Friday, December 4, 2020

Four get lost in the Asturias

Kinch doing some of his best work

I played an RPG last week, which was a surprise.  I played with one old pal (Mad Padre, who joined late, but will no doubt be taking an active part later) and three new friends from Twitter.  To be honest, if it wasn't for a campaign of constant harassment on the part of Marcus Cribb - it probably wouldn't have happened. 

Weirdly, just having some one keep at me helped things immeasurably because it meant that rather than overthinking things and worrying, we just did it.  The result was a short, lively game played over Google that was very enjoyable and that whizzed by.  We packed a lot of stuff into two hours. 

Proof, if proof were needed, that I do my best work under constant supervision and when cornered like a rat. 


The players are all subalterns in the British army being shipped to Wellington's army in Portugal in January 1810.   They are being transported aboard the HMS Alacrity, a frigate under the command of Captain Stern. 

The HMS Alacrity suffered badly in a storm and was blown badly off course.  Her her water casks got lose in the hold, being badly damaged in the process.  Captain Stern was obliged to put into the nearest land, the French occupied coast of northern Spain. 

Dramatis Personae

Captain Stern

Captain Stern

A distant authority figure who can never be pleased.   Captain Stern is the commander of the HMS Alacrity, a frigate which came to grief in a storm and which had to venture ashore looking for water, somewhere in the Asturias. 

Viewing the players are landsmen, soulless creatures little better than the beasts of the field, Stern took the opportunity to put them ashore and send them off to collect some intelligence from the farmhouse overlooking the bay.  Meanwhile, his sailors took on the proper jobs of repairing casks, finding fresh water and trying to find supplies. 

Midshipman Evans

Midshipman Evans and his party put the players ashore and then settled down to proper work.  He reiterated the Captain's instructions (which the players promptly forgot) that they were to get up to the farmhouse, find out exactly where they were (which they also forgot to do) and find out what the French presence in the area was (if any) and what the state of the country was. 

They were put ashore at 0930 and were to be back by 1230.  If they heard three guns fire, they were to hightail it back to the beach as fast as their feet could carry them.  Evans was absolutely explicit on this point. 

Some farmhouses are further away than they appear. 

But who were the plucky lads sent up to explore strange new bits of Spain, to seek out new friends and allies against the French and to speak English slowly and loudly where no Briton had spoken it before?

They were; 

Ensign Molloy (Right) & Ensign Peterson (Left)

Ensign Molloy

Twenty one year old Ensign Molloy of the 86th is the senior man in the party. He was born to rich landed gentry somewhere in South County Dublin. A handsome youth with polished manners and fine command of French, he is a persuasive speaker and is no doubt putting in a few years in uniform before being pack off to parliament.

Carrying: Sabre, Pistol & Purse of Gold.

Ensign Peterson (played by the Mad Padre)

Seventeen year old Ensign Peterson of the 18th Royal Irish The second eldest son of landed (but not titled) gentry somewhere in Britain or Ireland (we haven't worked out where yet). A pimply young creature, he has the benefits of a classical education and also, crucially, speaks Spanish.

Carrying: Sabre, Fancy Pocket Watch, Caesars Gallic Wars.

Peterson and Molloy are accompanied by two men of the 18th whose names escape me. 

Ensign Egan and CSM O'Brien

Ensign Egan (played by Tom)

Twenty year old the Honourable Ensign Egan of the 18th Royal Irish. The youngest son of the Lord Butler, First Marquess of Ormonde - there are some doubts as to his legitimacy, which might explain why he ended up in the line rather than gracing the ranks of a more fashionable regiment. A youth of average mien, he is a gifted fencer and rather good at sneaking around.  

His enthusiasm for cold steel and ruthless streak have yet to find full expression, but he is already being referred to as "Slasher" Egan around the mess. One can only hope that CSM O'Brien can keep him on the straight and narrow.

Carrying: Sabre, Spyglass, Compass.


Twenty year old the 2LT Cribb of the 95th Rifles (date of commission equal to your date of birth). You are the middle son of a country clergyman from deepest darkest Kent. A youth of average mien, he is a good shot and scandalises decent opinion by carrying a rifle himself and swanning about in a fancy pelisse. He is a good cross country runner. He is accompanied by his servant and minder, Rifleman Harris, who is not finding this the cushy number he was expecting.

Carrying: Rifle, Sabre, Writing Materials. 

So how did it go? 

