Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Hail Caesar Shieldwall Supplement Review

Just my opinion...

June is rather a busy month, with daughter #1's birthday, an annual visit from in-laws that hail from the east coast and come stay with us, and of course Father's day weekend.  All this does not leave much free time or weekends available for wargaming.  So instead a I picked up the HC Shield Wall supplement as something to read because I like wargaming the dark ages.  There is not a lot of info available online about this book, so as a service to others (and because I need something to blog about); here are my own thoughts.

Overall summary upfront:  Book is decidedly 'meh.'  Over priced for what it is, and while it does have some good stuff inside it could be half as long for half the price.... read on for deeper thoughts.  This book is the first of a 2 volume set.  This one covers the years 400-1000, and the next is 1000 - I don't care.  Plenty of nice pictures as well, but no one will ever convince me that the old Wargames Factory miniatures are worth anything.  Even painted up really well with awesome scenery those figures just look terrible.

And why yes, I did have a good Father's day weekend.  I hope you did too.  In fact I got my man card punched twice if you know what I mean.

I mean I got two yard projects done.  Nothing more manly than using a shovel, rake, and bags of dirt and mulch. 

Hail Caesar Shield wall Review:

I'm primarily interested in the time of Vikings, Saxons, and Normans, so year 800 ish - 1066.   

The book is pretty big and broken into sections which are basically The Introduction, general info about the early medieval time period (what we all like to call the Dark Ages, wrong that we are to do so, but I'll continue to do so because it sounds cooler..), and then some potted history of time periods 400-600, 600-800, and 800-1000.  Also some skirmish rules, then some HC rule adjustments, 12 "scenarios," and army lists.  

My first quibble:  WHY NO HASTINGS?  
Most people mark the end of the viking age with Battle of Hastings (in the year 1066 just in case you don't know) and could of easily been included in this book.  It'll be in the second for sure.  Ending the first book at the year 1000 seems either arbitrary or a shameless strategy to get me to buy both books just to complete the viking age.  We shall see. 

Intro and Potted histories:

The intro is nice, and has a good attitude of "hope this stuff is helpful, use what you like and ignore or change what you don't."  

The 'potted histories' are not badly written as far as potted histories go.  If you already know something about the time period you won't find anything new, but that's to be expected.  What is nice is that you also don't find anything too egregious either.  There are decent sections on the Saxon Migration (years 400-600, or the Age of Author as some would say) and then the period when the Saxon "nations" fought each other over and over and over for supremacy in the years 600 - 800 ish.      What is given short shift is the history of the Viking Age (800 - 1066), which is only about half a page.

enjoy pics stolen from the internet just to add some spice to the post...

Skirmish rules?  

At the end of the potted history section of the Saxon Migration, the author says that mass battles didn't really happen in that time frame and instead presents amendments to the HC rules to make it play like a skirmish game (ie, instead of using units you use individual figures) to represent the 'warband' style of conflict common in that age.  Even though later on in the book there is a mass battle scenario for Mount Baddon which happened sometime close to the year 500....

The skirmish rules themselves are alright.  It's HC with some concepts from Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game, and the author admits the rules are somewhat incomplete.  I guess you would play these rules if you just really loved the HC rules above all other rule sets... but there are lots of skirmish rule sets for the Dark Ages that are better.  

I can't figure why these were even included other than padding the length of the book.  HC is a mass battle game, I bought it to play mass battles with hundreds of figures, and that's what HC does well.  If I was interested in a skirmish game then I'd be using a different rule set.  I don't think anyone is going "I can finally use HC to play with just 20 figures a side!!!!"  

There are more pages devoted to the skirmish rules (that will likely never be used) than pages devoted to tailoring HC to Dark Age combat....

HC tailored to the Dark Ages

Next, there are a few pages (And I do mean a few) of suggestions of how to tailor HC to dark age combat.  Again, the attitude is "use what you like" which is appropriate.  As I said in the previous post, I like the Shield Wall rule.  It's better than closed ranks and any house rule that I could think of.  The rest of the rule suggestions are so-so.  There's a bit about reducing the command stat if you think that's appropriate (I don't;  that will slow the game down too much); a bit about how commanders should stay attached to a unit throughout the game (even when rallying another unit) which makes a 'follow me' order more successful, a suggestion that games don't go over 6 or 7 turns total, rules for fighting in a building or behind a barricade, and other stuff.  

IF all you want out of the supplement are these 3-4 pages, and I wouldn't blame you, then I'd use the google image search to see the pages and save them to your computer.  

