. A stress mechanism ensures, however, that you cannot continue indefinitely, and the opponent will eventually seize initiative and start their turn.

The two sides were a force of Star Cops (Imperial stormtroopers with some Bespin security) against Pirates (a rag tag force lead by Lando). An abduction mission was rolled up, so the stormtroopers had to capture Lando. The setup is to the left.

Lando is in a bar with a couple of gang members, a wookie and a Rodian armed with an assault rifle. The building was already surrounded by two Bespin cops. The stormtroopers were still on the baseline, and a couple more pirates were in other buildings.

Unfortunately for the pirates, a Bespin cop got a clear surprise shot on the wookie, who failed to react. This caused a wound and a crippling of the shooting arm.

However, this was as good as it got for the space cops, as the Rodian with the assault rifle put the Bespin trooper OOA.

The stormtroopers, who were moving up in support, suffered badly on the morale roll.

The Rodian was able to put another OOA (shooting first) allowing the pirates to escape off the table, and Lando being able to escape.

We played a second game, this time it was a Destroy Property mission, where the stormtroopers had to blow up 6 different structures. Interestingly, on the location roll, it was the defenders home planet, giving the pirates a bonus to morale, so the narrative fit nicely. This time around, the stormtroopers won, with the image below showing some of the burning structures.

The ruleset is quite a detailed, and will take a while to figure out the nuances. However, we found the game to be quite good, and are thinking of trying it as a campaign, where characters can develop over time

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Leptis Magna Season 2, Episode 14 (Finale)

Following on from the last episode, we carry onto the next round. My posts are in blue, Marks are in green, and any post-editing commentary are in red. The gladiator rules used are Munera Sine Missione - note that this version may have differences to the current version. Each round will be posted as a weekly episode.

The Legate and his guards & entourage will enter on the street at bottom L and follow it around the corner to exit at top C. The famous Markets he is to visit are just off-table there.

The next photo below shows the situation at the end of move 1. The white marker shows Macer, surrounded by his bodyguards and entourage in a formation that ensures no one can get into contact with him. The red marker at top is Senex who has entered the scene over the footbridge. The other two red markers show (a) Quadratus and his dog loitering in an alleyway and (b) Flaviana and two of her "sisters" trying for customers at a street corner.

Senex rolled well in turn 2 and moved to position himself behind the Legate's party, seeking an opportunity to strike. It looked as if he would have to kill an entourage member to get to Macer, unless some lucky chance arose. The main problem for Macer and his group is that they are only able to move at S speed if they want to keep their formation, because of the jostling crowds.

Luckily for Senex an opportunity arose right away, when in turn 3 one of the entourage members rolled a turnover, separating both of them from Macer and the two guards who moved on ahead. Senex's luck held when his turn came: he rolled 3 actions. He moved up and struck at Macer from behind. However Macer was somehow able to dodge the blow, or perhaps Senex got cold feet. I dare say it's lucky Quadratus did not see the incident or he would have used some choice words about incompetence! I gave Senex an ambush bonus, but still not enough. Because of the total surprise factor I allowed Senex to run off for his third action without facing a free hack. He ducked down a small alleyway. But now Macer knows there is a plot afoot.

Macer tries regrouping his party before moving on, not because he dismisses the plot, but because he knows there is a picket of legionaries on guard duty at the market gates, not too far ahead (just off table). Once there he will be safe. But his entourage seems to have gotten lost in the crowd and continues to lag behind, so he and his loyal guards push on without waiting.

The next photo shows the situation at the end of turn 4. Macers party is split in two, with himself and the bodyguards pushing on ahead and the entourage trailing behind. Senex has rolled well for actions again and does a rat-run along some alleys to position himself near Quadratus and Flaviana, at a spot where the Legate will have to pass.

