Friday, February 24, 2012

Hammering the Scots

I got in no less than two new sessions of Hammer of the Scots yesterday! They were both against the same opponent, the first game being his first game. He has played Columbia games like Crusader Rex before and picked up the rules quickly, but the first game ended up being quick and brutal nonetheless.

Wallace is again forced into Selkirk because of overstacking and is surrounded by the English.
I took the role of the English this time. The first game was over in a couple of game years, a combination of the Scots not yet knowing how to effectively use their forces and the English getting nasty cards which, for example, made Bruce ally with the English right from the start. I quickly moved in for the kill so we had some time for another gane.
The game ends quickly with oddly the Scots making their last stand in the south while the north is in English control.

"Ah, so this is how its supposed to play!", exclaimed my opponent and we went for another round. We didn't switch sides and played the Braveheart scenario again. This time around the Scots got off to a much better start and the fights were much more evenly matched. My opponent spearheaded his attacks properly with Wallace and gained control of much of the map. A couple of good yearly offensives from England started to turn the tide and after some brutal fighting between large stacks of troops, the Scottish resistance collapsed in the year before the last. Somehow I neglected to take a picture mid-game.
The last round of combat.

I'll have to go on record though that we forgot to use the rule which gives the nobles a home turf bonus in fights. I'm not sure who gets the most benefits from this as both players get their chance at invading the nobles' homes. Now that I think of it, we didn't follow the border limit rule either. That one I seem to have missed in every game I have played. The Border limit would definitely had an impact late in the game. Both of these rules favour the player being on the defensive and I think the latter one hurts the English doom stacks most. Oh, well. Maybe we will get it right the next time.

I've also played a game of Metro and of Archaeology: the card game this week. A good week of gaming, as there's also a LAN weekend I'm going to next!

Metro in progress.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Hammer of the Scots: first game

Edward I, a four step B4 menace.
Yesterday I put Columbia Games' Hammer of the Scots (3rd edition) on the table. I bought it only a couple of weeks ago off a friend and got a change to play it surprisingly quickly. Normally my new games get to gather dust for at least a few months before I play them.

We played the "Braveheart" scenario set in the first Scottish war of Independence which pits William Wallace and his Scottish friends against the might of the English crown and king Edward I who was also known as Edward Longshanks. In Hammer of the Scots, control over area is not so much an issue as is the loyalty of the Scottish nobility. In the game they are featured as a backstabbing lot who switch sides every time their block is eliminated in battle, every time their lands are in enemy hands come winter, as the result of card play and also because of certain political events.

Every game year begins with the nobles at their home province. The player has only a few blocks he has any say in on where they are at the start of the year. The players then have five turns to complete what they set out to do until the nobles return back home to winter quarters. Irritating bunch. The scenario ends when either one player controls all of the nobles or victory is decided at scenario end by majority control. The game can also end in sudden death if either player gets their king killed. Apart from that, the mechanics are pretty much standard Columbia fare. You can't understand how the noble system works and affects gameplay until you play your first game, though.

William Wallace. Better looking than Mel Gibson.
Since both me and my opponent were first timers to this game, the first two years were spent in overall confusion over what we were supposed to do. I played the Scots so I set out to attack the isolated Scottish nobles and recruit them to my cause. I got off to a good start in northern Scotland, managing to get the situation under control there, but suffered losses in the central parts and outright disaster in the south. I lost the entire south and the support of the Bruce faction because of a military blunder. My opponent couldn't do much else in the confusion but react to my moves, support attacked provinces and roll dice. He rolled them well, mind you! 

We both had our share of misfortune when we started the first winter turn. Some nobles were lost because their homeland was under siege, and some blocks were eliminated because of stacking limits. We are no newbies in block gaming and this should be standard stuff for us to handle but somehow the situation just seemed chaotic at the beginning.

End of 1299, I'm forced to send Wallace to Selkirk.

Fast forward from 1297 to 1300 and the Scots had liberated almost the entire northern half of the map, with the English barely holding onto Mentieth in the center. At this point I blundered again, overstacking one province so that I had no choice but to send William Wallace to winter in Selkirk forest, which was surrounded by the English. Gleefully my opponent swamped and killed him in the following year. After that, I managed to crown Comyn as the king during the same year, so I replaced the loss of the formidable A3 block with another.

The English are fighting a losing war by 1301.
After that, the game turned against the English. On one turn, I got 9 nobles to my side, and even though my opponent turned some of them back momentarily, I got the french knight block into the pool, which proved useful at the end game. The Scots slowly pushed the English south with the aid of the powerful scottish king block and defeated the last English army stack in Argyll where it tried to evade the Scottish doom stack army.

