22 March 2020

New Banner for the Blog

So it's been nearly five years since I started this blog, and the banner for the blog was looking a little dated.

This is what it looked like:

I can't remember why I chose the name for the blog. Probably because it has several meanings (Christmas, the thunder of war, lightning assaults, etc).

Arthur Rackham has always been an illustrator I have liked, and when I was searching for images of Donner/Thor, I found this one that he drew for a set based on Wagner's 'Das Rheingold', the first dramas that constitute 'Der Ring des Nibelungen'. It was perfect, covering both ancient and fantasy wargaming and what was one of my first historical wargaming armies - Ancient Germans for DBA back in 2005.

For the "Blitzen" I went to the other extreme with something modern. I immediately thought of German WWII tanks (Blitzkrieg) but also something fun. At the time I had discovered 'Girls und Panzer', and the StuG III in the show was simply beautiful. I have still ideas to recreate the tanks on the tabletop.

So what did I want to update? Well the overall quality of the banner, but also that wasted grey space in the middle could do with something more interesting.

In about 30 minutes I created an updated version:

The name stays the same, but I used an online font generator to create the text (Fette Unz Fraktur) and gave it a stroke (white outline) in Photoshop. I also spread it out a bit more.

I found a better quality version of Rackham's Donner. This would represent both the early period and land-based wargaming.

For the middle section I chose something that represented both the middle time period (roughly 1500 - 1900) in historical wargaming, and also sea-based wargaming. The painting is John Thomas Serres' 'The Battle of Copenhagen, 2 April 1801'. I have a connection to Copenhagen, and the tones used match the greys in the blog's background.

Finally there's the Kawanishi N1K (allied reporting name "George"). The Kawanishi N1K-J Shiden (紫電 "Violet Lightning") was the land-based version of the N1K. It covers the semi-modern period and air combat part of my wargaming. The blue tones in the sky also tie in with the blue I use for this blog's theme, so that was a bonus.

Anyway - there you have it, some insights to my design choices in updating the banner.

21 March 2020

Rangers of Shadow Deep - The Broken Stairs

After a quick bite to eat (potato wedges, as Mark and the others were keen to get started), I settled in for the next instalment of the Rangers of Shadow Deep campaign.

We were up to mission 3, scenario 1: The Broken Stairs. Basically the table was at a 60 degree incline, and the warband would have to descend the winding staircase slowly, because if you made a second move (i.e. run) you'd have to pass a climb test. Again if you missed it: if you made a second move you'd have to pass a climb test. Pass a climb test. Problem is that we only had 10 turns to make it and the whole time we'd be swarmed by giant flies. There were three fly holes that they would spawn from (that could be destroyed with fire), along with one tantalising chest off the path. Tantalising. Off the path.

This time I'll be playing Magog - a knight with a crossbow and sword (I may be wrong - it's been a busy week), while Jono T would control Caitweazel the sorceress. Dave T and Mark R would also be controlling their respective characters.

Things started off well enough, but Jono decided to start off the path. Way off the path. I was getting a sense of déjà vu.

As the random event cards were drawn, it became clear that burning the fly holes (that were off the path), wasn't worth the effort as a lot of the cards allowed the flies to restart particular fly holes. So we just went ahead and (easily) killed the flies that were in our way. Sometimes, when they swarmed, did they become more than a nuisance.

Then I realised I was ahead of schedule in making it off the table and had a chance of getting to the chest as well.

I got greedy and went off the path.

I failed my climb test and fell over. Jono (who had managed to see the folly of his ways and got on the path halfway down), had been pretty good with his tests. He got greedy too near the end (or was he role playing?) and his companion who left the path for the chest, fell 6" down the slope and thereby made it off the table in time.

But we made it. A simple scenario, but while you think you have options, you really don't due to the tight turn limit. Looking forward to the next game.

War of the Thorns Battle of Aspatria

13 July 1471: A Scots Common army is able to prevent a French invasion in the north.

Actual events:
Only after the Battle of Tewkesbury did Duke Francis II become involved in the events of the War of the Roses, when he unexpectedly became the protector of England's House of Lancaster in exile.

At the time, the Tudors had tried to flee to France but strong winds in the English Channel forced them to land at Le Conquet in Brittany, where they were taken into the custody of Duke Francis II. Henry Tudor, the only remaining Lancastrian noble with a trace of royal bloodline, had a weak claim to the throne, and King Edward IV regarded him as inconsequential. However, Francis II viewed Henry as a valuable tool to bargain for England's aid, when in conflicts with France, and therefore kept the Tudors under his protection.

