Friday, September 22, 2017

Post Captain AoS rules review (and small batrep)

Opening ramblings:

As I said before, I went a little nuts on buying AoS rules, which in the long run could be a waste of money, because if you buy a set and then never play it....  However, it's hard to get an idea of what rules are good; which is completely down to personal tastes.... so this is just more thoughts from the AoS rookie.

Some general advice from what I've found in starting AoS gaming; first decide if you want a hex based game or a non hexed base game... hex based games will make maneuvering easy but limit you to moving in 5 directions...(not 6, because one hex side will be where the wind is coming from 'an ya can't sail into t' wind').  Non hexed games will have much more freedom but be a bit fiddly due to the use of wind gauges, measuring movement, and turning gauges.  So far, I have liked NON hexed games better. you feel more like a sea captain! you play on the open sea!

for open sea games I have Kiss Me Hardy by TFL, Post Captain by ODGW, Form Line of Battle by David Manley, and Captaincy by Cursd Captain (John Carnahan).  And I'm kind of playing them in order of my comprehension.

KMH left me like I had just eaten mediocre pizza; it wasn't bad, but wasn't great either. So I was very excited to play Post Captain (review below). I passed on FLOB as it's more of a fleet game and on Captaincy as it's a complicated rule set.

So with 2 ships complete (did you see the pretty ships in the previous posts?) and 2 other stand ins... I asked my friend Dai (check out his blog, found in the blog roll over there why not ----->> ) to a game.  Since he down for anything (and I mean any-thing! chuckle-chuckle-snort) he was most obliging.  Also with  him being an avid gamer he had the necessary D12s which I don't have in my collection (because I haven't played an RPG in 15 years..)

I didn't take any pictures of the Post Captain game, so enjoy these pictures stolen from the internet.
They're actually pretty close to what was happening anyway (in my mind's eye).

PC Batrep:

Dai took the French and I the British.  The forces were roughly equal with the French having the 120 gun Orient and the 80 gun Bucentuare, while the British consisted of the 100 gun Queen Charlotte and the 74 gun Spencer.   The squadrons started just 30" apart.  The French had the weather guage, and the Brits on an intercept course.

Played out like this:

Can you follow that?  basically each arrow equals about the same game turn, roughly.  It's a very rough map drawn from memory.  This process will likely improve over time.

Here's a rough summary of each ship in order of excitement...

The Orient sailed in a semi circle firing broadsides as they bore, and ended the game in pursuit of the Queen Charlotte.  The Queen Charlotte managed to sail in between the Orient and the Buc, firing off both broadsides and pounding the Buc somewhat roughly, BUT suffered a critical hit to her wheel (which makes you sail straight ahead) and basically spent the last half of the game sailing away to nowhere as slow as possible trying to fix the damage.  The Spencer was setting up to cross the Buc's bows early in the game when the wily French captain suddenly turned toward the Spencer, so they exchanged broadsides as they passed.  The Spencer then tacked and chased the Buc, firing at her and receiving fire from the Buc in return as well as the Orient.  The Spencer lost it's Mainsail yard (and attached sail), and then a critical hit shot away the jib boom, which sprung the foret'gallant mast, and a turn later both the Foret'gallant and Maint'gallant masts went crashing into the water (failed rigging and sprung mast checks), and left her drifting until the wreckage could be cut away.  The MVP of the game was the Bucentuare; who out maneuvered the Spencer, and exchanged broadsides with both British ships.  She also suffered wheel damage but managed to repair it quickly, to continue the fight and even do a victory lap around the dismasted Spencer before setting course to support the Orient versus the Charlotte.

So at the end of the game (as we called it there); on the British side the Spencer was dragging two masts, and the Charlotte had a damaged wheel so both were in pretty bad shape.  The French were alright, with the Orient only loosing a couple of guns and the Buc handled roughly but serviceable.  Victory for the French!  Good game Dai, lots of fun.

For those of you keeping score at home, the French are 2-0 so far....

POST CAPTAIN wargame rules review:

Short Version: Game is awesome, go buy it.  Moderate complexity, a fair amount of book keeping is involved.  Probably best suited for 1-2 ships per player.  Interesting decisions to make during the game besides which way to steer.

A more in-Depth Review: unlike KMH which has several in depth reviews already online, I could find very little on PC before I purchased it, so I'll now endeavor to write one.  This of course only my opinions, which I naturally find to be infallible but really are just my personal tastes....