There was a quick comparing of commission dates (I used the players birth dates) and it was determined that young Molloy was the senior officer.  He led the party ashore, was given a brief lecture by Midshipman Evans, which he promptly ignored, then had a brief break to get their land legs and then set off inland. 

Looking at the approach to the  farmhouse, the party had two routes - a more direct route which lacked cover, but would be faster and a second more circuitous route which had more cover.   Molloy plumped for the second and soon the lads were scrambling up the escarpment.   

Once they got to the lip of the cliff, Cribb and Harris slithered forward and had a look. 

They saw a farmhouse complex surrounded by hedges and with a fountain in the middle.  They snuck forward and realised that the closest building seemed to be a kitchen and servants quarters.  Ensign Egan told off CSM O'Brien and two men to hunker down by the entrance to the court yard and keep sketch. 

Thankfully this lady was not permanently harmed by her ordeal

Cribb and Egan dived over the window sill and heroically subdued the cook who was boiling a large cauldron of water.  They tied and gagged her, without questioning her, and then everybody hid in the building.  A particularly grumpy looking French squaddie appeared outside the  second house and started smoking.  Meanwhile there were anguished screams coming from the other house.  

Now 15% more dastardly

There was a quick conference and the boys decided that the dastardly French were clearly torturing someone.  This impression was only copper fastened when a second French squaddie appeared and started being heartily sick outside the second building. 

Cribb and Harris took up position overlooking the court yard, while Egan and Molloy waited to rush the French sentries.  The Riflemen fired and while Harris dropped his man, Cribb's piece flashed in the pan.  The surviving French stared agog as Egan and Molloy leaped from cover screaming like maniacs. 
Of course, CSM O'Brien and the boys had fixed bayonets and were charging across the yard too. 

Molloy shot at the sentry with his pistol, winging him, but the man dropped his firelock and managed to run back inside.  The lads chased him through the front door, hard on his heels, so that he kept going until he dived out the back.  Meanwhile more howls and screams echoed through the farmhouse. 

Cribb damning his rifle as he ran, took Harris around the corner to cut the fleeing Frenchman off and ran straight into this. 

The paths of glory...

A Spanish surgeon doing his best to get the ball out of a French Colonel's back.  The surgeon was too busy to bother with what was happening, while the orderlies were too shocked.  The few French infantrymen got themselves together.  Young Cribb pointed his rifle at the closest one, who returned the favour and then both men fired. 

Only to roll double ones!  Both men flashed in the pan, while Harris sent a ball through the other French sentry that was showing fight. 

Do you know who wouldn't have messed up his shot twice in a row? Just saying...

Cribb charged his man, who promptly surrendered. 

Molloy used his excellent French to call on the others to surrender and they soon saw that discretion was the better part of valour.  The bag included three French infantrymen, the colonel and a staff lieutenant named Le Marchant. 

Don Sanchez and his assistant, Manuel

A quick conversation with Don Sanchez through an interpreter, confirmed that moving the Colonel would kill him, so they decided to leave him, but they rounded up the rest of the prisoners.  Le Marchant offered Ensign Molloy his sword, but it was politely returned in exchange for his parole.  It was at this point that CSM O'Brien politely but firmly reminded the young gentlemen, who were a bit giddy with victory, that time was a wasting. 

Ensign Molly is very happy

The lads decided to head back to the ship as quickly as they could, Ensign Egan was complaining that the prisoners were slowing them down.

They moved down the escarpment and made their way onto the beach only to discover that despite the fact that they were fifteen minutes early...the ship was gone. 

And there was no sign of it or any of the rest of the shore party. 

I called the game over there as it was a school night.  I am cautiously optimistic that we might get another session in before Christmas, but we shall see. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Out for an Ambull

Mummy Ambull with two Bore Wyrms

Not much to say about this one except that I painted this Ambull figure from Blackstone Fortress as set out in the instructions and it worked reasonably well.  The monster is an interpretation of an old monster from the Rogue Trader era and I've always had a soft spot for them. 

I worked quite hard on getting the skin tones right

The "glowing" hive things were tricky, but I'm really pleased with how they turned out. 

The drybrushing on the grey skin worked out well

Cute little clawed horror

They look just like their mummy

Ready to munch some explorers

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Work in Progress

An altar from Mantic's Terrain Crate

 I got a bit of painting done during lockdown, mostly aimed at knocking out some stuff for Blackstone Fortress and Rangers of Shadowdeep.  This is a Reaper altar.  It looks pretty grim. 

Another view - needs something I think

I'm probably going to add some brass to the handles and some weathering on the top.  