James' policies during the 1470s revolved primarily around ambitious continental schemes for territorial expansion and an alliance with Edward IV. While an alliance (and the marriage of his son to one of Edward IV's daughters) might have been a sensible move for Scotland, it went against the traditional enmity of the two countries dating back to the reign of Robert I and the Wars of Independence, not to mention the vested interests of the border nobility.

Where things diverge:
With Edward of Westminster still alive, and mounting a resistance, Francis II has sailed to England to take part in the war. He may or may not be harbouring the Tudors. Unfortunately he tries to be a little too cunning and lands in the north west of England, at Maryport. James, eager to show his allegiance to Edward IV, marched out of Scotland to meet the threat.

[Details of the battle to follow]

Final result was Stephen (Y) 4 v 3 Django (L).

War of the Thorns Battle of Chelwood Common

21 June 1471: Edward IV defends against a Scottish Isles invasion in the south.

Actual events:
In February 1462 representatives of John of Islay, Earl of Ross concluded with Edward IV of England the Treaty of Westminster-Ardtornish, that envisaged nothing less than the conquest and partition of Scotland. The treaty was remarkably vague, saying nothing about the nature, scale and timing of English support. For Edward it was a diplomatic coup and it should have been perfectly clear that Edward was trying to create a diversion. Sadly for John it was not.

Even before the agreement was concluded the Islemen took to arms, advancing eastwards under the command of Angus Og, John's illegitimate son. The rebellion had the desired effect. The Scottish government, faced with rebellion in the north, and fearful of attack in the south, dropped the politically embarrassing Lancastrian connection. John, presumably now aware how worthless the Westminster agreement truly was, backed down.

Where things diverge:
With Edward IV back on throne in England, but weakened due to war, John saw his chance to seek revenge. He sailed with his large fleet and landed at Newhaven, marching north to London. Edward faced him on the fields of Chelwood Common.

[Details of the battle to follow]

Final result was Daniel (Y) 4 v 3 Lyle (L).

20 March 2020

War of the Thorns Battle of Loddington

9 June 1471: While attempting to flee to France, Edward of Westminster is ambushed by a German mercenary army.

Actual events:
After several years in exile in both Scotland and France, Margaret of Anjou (young Edward's mother) took the best opportunity that presented itself and allied herself with the renegade Earl of Warwick (the Kingmaker). King Louis XI of France wanted to start a war with Burgundy, who are allies of the Yorkist King Edward IV and Louis believed if Lancastrian rule was restored then he would receive help conquering Burgundy.

In September 1470 Warwick returned to England and deposed Edward IV, with the help of Edward IV's younger brother, the Duke of Clarence. Edward IV fled into exile to Burgundy with his youngest brother the Duke of Gloucester, while Warwick restored Henry VI to the throne. Edward and Margaret lingered behind in France until April 1471. However, Edward IV had already raised an army, returned to England, and reconciled with Clarence. On the same day Margaret and young Edward landed in England (14 April), Edward IV defeated and killed Warwick at the Battle of Barnet. With little hope of success, the inexperienced prince and his mother led the remnant of their forces to meet Edward IV in the Battle of Tewkesbury. They were defeated and Margaret and Edward were killed.

Where things diverge:
Against the odds and various rumours of his death, Edward survived the battle of Tewkesbury and was able to muster the remnants of his army in an attempt to make an escape back to France.

It is unclear the reason for the presence of Diether von Isenburg and his army in England. While it could be for religious or political reasons, most suspect Diether is there to raise funds to restart his conflict with Adolph II of Nassau for the Electorate of Mainz. He therefore fights for Edward IV, at least until the gold lasts.

Diether von Isenburg had been staying in Cambridge since Edward IV's coronation, to further his studies and quietly raise support for his cause back home. He had been invited to England by Edward IV, and was keen to ensure he stayed on the throne. When Diether's spies informed him that Edward of Westminster had survived the carnage of Tewkesbury, and was attempting to flee the country, Diether saw this as a perfect opportunity to gain favour from the king.

He ambushed the young Lancastrian on the outskirts of Loddington, west of Kettering. Both forces were relatively small, only a few hundred men per side. Eager for a quick victory, the knights charged the Lancastrian centre.

This would end up being a mistake as Edward's bodyguard and archers were able to stop the assault in its tracks.

Diether was lucky to survive, and fled back to Cambridge. Young Edward, against the advice of his minders and wanting revenge for the death of his mother, decided to remain in England to continue the fight to reclaim the crown.

Final result was Karsten (Y) 2 v 4 Peter (L).