One thing missing is the 'mixed unit' rules presented in the main HC rule book and in the previous army book; The mixed unit rule reflects that the better armed and armored men were in front of the shield wall and the less so in the rear; so instead of having a unit of Hirdmen and a unit of Bondi instead you get units made of both mixed together.   I don't know if the author just didn't like that rule or thought it was already adequately covered, but seems remiss not to even mention it.  

Linked Scenarios?

Next come 12 historical scenarios that occur over 600 years of history.  I think the author had a real challenge here since we really don't know very much at all about how combat was done during this time, what the armies were like, where a battle actually took place, etc...we just don't have a lot of info.  There's also only so many interesting ways that two shield walls can come together.   The author acknowledges this and I'm geared up to give a bunch of leeway on this section.   However, I was still mostly disappointed....

First off, the back of the book says 'linked scenarios' and ''campaign rules' and this is just false.  What is presented is a paragraph about earning points based on how each battle comes out and the winner is the one at the end with the most points.  Stuff like: 5 points for winning, 5 points for killing the enemy general, etc..  The actual scenarios have nothing to do with each other; winning or loosing one does not affect the other.  I would not call these linked in any way.  I was hoping for something more like the TooFatLardies campaign supplements for SP2 and CoC; where the casualties of one battle would affect the next.  

The 12 historical scenarios themselves are alright.  Each has a small description, a very basic map showing deployments, terrain rules.. and that's about all.  only 1 scenario (battle of Ashtown) follows the familiar Warlord Games pattern of giving an OOB, and a "how it played out" narrative.  Which makes me suspect that Ashtown was the only scenario play tested.  On the other hand, I found those "how it played" narratives in the HC rulebook to be useless so overall that's a plus.  

I feel like the author missed an opportunity here:  While acknowledging that there is a real lack of info on dark age battles the author could of added suggested OOBs of what he just thought would be a good / interesting game.  Because a nicely flushed out scenario is way more useful and nice than skirmish rules and potted history.  The scenario maps also have no scale attached to them, so you don't know if the table is a 4x6, 6x8, 6x10, or whatever.....also the book never says how big the units were in his games which I think would be helpful to know.  I know you can make the units as big as you want in HC, but I think it's nice to provide an example.  

Army Lists

Next come a bunch of Army lists which are in the standard HC format presented in the previous army books.  The author does say the lists are designed with it in mind that this period was more warband / small scale than later (or even earlier)  periods.  The author does not go on to say how this is achieved as the lists look extremely similar to the previous books to me, just a small thing tweaked here or there, but maybe I missed it.  Some units are exactly the same as in other books.   But overall these list present a good alternative army list.  

Mistakes / poor editing

There are lots of small errors throughout the book that distract from it's overall presentation. Some examples: There are a couple of army lists where units have incorrect point totals.  HC was never about the points, BUT if you provide point totals at least double check the math... it's simple addition!   In the battle of Ashtown scenario the terrain rules mention the river Thames but there's no river on the map.  In the battle of Edington scenario, the map shows the saxons attacking themselves and not the vikings... 


I like the shield wall rule, which I knew everything about before I even bought the book.    The scenarios have some interesting ideas, as well as the general rules suggestions for tailoring HC to the dark ages.  The book has a nice tone and stance of "this is a tool kit to use how you like." 
 However, there's so much in this book that could of been better.  

Overall, this book is like a movie where all the best parts are in the preview.  The parts that I was most interested in turned out to be rather flimsy.  

Hope this will be helpful to others.  

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Some minor ACW terrain, some gaming..

Due to busy family life I set about putting some easier-to-complete-but-still vital projects onto the hobby desk.  Some bits of terrain to enhance the ACW games.

Field Works 

Back in the beginning of the year I received my order for 2 packs of field works from Battlefield Terrain Concepts. I think I got the HW2 and HW3 sets shown on the link there.  These hasty works can be used in a variety of ACW scenarios, the big famous ones being Little Round Top and the Cornfield at Antietam.  Actually, these piles of earth and logs were the last bit needed to have all the terrain complete for a Brigade Fire and Fury scenario I'm working on.  SO GO ME for completing them.

I'm a big fan of BTC products.  My fence kits and stone walls also come from BTC.

Primed and ready
Looks like something the dog made...

A Union Battery for scale (18mm)

These painted up pretty easy.  Earth brown, wood brown, some yellow, dry brush, DONE!

Plowed Field 

I also made another set of plowed fields for the ACW battlefields.  The idea being that these two pieces match up, and can be used as 2 smaller fields on different spots on the table or put together to make a larger one; whatever is needed by the scenario.