Conquest Plastic Norman Infantry

I've been messing around with some Robin Hood figures for a while now and sometime in the near future I hope to actually get a game on the table. But every good hero needs some baddies, hence the Norman infantry.  This chap has ten mates so I decided I would go with a super quick paint scheme of mostly contrast paints. 

Another view - mostly Contrast paints

The Conquest miniatures are plastic and are very affordable.  Twenty quid for a box of forty.  You get a good mix of axes, spears and swords and lads in different sort of armour.  I've messed around with a couple of different setups and the figures go together easily and are clean with out too much detail. 

Needs a little detailing, but mostly there

I took these pictures a while ago and I've actually finished these figures since then, but given my terrible record of blogging over the last year I thought it was better to post and be damned.  

With a bit of luck, there may be more to follow. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Wargaming Remotely in the Time of Corona Virus

Remote Wargaming Setup
(Note: the cat is vital to the enterprise and cannot be done without)

A lot of us are cooped up in our homes at the moment - which is a bit of a pain in the neck, but sure beats the alternative. But one of the drawbacks of the lockdown is the fact that a lot of us will not be getting our usual wargaming fix. 

Over the last few years, I have taken to playing games remotely by video conferencing with friends who are far away. There is absolutely no reason we can't try this with our usual opponents or why not try having a go with some our your internet pals. There is no time like the present. 

I have recorded a short podcast on the subject, summarising the lessons I've learned from the last few years of remote wargaming. 

But in brief they are; 

1. Preparation - Get everything ready (board, terrain, dice, counters, etc) before the game. 
2. Think about the camera - Remember that your opponent does not have a clear view of the table. 
3. Dice - Use a dice roller or work on trust. 
4. Start small - Double the amount of time you expect the game to take as a good rule of thumb. 
5. Brief your opponent - Send your opponent a written brief before hand. 
6. Be patient - Your opponent may have difficulty working from a small screen, be patient. 

I expand on each of these points in the Podcast and there are a couple more, but these are the basics. 

Sir Harry Flashman VC striding across the battlefield like a colossus

Backdrops are extremely useful in a play by video game, because they give your opponent a clear indication of where the edges of the table are, which is not always easy on video. I would also pick a plain backdrop if you can, so that your opponent can see your figures silhouetted against it. It can be tricky trying to make out what's happening against the visual clutter of the room. 

The British forces close in on the well

I played a game of The Men who would be Kings with my pal Nick last night. I wrote the scenario especially with remote wargaming in mind, so it had a few extra little wrinkles built in. 

The game was set after the battle of Mudki during the first Sikh War in 1845. Lord Gough's army was short of water and Captain Stern was dispatched to find a well in a nearby village. 

Brutal charge and counter charge between Sikh Akali and Bengal Irregular Horse

The game took about ninety minutes to play through, with some time after for shooting the breeze. The Sikh Akali's made short work of Bengal Native infantry, the sole survivor of their savage charge you can see fleeing to the rear. They were immediately counter attacked by the Bengal Irregular Horse under Risaldar Mir Afsar Ali, which lead to a brutal hand to hand struggle. 

"Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh!"

The Akali and the Irregular Cavalry charged and counter charged several times during the game and the officers on both sides were killed. In fact, it was a brutal game for officers all round. You test to see if an leader becomes a casualty by rolling 2d6 and they only fall if you roll snake eyes. 

Both Nick and I rolled a lot of snake eyes this game with a statistically improbably number of officers dropping like flies. 

Official War Artist Nick Stern did this sketch of the battle between the Akali and 
the Bengal Irregular Cavalry

Nick is an artist and sent me this wonderful sketch of the battle between the Akaki and the Irregulars.  It strikes me as something out of Caton Woodville.  I will really cherish this and intend to print it out and frame it once this whole sorry business is over. 

British lancers run the gauntlet of the Sikh musketry to spear the gunners and capture the gun

The game ended after a tightly fought engagement with my Fauj-i-Khas penned in some buildings but undaunted.  They would have proved a hard nut to crack, but unfortunately they couldn't counter attack without being hammered.  Stuck where they were they were unable prevent the British taking the well or our heavy gun, which was being evacuated by a rather splendid elephant from HAT. 

This was a thrilling game that was in the balance right up until the last turn.   It was a pleasure to play against Nick and I will treasure his sketch. 

If you would like to know more about setting up your own remote wargaming games, please tune into the latest episode of Send Three & Fourpence.