Thursday 19 July 2012

First Look: Pike & Shotte

Pike & Shotte is the latest addition to the Warlord rules stable and another of the "Black Powder family".  In this case the heritage is very obvious as this was apparently originally conceived as a supplement but ended up growing into a full set in its own right.

Pike & Shotte is intended to cover the 16th and 17th Centuries and since I have figures and have enjoyed reading Black Powder and Last Argument of Kings I thought I would pick up a copy.  Pike & Shotte is very like Black Powder both in terms of content and layout.  It is a full stand alone ruleset (which seems very much like Black Powder) but with background for the Italian Wars, Tudor Wars, Thirty Years' War, English Civil Wars and the Wars of the Sun King.  It's hardback with 208 pages and has the same attractive presentation style as Black Powder with lots of eye candy.

The book kicks off providing an overview of "the Age of Pike & Shotte" covering the core troop types and basic tactics.  The next 80-odd pages covers the basic and advanced rules followed by discrete sections on each of the Wars it covers.  These latter sections contain a brief overview, special rules and one or two scenarios along with appropriate army lists.  The book is rounded out by a two page quick reference sheet (which can also be downloaded from Warlord's website).

I haven't really given the Black Powder rules a decent try as yet (having only played a single game) and given the similarity of these I suspect these will play the same albeit with certain period specific aspects (pike for example!).  I'm not sure whether these will end up being my chosen rules for this period (only some more games will tell) but the book is beautifully presented and will nicely grace your bookcase shelf or indeed your coffee table.

Amazon have the rules available for £19.50 (which is where I picked up my copy) - although they do have the wrong cover picture for some reason (pre-production artwork?) - I've popped a link below if you're interested:

Wednesday 18 July 2012

Dux Britannarium Available for Pre-Order

Too Fat Lardies have just announced that their new Dark Ages rules are now available to be pre-ordered.  The actual release date is slated to be 30 July.

The rules focus on the early Dark Age period (the Age of Arthur if you like) and are, as usual with the Lardies, card driven.  As with IABSM they will be selling professionally produced sets of cards to go with the rules (which will be normal playing card sized this time apparently).  The preview shots of the cards look rather nice and bundles of the rules and cards are available too.

People who pre-order can get hard copy and pdf along with the cards and the first 800 will get a limited edition "Arthur" figure too.

Richard Clark, the author, gives a good overview of the rules and, in particular, their easy to run campaign system on the latest Meeples & Miniatures podcast (episode 91).

Friday 6 July 2012

First Look: John Company (Edition the Third)

Whilst looking around for a set of rules for larger Indian Mutiny games I came across John Company from The (Virtual) Armchair General.  A little research indicated that these might be suitable so I picked up a copy from Mutineer Miniatures along with a few additional packs for my next units.

John Company comes as a 196 page softback book with an optional graphics pack (which consists of colour versions of the back and white card and counter pages in the main book).  The colour covers contain back and white content in single column format with various tables, diagrams and contemporary illustrations.  The rules also come with 4 double sided quick reference sheets.

John Company is intended to cover all the campaigns of the Honourable East India Company from 1750 to 1860.  The smallest unit is an Infantry Battalion, Cavalry Regiment or Artillery Battery and the rules recommend a player for each Brigade (or roughly 50 figure bases).  The rules we written for 25mm miniatures with a ground scale of 1"=100' but are easily adapted to other scales.

The rules are card driven with Orders, Actions and Events decks.  Each turn you need to determine whether units are out of command (in which case they roll on the "Without Orders" to determine what actions they may have available).  The a card is drawn from the Orders deck for each General - you can then determine from the General's leadership rating how many orders he may give this turn.  Orders cards may also indicate that an Event has occurred, in which case a card is drawn from the Events deck.  Order counters are placed next to the relevant units.  There are 23 different orders which may be issued broken down into four classes - defensive, advancing, retiring and charge.  Certain orders are only available to certain unit types and some orders are "continuing" (i.e. they only need to be issued once).

Once orders have been placed those with charge orders will declare their charges and then these are resolved, with conflicting charges resolved in order of die rolls.  The remaining units in each Brigade need to wait until the Brigade's card has been drawn from the Action deck in order to activate and carry out their orders.

The rules make extensive use of the "resolve" test to determine what the units actually do within the context of their orders.  Each unit has an initial resolve level determined by their type.  Up to forty different modifiers can be applied to the initial resolve level, some positive but most negative, depending on the unit's condition and circumstances (some of the modifiers are dice rolls).  A table is then consulted cross referencing the resulting morale against the unit's order class and formation.  The results range from a bonus to movement through to rout.  This modified resolve is also used (after applying further modifiers) as the unit's fire factor which, compared to the numbers of basing firing, determines the result of small arms and artillery fire.

Melee can only occur in the event of a charge and once again the current resolve level is used.  Confrontation modifiers are applied and the units' resultant resolves compared.  This determines both the losses and the result of the close combat (if indeed the units come into contact).