The process of doing this is outlined HERE.    The only new step I added was to lay out some fences on the corduroy fabric first so that I knew the length and width of the field would correspond with my fences.  Let's call that Wargaming Synergy.

Then the usual process of spray paint brown, add flock in rows and some paint.

That Union Battery again for scale (18mm), It sure gets around.  

close up!  Where are those Rebs?  

Oh, the slight curling at the edges is easily fixed with some duck tape along the bottom.

I dunno: sometimes I think these corduroy fields look pretty decent and other times I think these look like spray painted fabric with grass glued on it....

A Morning for just for Me(eples.)

My buddy Mr. G invited me over for a boardgame day, and the fates aligned as that weekend daughter #1 was at her grandparents, leaving us only with baby Son #2 and a lot less to do.  So I was able to head over in the morning from around 10 AM to 4 or 5 ish.  We were also joined by two other friendly gamers that I've met before so 4 of us total.  

Someone had gone ALL IN on some Kickstarter for game called "Rising Sun", so we played that first:

It's one of those 'Somewhat complicated and takes awhile to play' board games that I  DO like so much.  As everyone else had played once before I watched some videos on youtube on the set up and game play to prep myself while I was exercising at the gym (because I do that now like I used to then; all things old are new again, or so I want to feel that way).  The idea is that as you war over Japan, you get the most victory points.  

Still came in a distant last place; though in my defense I was operating on little sleep (Baby son #2 is still a baby after all and wakes up 2-3 times a night) and it turns out I'm a terrible strategist...
Nah, it's a fun game and I would like to play it again.    It just takes awhile to grasp the different synergies.  And the production values of the game are THROUGH the ROOF.  

Then we played a light weight game called "Adventures!  the Temple of something-or-another-I- forget."    Which is a game that provides about a  45 min Indiana Jones temple adventure (like in the first 10 mins of Raiders of the Lost Ark.  Complete with walls that slowly close together to smash you and a giant boulder booby trap.   The idea is to get out of the temple with the most loot.  If your character dies, you get one replacement.

Giant Boulder, and wall that slowly close together...

This game I won, simply by running straight through the temple and only stopping for the easiest loot, and that everyone else DIED.  Turns out I am a brilliant strategist after all....

Till next time.

Comments appreciated.

-Stewart.  : ) 

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Convention Games...(part 1)

I love wargaming conventions.  I usually have anywhere from a blast to a 'very nice time.'  They're like weekend long vacations for me where I get a break from having to be responsible for anyone else, a chance to put all my toys out on a table and get some oohs and ahhs, and of course to get in a lot of games.   I usually allow myself to go to two conventions a year, one local so I at least appear to be home (and save on the hotel) and one that I travel to and stay in the hotel allowing for complete free-dom.

Let's talk a bit about wargame conventions and my plans.

Kublacon (Come and Gone)  & Conquest Sac (I'll be back)

I had to miss my usual two wargame conventions due to them being too close to the birth of son #2, and it seemed bad timing to try and sneak away.    Conquest Sac is a small convention that is local to me and Kublacon is a HUGE convention that's in the bay area.  To be honest, Conquest Sac I can take or leave; I really only go because it's a local con and any local con is a good con (and to be more fair, it is the best of the local cons).  But I do feel like I  missed out in not going to Kublacon.  I guess having a new baby is more important than playing in Jay's HUGE WATERLOO GAME;  but the game is a very close second...

However, not one to give up I tricked the wife into watching the kids to allow these two alternative Wargame Conventions:  Midsummer Conquest at the end of July and Pacificon at the end of August.  Confirmed with days off from work and everything.,,,

Midsummer Conquest

This is a Brand New local convention, running for the first time.  As I've mentioned, I like having local conventions because I feel it'll only gives me more options to game at some point, so I'm trying to support it.  There also might be potential bragging rights being able to state that I attended the first-one-ever.    However I don't have high hopes for the whole con experience.  Last time I checked the schedule for games being offered there were a whole 6, of which I am hosting 2.

Yep, I volunteered to run two small ACW games, because at the time I was surrounded by awesome ACW content on all the blogs I'm following and I made something of a snap judgement.  Since I am not expecting a large turnout of gamers, the ACW games I'm running are small 2 vs 2 games with small commands that could also be run 1 vs 1.  These are also very doable as I don't really have to produce/paint/make anything in order to put on the games, so pressure is off and anything I do make is just extra fun.  I thought that was 'a smart idea.'
One such game will be the scenario Caldwell Clears the Wheat field, which I have previous post about HERE.  Maybe if I get time I will remake the famous Wheat Field (so famous, that it gets capitalized).