And the next photo shows a view down the street as we approach the critical moment. Macer can be seen accompanied by his two guards (with red and yellow shields), and further back behind them his lagging entourage members. Flaviana and her sisters are doing their best to distract passers-by on the side-street corner, and Senex can be seen next to them (with the white tunic and raised sword). Quadratus and Rufus are also in the side street, just out of camera shot.
In turn 5  Macer and the guards come within distract range of Flaviana, while his entourage further splinters when one of them rolls a turnover. The conspirators bide their time waiting to see how the distract affects their target's next turn. Turn 6: Hells bells! No effect, both guards and Legate walk right past the alluring Flaviana and the other exotic dancers, without a second glance. Who would have thought it.

But it is "now or never" time. Quadratus steps in to try and create an opportunity. He moves closer to the guards and unleashes Rufus to attack the nearest guard. Rufus jumps on the unlucky guard, savaging him and he falls to the ground. Senex rolls three actions and moves in for a power blow on Macer. I did not give Senex the ambush bonus this time, but he beats Macer anyway, who falls, wounded. Quadratus then attempts to move in the finish the job but is hindered by passing civilians (rolls insufficient actions).

Turn 7, and the Legate's party looks in trouble: one guard and the Legate himself are on the ground with attackers in contact. The other guard rolls low and is unable to intervene. The mauled guard rolls better, stands up and counter attacks and Rufus falls. Macer rolls three actions. He stands up and attacks Senex with a power blow, but without result. The entourage are not coming to help, they roll turnover again and are apparently lost in the throng.

Senex also rolls three actions and attacks Macer with a power blow but Macer manages to fell him!  Rufus also gets back in the fight and continues the fight with the guard. Quadratus is still unable to intervene.

Turn 8: everything goes pear-shaped for the conspirators. Macer kills the fallen Senex. The two guards get together and kill Rufus. A picket of legionaries, alerted by the commotion, emerge from the markets and move at the double towards the scene. Even the long-lost entourage get their bearings again and move up.

All Flaviana and Quadratus can do is go their separate ways, slinking back into the alleyways before any attention is drawn to them.

Quite a bad turn of events! Looks like it all came down to that last blow of Senex which completely failed…

A bitter end to the campaign, Quadratus will miss his dog, and Androcles falls out of favour with the procurator, having failed at the assassination. One question that no doubt distracted Senex is why Flaviana failed to help, was she secretly paid more by the Legatus all along??


It seemed like a close run thing with your description, but did it favour the legate too much? One concern I had was the “Lucky” trait on the Legatus, in that a good hit could be undone.

It was tilted to the Legate but that was in keeping with the somewhat amateurish nature of the assassination attempt. If Garutianus had been a serious conspirator he would have arranged multiple assassins at the least.

In the end I did not use Macer's "lucky" ability, although it was tempting when he was knocked down. I decided to reserve it until needed to avoid total disaster, which it never was.

On reflection I think the failure of the first attempt by Senex was because Macer was wearing armour under his toga.

Flaviana was genuinely trying to help ... the problem was that after Senex's first botched attempt, Macer and his guards were far too wary to stop and enjoy the show the girls were putting on.

I feel Androcles will be in a spot of bother, as the body of Senex may be traceable to his ludus (through information provided by the ubiquitous Samasu and the other Macer) and he will then have inconvenient questions to answer. The Legate could then confiscate the ludus and give it to his brother. He had better leave town now before Garutianus has him arrested and "disappears" him to prevent him confessing.

Oh well, the procurator got it right in the end, as mentioned by Tacitus in his annals: (histories book 1, chapter 7)

"It happened too that the executions of Clodius Macer and Fonteius Capito were reported at this same time. Macer, who had unquestionably been making trouble in Africa, had been executed by Trebonius Garutianus, the imperial agent, at Galba's orders."

Multiple assassins being present (such as JFK conspiracies or the King and Assassins game) would have been interesting, but think that this would have been more fun if the fight was moderated (or controlled) by an umpire, so that Senex would not know of their existence. They probably were there, but Quadratus fled before seeing them :) Androcles might get some credit from Garutianus for creating the opening...

I was worried it would be too tough, the intention is that the gladiator does not meet his end during an "inbetween" action. However, it does follow the strange trend we have had that once the first gladiator goes, the second follows shortly after. And it was a spectacular finale!