War of the Thorns Introduction

The DBA players at the club decided to play the campaign this year that's slightly "what-if" and have it story driven (so no map). After discussing some ideas for a setting/time period we settled on the War of the Roses for the backdrop. I would GM, and christened it the 'War of the Thorns'.

To add flavour, whoever was crowned as the current King would be allowed to add one extra element to their army (either x1 stiffened billmen (4Bd) or x1 archers (4Lb)). If 24 or 36 elements in a BBDBA game two extra elements to their army (either x0-2 stiffened billmen (4Bd) or x0-2 archers (4Lb)). This would represent the extra resources the King has access to.

A player becomes King when they defeat the player who is the current King in a game. For multi-player BBDBA games there's a C-in-C selected amongst the players if they don't have the King present. Otherwise the King is the C-in-C for that army. Alternatively, if a player personally kills the General element of the player that's currently King they become King.

Players can switch sides at any time (even during a battle).

Players are free to play their games as normal games of DBA or BBDBA (BBDBA games may have up to three people on a side) by mutual agreement. We did this as many hadn't played BBDBA before or (like myself), it had been a long time.

The campaign's starting date is 1471, after Edward IV (House of York) resumed the throne after being victorious at the Battle of Tewkesbury in early May of that year.

The two sides and cast of characters are:

House of York
Daniel (Carriage) - Edward IV of England (starts campaign as 'King of England') (IV/83a)

Karsten (von Lucky) - Diether von Isenburg, former Archbishop of Mainz with a German mercenary army (IV/13c)

Stephen (Stephen_C) - James III of Scotland (IV/16)

House of Lancaster
Peter (Spitzicles) - Edward of Westminster, Prince of Wales (IV/83a)

Django (leadgend) - Francis II, Duke of Brittany (IV/82)

Lyle (LyleD) - John of Islay, Earl of Ross (III/78 )

The first meeting of the campaign I allowed players to play each other randomly to set the scene and drive the story.

A contemporary map of England to give an idea of who historically fought on which side and locations of actual battles:

16 February 2020

Core Space Introduction Game

...or a game that was 'The Orville' meets 'Farscape' meets 'Cleopatra 2525'.

I should've known Jack and I were in trouble when we took on the characters of Renton and Beck respectively when David T invited us to take part in an introductory game of Battle Systems' Core Space boardgame.

I had heard almost nothing of the game, but David was keen to show how it worked. Firstly, the miniatures and the terrain are beautiful and Battle Systems have done an excellent job through the Kickstarter to get this out. Jonathan T (he's been playing this with his father at home) took the role of Jace, our boss and captain of the Black Maria.

We were a team of traders, our sole objective to survive in a dangerous galaxy! Jack and I found it would be Jace that would be a large part of this danger.

To win the rules recommend we follow the trader credo: salvage, trade, adapt and survive... we managed none of these. But I'm jumping ahead.

The game starts with Renton and Beck on the Black Maria. Things apparently didn't go too well in the last game and Jace had to be rescued by the crew of David's characters, the crew of the Ion Hope: Arianna, Roykirk and Gak (Gak is an alien Quell and is Arianne's gun man with a quick mind and dry sense of humour).

So our captain started the game on another ship. Jonathan (consciously or not) played Jace as a cross between Chris Pratt's Star-Lord (Guardians of the Galaxy), Nathan Fillion's Mal (Firefly) and Seth MacFarlane's Captain Ed Mercer (The Orville).

It was hilarious. But not. As we all died.

After getting on the ship, we raced to see which NPC had the information we were after (I was hazy on the details of the mission).

Things started off peacefully enough, as can be seen with Gak strolling the corridors:

But the game (that can be played solo) has a threat tracker (like Mantic Games' The Walking Dead), and so I had to deal with some Harvesters. Luckily I found a rifle that blasted one away (that was all the luck I would have in the game):

The other one survived several shots and so I ran... towards the shooting and grenade explosions.

I should've known it was because of Jace. He claimed that he didn't start shooting first. Apparently it was warning shot to Arianna and her crew, as they were getting too close to the NPCs. He then admitted a warning shot to the face wasn't really a warning shot.

Best quote for the game: "Regret is a tomorrow problem."

I tried to assist him and Renton by shooting Roykirk in the back. Unfortunately my gun jammed and Roykirk took me swiftly down.

So at least I missed out on some larger Devastators causing headaches to the others. Renton joined me in taking a nap mid game.

What’s the minimum size for a crew? One. The captain.

We called it a game, and realised that the way to win was to sometimes cooperate with other crews to take on the Purge robots.

The rules are fast, easy to remember and a lot of fun.