This is the Wargame Convention that I'll travel to in the bay area, and room is already booked! This is over the Labor day Weekend, and probably around 2 ish hours away.  When I was living in the Bay Area I would attend this convention regularly, and haven't since moving to the Sacramento area, so I'm looking forward to attending.

Decisions and Decisions: Thoughts on how to decide which games to run for a convention.

I have not decided what to run at Pacificon, and I have to the end of July to officially submit something, and I'm day dreaming of the possibilities. Some thoughts of mine:

To Over commit or Not. 

I want to put something on that I'm excited or passionate about, and will likely continue to be excited and passionate about 3 months from now.  I'm pretty much old enough now to know what I like but these do change over time and some interests wax and some wane.  It's also a known fact among gamers that nothing increases productivity like a deadline.  The more informed might call this "goal setting,"  but the idea is the same:  sign up to run a game that requires more than what you currently have prepared, so that you'll need to get it done by game day. Then when you reach your goal not only did you put on an awesome game but you increased your painted miniature collections.  
But it can be very easy to take on too much by forgetting about the whole picture or not accurately accessing what you need, and then you find your're in over your head.  For example: let's say I'm thinking about doing a larger ACW game using Regimental Fire and Fury (best ACW rule set EVER!) then I'll likely need more USA and CSA infantry bases, more command stands for both, do I have enough terrain (especially snake rail fence) and markers!  everyone forgets about markers.  Every regiment in RFF has the potential to be marked as 'low on ammo' and 'disordered.'  If there are 40 regiments on the table, how many markers do I really need? (probably around 30 or each). 

I'm also thinking I might try hosting a game Post Captain.  I think an ideal game of PC would be 4 players with 2 ships each.  Which means I'd need 2 more ships which sounds easily enough to do in 3 months.  But I'd also want to use some cool fallen mast markers (for the inevitable falling mast, have you ever seen an AoS game where a mast didn't fall?)  instead of the plain toothpick that I use now.  I'd have to make these markers which might take extra long because I really don't know what I am doing.  plus, they might look like crap.

I'm thinking it's too much to commit to BOTH of those, so one will have to win out over the other.  

To Transport and Set Up, and to Tear Down. 

I'm a one man band when it comes to putting on games at a wargame convention, due to the fact that I'm hard to get along with from poor social skills.  So I got to carry and set up all the game stuff on my lonesome.  Since I don't want to spend 3 hours setting up and putting away a game this naturally means there's a limit on how big a game I can to put on.  There's also a limit to the number of players I can comfortable handle that ensures everyone is having fun.  This trends toward a max of 6 players, and a manageable table size of around 5 x 6 when using 15/18mm.  Table gets bigger when doing 28mm bc they take up so much more room.

I also don't want to spend 3 hours packing and unpacking the car; meaning it makes sense to be consistent in the size / scale of any games I'm going to offer.  It'd be a lot of work for example to pack all the stuff for RFF ACW game in 15/18mm and all the stuff for a Hail Caesar Dark Ages game in 28mm.  The more stuff you bring the more likely that you'll forget something.  

Mental Straining:

I dunno about you, but after 2 days of gaming and multiple rule sets combined with being over caffeinated, lack of sleep, and probably some alcohol; my brain gets tired.  If I'm putting on two games (which I usually do to get in free) then I find it easier to use the same rule system for both; requiring that I only need to know 1 set of rules from top to bottom.  Sometimes I even run the exact same game twice.  You might be smarter than me and able to do more.  My brain is tired just from writing this post.


I want my game to look cool.  I wanna show off a little bit.  A lot of work goes into painting  miniatures and making terrain.  I'm not talking 'best in show' or anything but it's very satisfying when people comment on how nice the game table looks.  So I want to do something that has a little bit of a 'wow factor.'

After you make those decisions, the next step is to pick which games / scenarios you actually want to run.

SO? Pick Already

No, I'm not ready to decide, but I must soon.  Because If I need to produce some stuff for the game, NOW is a good time to start.  I'm tempted by 3 subjects right now:

Age of Sail with Post captain (will need fallen masts markers and 2 more ships)
ACW with Regimental Fire and Fury (depending on game size, might need nothing, but could be an opportunity to increase the size of the collection...try out a new scenario).
Dark Ages Mass Battle with Hail Caesar - my new shield wall supplement should be on it's way soon, and it's been awhile since I played with those toys....

Thanks for reading.  Comments appreciated; though I guess Blogger no longer alerts me with an email when a comment is left.  I'd say I might miss your comment but that'd be a lie, I live for comments.  

Monday, June 4, 2018

Go Vote

Americans, go vote! 
Everyone else,  carry on as usual.  : )