PC is one of those games where it looks more complicated than it actually is, and plays rather smoothly.  The rule book contains everything you need to play, and comes chock full of ship cards, deck logs, QRS's, and charts, Charts, CHARTS!  One new thing to me is that the game uses a scale, so 1/1200 scale ships (as my Langton ships are) has a scale measurement of 100 yds = 3".  I'm more used to games that use a measurement; for example will give a range of 12" (as in "the range of X gun is 12") but PC will say 400 yds instead of 12".

The book is also very newbie friendly with sections on models and observations of the Age of Sail in general.  Also very much appreciated there is a glossary of game and nautical terms in the beginning for those of us that don't know a yard from a spar, or a top sail from a t'gallant sail.
there's also a bunch of freebies and scenarios available online from ODGW.  Including some top-down ship counters for those who want to play but lack the ships.

A game turn basically goes through a movement phase, a repair phase, and then a command phase.

Movement: Each game turn movement phase is broken into 3 'tactical phases' labeled Red, White, and Blue and each corresponds to about 1 min of actual time; so in 1 game turn a ship will move 3 times.  the order the ships move will be determined by who has the weather gauge when far apart and a die roll for initiative when close.  Each side moves one ship at a time.  The tactical phases are also the way that the game tracks time, so actions that take some time to do (like reloading  or repairing the rigging) will take a number of tactical phases.

How to move: Depending on what sails a ship has deployed a ship has a number of Movement factors, and naturally more sails = more movement factors.  This number is fairly static as one doesn't change sails much while in battle.  Next, take a 'wind gauge' and line it up with the ship to determine it's speed: either Slow, Medium, or Fast.  You then use the corresponding turning and movement gauge that matches that speed to pilot the ship.  Now here's the clever part; the movement factors on the S, M, and F gauges are NOT the same size so a ship will travel more distance if moving on the F rather than the S.  

This IS slightly fiddly but after a turn easily understood.  There are of course rules for turning, tacking, etc... though a ship may turn slightly as any time but more pronounced turns require the ship to go straight first. 

Firing: Ships can fire broadsides from loaded cannons at any time, doesn't matter who's actually moving.  After firing it takes a certain number of tactical phases to reload.  French and Spanish take longer to reload than the British and American.  I actually REALLY LIKE this aspect; as after a ship shoots at you, you know that there is now some small time to maneuver / jockey for position before she can fire again.  In general a ship can only fire once per turn but in 12 tactical phases (12 minutes time) a British ship will fire 4 times to a French 3.  Gunnery modifiers are what you would expect with the initial broadside, better crews, and getting really close make for better shots.

Boarding: is something that didn't happen in my game but the mechanic is somewhat complex.  You get two ship diagrams that are broken up into 3 areas, and assign the crew and marines to each section as boarding parties represented as counters.  When ships are in contact, you see who boards who, and the boarding parties fight it out every Blue tactical phase, with the goal to capture the enemy's upper deck.

After the three tactical phases the action pauses for the next two phases.

Rigging and repair phase: In this phase you first roll to see if any weakened masts fall down.  There are a bunch of rules of what happens when a a mast falls depending on which mast and which part, all are easy to understand.  You then roll to see if any repairs you attempted to fix are complete.  This is when you also assign crew factors to repairs to be attempted next turn. More on this later when I talk about crew management. 

Command phase: In this phase you assign marines and crew to boarding parties (to be available next turn) and also take any morale tests needed if a ship is damaged enough.

Crew Management: in the rigging & repair and the command phases are also when you manage a ships crew.  A ship has a number of crew and marine factors on board at the beginning of the scenario.  .  Of these, a certain amount (a very small amount) will be needed to sail the ship, the rest tend to work the guns.  This is potentially a very book keeping intense part of the game.  The authors are clear that their intention is not that one should assign every crew factor to a task for every turn, but it is important that the limited resource of manpower be tracked, especially as casualties mount.  The book provides a little aid / cheat sheet for quick assignments but it DOES get complicated when you start to do many necessary things:  X number to sail the ship. X number to repairs; do your marines help work the guns or off to the fighting tops to fire musket volleys, form any boarding parties? so how many does that leave to work the guns?  (and if a gun isn't being worked then it can't be reloaded as makes sense).   It's also annoying that the guns often take fractions of crew factors which makes the math difficult.  for example, a 32 pound gun box takes 1.75 crew factors.. which makes the lower deck of a first rate ship requiring 8.75 crew factors.  I find fractions difficult.