The final battle ends in Argyll in 1302. The English pose little threat to the Scottish stack of doom.
Now, what I think lost the game for the English was that neither of us knew how to properly mount a powerful expedition from England by Edward I. Experienced players may even facepalm at the fact that Edward didn't spend a single winter in Scotland but returned home on the few occasions he was on the map at all. Let's pin that on this being our first game and see how the game plays after I get a couple more sessions under my belt.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Marauder Giant

This is the 28mm scale giant by the late Marauder Miniatures. Back in the day it was the "official" giant figure for Warhammer Fantasy, and in my opinion is a great figure which makes the ugly plastic monstrosity they have today cower in shame. It is a big piece, standing some 12 centimeters tall and is all metal, giving it some weight.

I had one of these in the 90's, and in the folly of my youth, sold it away. I've regretted the decision for years, but managed to secure one last year. I'm not completely happy on how it turned out, the drybrushing on the shirt doesn't look good or neat, but I suppose it's just because I suck at painting miniatures. Anyway, I got a nice, warm feeling from getting to paint this one again, and it will be towering above my night goblins from now on.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Musket & Pike: Halmstad 1676

Yesterday I got another chance to play some musket & pike with my Nothing gained but glory -set. We played the battle of Halmstad, fought between the Danish and the Swedish. The Danish have been retreating from the Swedish but to their surprise are caught between a river and the Swedish army.

In our scenario, the Danish player had three options: Either he could carry on with the evacuation across the bridge and try to get as many of his troops off the field as possible, scoring him victory points, or he could stand and fight a defensive battle, or he could charge. He chose the third option and decided that attack was the best defense. Our game was quick, and is best summed up as a sequence of wing activations.

First turn:

- The Swedish center wing advances across a minor stream and stops to redress their line.
- The Danish Center advances towards the Swedish center.
- The Swedish right move in closer to the Danes but keep their distance
- The Danish right moves forward towards the stream the Swedish center stumbled on. The Swedish left cavalry does a couple of intercepts but loses one unit of cavalry and another is repulsed. The Danish quickly rally their troops and settle on the far bank of the stream.
- The Swedish left settles to reforming their troops.
- The Danish left wing advances cautiously.

The second turn:

- The Swedish start off by continuing to reform their center. They have been under rally orders last turn but now make the change to make ready as the Danish advance.
The situation after the first activation of the second turn.
- The Danish left cavalry wing advances into an awkward position at the bottom of the hill to support the infantry attack. They do not ascend the hill because they would suffer a formation hit and would become visible to Swedish interceptors.
- The Swedish left cavalry wing fails to order a charge and are left looking at the Danish across the stream.
- The Danish center orders an all out charge on the Swedish center. The Swedish use salvo fire across the line but fail to reduce the morale in all but one attacker. There are casualties in nearly every enemy group however, and some reduction in formation state. In close combat, the right side of the Swedish infantry repulse the chargers and hold their ground in disorder while the left side of the wing is forced to give ground. Morale broken results are suffered on both sides and formations are in a poor state.
- The Swedish right cavalry wing now has a sweet opportunity to charge the disordered Danish center, since the Danish cavalry wing cannot see them and interfere. The charge hits home and routs several of the Danish infantry units but also leaves the Swedish cavalry with their formation broken and pistols spent in true Musket & Pike fashion. This charge pretty much decides the game in the end.
- The Danish right cavalry wing scrambles to plug the gap in the center and set up to countercharge the Swedish.

The situation at the beginning of the third turn.

 The third turn:

-The Danish seize the initiative and prepare to charge the disordered Swedish cavalry but the Swedish left cavalry wing beyond the stream pre-empt them and charge their flank, only to fail miserably and be driven back.
-The Danish cavalry resumes their activation, changes their orders to charge and charge the Swedish cavalry and parts of the Swedish infantry line in order to turn back the tide of battle. This attack fails on all fronts, leaving the Danish in poor condition and in range of the Swedish infantry.

At this point we paused to analyze the situation. The Swedish line was suffering from a bad state of formation and lack of coherency, but they had suffered little in the way of casualties. The Danish had lost many units and were poised to lose many more. Even though they had one cavalry wing still intact and in the position to conduct a successful charge, the rest of the Danes had been shattered and we decided to call it a night, as there wasn't much left to do for the Swedes but mop up.

The situation at the end.
A brief, but enjoyable game. Were still getting to grips with the series rules but gameplay is getting more fluid. We still have some problems with what a unit can and cannot do under certain orders. I found myself undoing charges which we had already rolled on because I remembered my wing was under make ready orders and thus unable to charge the enemy. Also, I don't quite get the most out of my Army Commander as I forget to use his considerable mobility and rally abilities to the fullest.

My opponent lost but I suppose he enjoyed himself as he immediately went shopping for Under the Lily Banners after the game. I eased his wargame hoarders' burden by buying Hammer of the Scots off of him :)