There are sections on terrain, weather and optional rules for fatigue, artillery bombardment, sappers, confusion, night fighting and the like.  Army profiles are provided for the various combatants along with three introductory scenarios one each from the 1st Afghan War, 1st Sikh War and the Mutiny.  There are also designers notes, sections on figure sources, uniform guides and s list of battles fought by the HEIC.  The back of the book then has the pages of cards, counters, markers, templates etc.

The rules look interesting but the extensive use of modifiers may make them somewhat fiddly - only a tabletop game will determine that - but the approach makes them look like they should be good for solo play; however, the presentation of the rules could have really been improved.  I didn't really find the contents page layout as clear as it could have been.  The approach of embedding and explaining the modifiers within the main body of the rules does not help readability particularly when combined with the single column format and I'm sure having 4 "quick" reference sheets may not find favour with some.

Monday 2 July 2012

WW2: Eviction Notice

Lieutenants Summers and Turnbull along with Sgt. Bunkum were faced with a problem.  Having only a few men they had to hold up a German attack supported by some armour!

Lt. Summers took a few men and took up a position in a cottage on the road.  He carefully concealed the bazooka team behind the bocage in a field to the rear.

Lt. Turnbull took the .30 cal and few men and occupied the house on the right but pushed a small group forward to cover the field adjacent to the road.

Whilst Sgt. Bunkum and the remaining men formed the reserve.

The German assault group entered the field, split into two teams and began to advance down the side of the crops.  They move cautiously until the reached the edge of the planting and peered around it.

They suddenly came under a hail of automatic fire from a US sub-machine gun, the lead man was hit and the others ducked back.  Meanwhile their other team was making good progress down the far side of the field.

On the other side of the road the other squad and their MG42 team advanced, reaching a hedge overlooking Lt. Summers' position.  They were spotted when they tried to push the LMG through the hedge and two of the men went down.  They were luckier with their next attempt and raked the garden wall with the MG42, hitting the Lieutenant.

With the wall being hammered with machine gun fire the other paratroopers weren't waiting around to be out flanked.  They dragged Summers behind the house and, picking him up rushed across a lane to the safety of a bocage rimmed field.  Predictable as ever the Germans flanked the US position and after throwing a couple of grenades in rushed it - only to find that the birds had flown.

On the other flank the Germans were pushing their way through the standing crops and then threw grenades towards the US position.  The US paratroopers were stunned but the Germans then rushed them and only one escaped back to Lt. Turnbull's position.

Germans couldn't advance against against the extra men and firepower.  And, on the other side of the field the other German team had been spotted from the house and came under heavy fire and were forced to withdraw after taking a couple of casualties.

At this point the German armour arrived.  The panzer clanked its way down the road right into sight of the US bazooka team.  Unfortunately the guy with the bazooka was a little jumpy and their first shot went wide (but wide enough for the tank crew not to have notice it).  They reloaded and had another go - a palpable hit but on the front armour - not enough to penetrate.  The tank's turret began to traverse their way so they threw themselves down behind the bocage bank just in time as the shot was short.

With both armour and infantry advancing on their position the team took the incapacitated Lt. Summers and withdrew to join up with Sgt. Bunkum.  The Germans took their position.

With further German reinforcements arriving the paratroopers withdrew but in the confusion two of the men were captured.

Sunday 1 July 2012

First Look: Beneath the Lily Banners (2nd ed)

Having read through the first edition of Beneath the Lily Banners (BtLB) which I have had for quite some time, I thought they looked like an interesting proposition for my 15mm WSS project; however, a number of articles on the second edition indicated they were not only improved but were also clearer and better explained.  So based on that and a recommendation from Ray over at Don't Throw a 1, I decided to pick up a copy.

The rules are intended to cover the period 1660 to 1721 and can be used for either small engagements at 1:5 or larger ones at 1:40 ratios.  In the latter an 18 figure unit (3 x 6 figures) represents a battalion.

As I haven't played the first edition of BtLB properly I can't do a fair comparison between the two editions; however, the second edition is certainly thicker!  It's a full colour softback with around 117 pages (including some adverts), in a two column format.  The text is interspersed with various photos - mainly of lovely 28mm figures - some of which are annotated to explain the rules along with a few line drawings.

The rules are broken down into 11 sections, followed by some optional rules and events.  This is followed up by sections on the Great Northern War, Eastern Wars and King William's War providing various adjustments for those theatres.  A scenario, Steinbeke July 1692, follows along with sample armies, a painting guide, bibliography and roster sheets.  The rules also come with two separate double sided quick reference sheets (they aren't two copies of the same QRS).

The rules are well laid out and the explanations seem pretty clear.  The rules work on a simultaneous activation basis so placing orders is required.  You dice against the ability level of your commander (from Plodder to Gifted) to determine how many units you can order each turn; however, there is a mechanism to avoid being unable to order anything for more than a single turn.  The section on fighting in built up areas is a nice addition and something that is often skimped on in other rules and the random events provide a nice flavour (although these can be omitted if they're not your cup of tea).

Overall these are very nicely presented and look very interesting.  I am looking forward to actually trying them out on the table and see how they compare to Maurice.