In my game, we found that doing what the authors suggest worked fairly well:  on the cheat sheet at the beginning of the game, you have worked out how many crew factors are working each gun deck, and as crew get pulled out to do other stuff (or due to casualties) you know which guns go unloaded.  Marines can help fire the cannons while the seamen go off to do other sailor stuff.

After the rigging and repair and Command phases, a new game turn starts with movement, and the 3 tactical phases...

Overall:  All of this makes for a very enjoyable game where commanding a ship feels like commanding a ship, being the captain and making decisions.    But a lot goes into that so unless one knows the rules very well I suggest 1-2 ships per player.  2 would be ideal; though ships can take a fair amount of damage 1 lucky hit can effectively knock out a ship for the short term so having another ship to play with would keep a player involved.    Maneuvering and managing the ship are the essence of the game.  This is not a fleet game, but more about ship to ship actions.

I really enjoyed this game.  I hope this review will be helpful for anyone looking into the rules for their AoS gaming.

The Dai bump

Just a quick note of thanks to my friend Dai, whose well followed blog can be seen over there in the blog list (the lost, the damned, and the stunted).  Dai wrote a post promoting this little blogging experiment, and I've noticed an increase in comments and follows. 

So thanks Dai for the bump, and to anyone whose checked this blog out bc of that, and really to anyone who reads this no matter how you stumbled here.  I hope that any of my posts will be entertaining, amusing, and informative. 

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Set Sails II: First French 120 and other AoS stuff

Finished my second ship and the first in the French fleet.  As the British have a 100 gun ship it seemed right to give the French a corresponding behemoth, so this is a French 120 gun ship of the line.  Once again, this is a Langton 1/1200 miniature.

I had to do some research (research means look around online and ask on TMP) on what colors French ships used on their hulls as I didn't know.  I'm still pretty ignorant of the actual history of this period.  BrainW (whose blog is in the blog roll over there ---->) recommends that French ships were either red or yellow, but I also found that they could have blue or white stripes / patterns.

As you can see, I went with red (because I think it looks awesome!).

abut half way through the photos I remembered to add the flag...
so some photos will have the colors flying and some won't...

As it's the second ship some practice effects are apparent.  The rigging on this ship is more involved than the first and I think it came out looking pretty good!  I can tell that each ship is going to be an individual as the places where each sail is attached to the masts is going to be slightly different each time.  Also as I look at more and more at examples of rigging from the internet and books I get a better idea where everything goes.

On this model I did more 'backstays' than the previous.  I also angled the sails to the masts instead of making them straight.  As in 'wind a-quarter' versus 'wind astern.'  (Hooray for nautical jargon!)   While gluing them on I thought the angle was quite rakish but it turns out to be subtle on the model.

The next run of pictures will have large amounts of ship booty.

There's almost always a rear shot when it comes to ships...

Does this flag make my stern cabin look big?

With one French and one British ship done, it's time to schedule a single ship duel and try out another set of AoS rules.  Out of the ones I have, Post Captain by ODGW is my current favorite of 'AoS rules I've read but haven't played.'    I was going to try and get in a game soon, but I discovered to my shock that I don't have any D12s..  has it really been that long since I played a RPG?

Other AoS stuff:

As I've stated, I don't know a lot of the history of the Age of Sail and this is a recent endeavor.  SOOO I've done what all good historical gamers do and started some research to learn of the time, which is what always makes us better people than fantasy and scifi gamers.  (that's obviously an outlandish statement meant to amuse).  So I got the book; Fighting at Sea in the Eighteenth Century; The Art of Sailing Warfare by Sam Willis.  I  ordered it online from Barnes and Noble because I couldn't find it anywhere I went and I had B&N giftcards.  It was kinda pricey though at $40 for not a large book.

However, it's already paid off.  let me illustrate:

At the same time, my latest order from Waterloo Minis arrived; 2 74 guns ships, 1 French and 1 British.  I of course opened them right away because I'm like that.  But the ships aren't labeled British and French, just by the hull model, so I couldn't tell which is which.  Oh no!

BUT! About 10 pages into the book, on the chapter of telling friend from foe, There is a diagram of a French stern and British stern; the French being more of a "horseshoe shape" and the British more "conical."    There diagrams matched the sterns of the model ships providing identification.

French on the left, British on the right in the book
and pics of ship booty.

French on the left, British on the right in my hand...
Why yes, my thumb is rather manly...
and yet even more ship booty.  