Next month we're going to have another game, but we all get a crew. Mark R will join us, as he too witnessed the train wreck that is (was?) Captain Jace and the crew of the Black Maria.


I had promised Jack a game of Tusk, so we really only went through the mechanics. In hindsight I shouldn't have set up a large table (instead of something like a 2' by 2' board), so it was initially a lot of running around and not much hunting. We increased the activation dice to two and that made things flow a little faster.

But soon we got in close range and the animals did what they do best - mauling and trampling the cavemen.

Next time I'll write up some stats for all the animals I've painted now and make it a lot more intense.

18 January 2020

Last Game I Played - Zombies!!!

It's always great when you play a boardgame with people who are new to it. We had friends over that were keen to try a game. I gave them an option between 'Zombies!!!' or 'Carcassonne'... they chose 'Zombies!!!'.

While everyone was a little timid in being nice with moving zombies out of the way and not using the special play cards, about halfway through our something snapped and it was on with the game descending into chaos with backstabbing and people dying (and re-spawning). Mark made it to the chopper first through an horde of zombies, the rest of us were left wondering how he managed to carefully plan his escape.

A good evening, and looking forward to playing more boardgames in 2020.

31 December 2019

Australian New Year's Eve Gaslands Championship 2019

Phil hosted another year of good food, drink and company in his backyard with a chaotic game of Gaslands thrown into the mix.

Same limitations as last year, with each team being capped at 25 cans and sponsors or perks were not available. I took a tan car with a forward facing machine gun, and two bikes (the white helmeted rider also had mines).

We played Death Race with Walter (black car with a heavy machine gun mounted on a turret), Alex (black performance car with two forward facing mini-guns) and Mitch (white pickup truck with a ram and a forward facing mini-gun).

None of us had really played a game in a while (or at all), so we stumbled our way through the rules to the first gate (where each car's weapons would become live), and then the real carnage ensued (up until this point Wal's car kept getting love taps from us as we tried to ram him).

Mitch wiped out before getting to the first gate, and slept like a grandpa at the wheel for most of the game (he managed to wipe out in the first gear phase for that turn).

My bikes with their high speed were prime targets and soon fell (didn't help that I rode my second bike through the mines I dropped...).

Alex was blown to bits by shooting from Wal and myself.

Wal thought he had it in the bag on the home stretch before I (totally) risked on a corner ram (which due to the Rule of Carnage became a head on ram) to stop him. We both died in balls of flames to hand Grandpa Mitch the game and the tournament. It really is a fun game.

Wishing you all a Happy New Year, may 2020 bring you everything you want. 

25 December 2019

Prepping Bronze Age Greeks

Nothing exciting, but I've prepped the Eureka Miniatures Bronze Age Greeks I picked up the other week.

They'll go well with my satyrs and centaurs (also from Eureka Miniatures) that I painted many years ago (maybe in 2010 or 2011?). I also plan on building some matching terrain for them. Lead Adventure Forum has a Building Something contest coming up, so the timing is good.

Anyway, wishing you all a Merry Christmas and all the best for 2020.

16 December 2019

A Song of Ice and Fire and Rangers of Shadow Deep Introduction Games

After a few months hiatus I was back at the League and Mark had his beautifully painted A Song of Ice and Fire (ASOIAF) miniatures from Cool Mini or Not (CMON) that he was itching to get out on the table. He provided both sides and we spent the morning playing a brutal game (I got slaughtered to a man!).

First impressions? The mechanics are elegant, the miniatures beautiful, and just like the background there's an element of strategy happening off the battlefield that I like (the constant command decision pressure of deciding to move a unit and risk my opponent seizing an area of the tactics board which is also needed or vice versa). I can't see myself getting into the game (way too many projects!), but if you like Game of Thrones and all that then this is pretty good at recreating the world. Although it's marketed to some degree as a boardgame, it's very much a wargame.

The afternoon session had me stepping into Jack's character for a Rangers of Shadow Deep game, run by Mark with Dave T, his son Jonathan and Bruce. I was flying blind for most of it, but picked up the basic elements pretty quickly. There were three rooms our band had to fight through, the knolls giving us a hard time. I controlled a Wizard, Caitweazel (I assume a variation of Catweazle) and an unnamed red shirt companion.

I had to leave just as the third room was entered, so got the update from Mark. Both Bruce and David's characters fell in the final room (mercifully surviving their injuries when rolled for later) as did all of the remaining companions. This left Mark's Ranger and Caitweazel (played by Jonathan) to struggle through, which they did, if only just thanks to some lucky shots with Mark's crossbow. A staircase was found at the end, so the scenario was won but possibly with a deficit in the next scenario.