Probably and argument about how well sculpted the Langton miniatures are.

Coming up for AoS; those two 74s  AND I squeezed in a game of Post Captain and will be writing a blurb about the rules....

Thanks for reading and comments welcome!

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

DIY cornfield tutorial

What’s an ACW battlefield without a cornfield or two?  I’ll tell you what it is….BORING! 
Actually, one day I’m going to do some wargaming around one of my favorite ACW battles, the battle of Antietam.  The battle voted most likely to be mispronounced.  So naturally I would need a cornfield.

This is one of those situation where one is trying to balance 3 things; aesthetics, playability, and budget.
You can spend a lot of money for really nice corn, but to get a field of any decent size this starts to become really expensive. 

So looking around the internet for ideas, I found that people were using Christmas pine stems for their cornfields, so I decided to give it a try.  Here is a tutorial; which is simply the way that I did it copied from others.  I’m not sure who did it first, but that person had an ah-Maize- ing idea.   Ok, I’m sorry for that corny joke.    Oh man, they just keep coming.    

Step 1!  Buy some pine stems.  I got these off of Ebay.  I found some in two sizes, 15mm and 12mm.  I think the 12mm looks better for my 18mm ACW figures.  You will need LOTS.  I like these ones shown here as they have green and brown in them. 

Step2!   Take some wire cutters (scissors won’t do as the center of the stem is made of wire) and cut the stems to the length desire.  I went with about an inch but I also varied it some to create…variance… in the corn stalks (didn’t want them to be too uniform height).  You will need to do this LOTS.  It is most tedious.  Also, you will get the little pieces of plastic fletching falling off making a small mess.

And if you’re like me and have delicate little girl hands, this can start to hurt after doing it a hundred times. 

Step3!  Prepare the bases!  Now this is the place where I diverted from others and put my own spin on the process.  Most people do this on square bases because, you know, the fields are square.  However I went with round bases as I am an original thinker and dare to be different. 

Actually, I went with round bases as I thought it would be easier to model irregular shaped fields.  I also think that it’s easier / looks better that when troops move through the fields to place the batches of corn stands around the troops.  Troops on square bases moving in square based corn stands just look a little too artificial, like the troops have to move in just the right way, basically at 90 degrees. 

I used 50mm circles bought from Litko, the same 3mm thickness as my ACW bases. 

I was also persuaded to skip the step of adding ground texture to the bases, as it would be extra work for little payoff.  I dunno about that in hindsight but too late now. 

To break down step 3 into smaller steps;
3a!  Cover in ground texture or not…
3b!  Create a pattern of where you want the corn “stalks” to be.  Even back in those ACW days corn was planted in rows, lay out how many rows you want per base depending on how thick you want it to be.    Because of the circle base I went with a 3-4-4-3  pattern.  That’s 14 stalks per base (see above comment about needing LOTS of stalks).   I cut out a piece of cereal box in a 50mm shape, and cut the holes in it, and then used a Sharpe pen to mark the holes in the wood.  

3c!  odds are, if you are bothering to read this, you are a MAN-ly wargamer.  So  get thee to your manly tool area for your power drill (do you remember that TV show with Tim Allen with all the power tools, that was funny),  and skillfully drill all the holes.  Just drill all the way through the wood.  Naturally use a small bit. 
3d! Paint the bases.  Award yourself 5 extra ‘awesome wargamer’ points if the color you use compliments the material that you’ll use to outline the borders of the field. 

For example, I am using the Lemax Moss matt, that you can get right now at Michaels, actually.   This is the thing they use to base those cute Halloween villages.   I just like the way it looks on the wargame mat. 

I used spray paint, and had to try a few different colors before settling on Nutmeg. 

Nutmeg is the 3rd up

Step4! Plant corn.  Feel free to listen to a banjo or country music or something while doing this if you think it’ll improve the experience.  To plant the stalk, just pull off some of the lower ‘leaves,’ dip in glue, and stick in the hole in the wood.  There’s likely a dirty joke in that sentence somewhere.

TAAADAAA  repeat process a couple of hundred times…

So the assemble the cornfield, you cut the field material into the shape you want, and cover it with cornstalk bases until it starts to look like a field.  Add fences and what have you….

It’ll look more like a dense cornfield with more bases.  This is somewhat a labor intensive project, as you will need LOTS.  But I think the effort will be worth it to bring just a little more terrain to the ACW battlefields.  

Hope that someone will find this useful.