Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Foot notes and a brief hiatus....

Despite the horrific dice rolling in the last game, I was very happy with the results. As a way to explore the rules, it was a success and I thought that the gatling did exactly what it was supposed to do. However, I now have to pack everything away for a while because we are moving house.  We have been planning on downsizing for a couple of years now and after a brief conversation with relatives, we decided to put the house on the market and see what would happened. In short, within the course of a very busy week, we had sold our old house and purchased a new one with that holy grail for all likely readers of this blog - a dedicated wargaming space.

While the move means no more games until at least the end of October, it near guarantees that I will be able to play more often and post more often. Where my current space requires a lot of faffing around in the garage, the new space will allow me to leave the table set up free from interference from camping trailers or cats.

More to follow

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Kas'trum Campaign Pre-Season Game Two - Into the Valley of Death?

The Hereford's adjutant was back at his desk. This time it was the reconciliation of the Mess accounts. No matter how he worked the figures he always came up two bottles of claret short - and then there was that troublesome rumour that porter had been seen at table. Most distressing...

A loud cough came from the door behind him - the the endless knocking of junior officers and senior NCOs who needed his help to sort out one minor problem or another had threatened to bring down the whole structure thus a change to a less violent announcement was required.

"Enter  - What is it?" the major snapped, his eyes still focused on the mess accounts - where were those d---ed bottles of claret?
"Burning party ready to depart sir!" replied the Sergeant Major pushing aside the tattered "door" as he entered.
"What's going out Sar'n't Major?"
"One company of regulars, a section of Trucial Scouts and a Gatling gun..."
"A what!?"
"A Gatling gun sir, a type of small bore revolving cannon from America. It's said to have firepower the equivalent to a company of rifles. The Royal Navy swears by them, sir and we 've been ordered to field test one and report back on the results.  Begging your pardon sir, I see the written order from Battalion there on your desk, just under those two bottles of claret..."
"Yes, yes, very good..." was the waspish reply as the Major tucked the offending bottles out of sight beneath the desk,  "Who's leading this little scientific gun testing party then?"
 "Captain Cybbel sir, late of India I believe. Fancies himself a bit of a writer."
"Ah yes him. Do you know if he fancies porter?  No never mind that, he has his orders, tell him to get on with it, I have to get back to more pressing matters."
The Major turned back to his accounts, oblivious to the smart salute rendered by his most senior NCO who depart with all the briskness appropriate to his rank.

The Sergeant Major strode over to the waiting column ending his march with a crashed of highly polished black leather on dusty Martian sand next to a ragged looking horse and a rather less ragged looking rider. He followed with a mathematically precise salute.
"Begging your pardon Captain Cybbel, the Major says you're to head out sir."
The rider  was staring fixedly at the two reptilian gashants packing the mechanical gun,
"What rhymes with 'dinosauria,'" he thought to himself, "Sorry Sergeant Major, what was that?"
"The Major says you are to head out now"
"No words of encouragement to the men from him then?"
"No sir, he just made reference to your written orders...."
"Hrrmm," Cybbel replied looking concerned, "that's a touch cold given what happened to Puller's lot. I'll have to come up with something myself then. Thank you Sergeant Major, you are dismissed."
The NCO saluted smartly, the Captain returned the salute equally smartly and returned briefly to his previous thoughts.
"'In memoria', yes that might work it wasn't perfect - but then it didn't really have the tone he needed to elevate the men's spirits."
Cybbel shook way that particular remembrance  and turned to the men and Martians of the little column arrayed before him.
"Now listen up men, we have a job to do and I know you are the right men for it...." his voice was swallowed by the morning mist as he he did his best to instil some pride and honour in these men, no his men that he was about to lead into battle.

The Valley of Death

Once more unto the breech
On the Earth side we have:
Captain Cybbel commanding
Second Company,  Earl of Hereford's Regiment of Foot Regular V1, Single Shot Breech Loaders
Special Detachment 1st Askari Rifles Regular X3S Muzzle Loader Rifles
No. 7 Experimental Battery Regular V0 Gatling Gun.

The Martian forces are:Har'd'tak commanding
Har'd'tak's Hellions (Num'da's Raiders) Irregular V2, ½ Musket, ½ Bow armed
First Band Kas'trum Marines Regular V2S Rifled Musket

Har'd'tak looked down the narrow valley.  Loyalists in the Earther occupied village off the main canal had sent word that a column was on the move, undoubtedly to seek revenge for the massacre at the temple ruins. The prizes, both in loot and hostages were significant, but some of the tribe felt that they were not worth attracting the attention of the invader. The riders had long since passed through carrying with them the booty of rifles, loot and, it was said, a prisoner or two.

The decoy.
Har'd'tak's job was to slow down any incursions by the red men. His band was split between those armed with bows and those with muskets.  Given the reports of the blundering nature of the Earthers, he put his bows behind a protective row of thorn tress felled for just this purpose. With any luck, the red men would stumble into the bows, allowing these short ranged weapons to have some effect on the battle.

The ambush.
He placed his musket armed troops along one of the ridges defining the valley. They were to hold in place and in cover until the Earthers were occupied with the bows and then sweep in from the flank.

The reserve.
On it's way was platoon of Kas'trum Marines whether or not they would arrive in time to be useful was the question.

Cybbel looked down again at his printed orders. Yhey read in summary and decreasing order of importance:
  1. Locate and recover any breech loading weapons and if possible ammunition.
  2. Locate and recover any officers or gentlemen held by the enemy.
  3. Regardless of the outcomes of items 1 and 2, burn any buildings and confiscate any live-stock or portable goods. 
  4. Locate and recover any other imperial property such as uniforms, helmets, belting etc and liberate any enlisted men.
  5. (in a different hand that looked suspiciously like that of a certain senior NCO) Assess the utility of the attached Gatling Gun in field operations, compile a report of strengths and weaknesses, and include a list of recommendations in favour or against.
At the bottom inked in large letters was the admonition:
Under no circumstances are wells or other water sources to be interfered with!  

The army had its priorities one supposed but at least that last bit made some sort of sense.

Scouts out and into battle!

An odd array of thorns trees blocks blocks progress.
The glass beads mark the limits at which the Trucial Scouts will uncover the two ambush parties. 

The Scouts press forward - Alert to danger.

Back out of sight behind the ridge line
Concerned that the Scouts were getting too close, Har'd'tak pulled his men back off the ridge.

The Martian view
Looking up the valley as the red tide approaches.
The orange bead shows the limit of bow range.

The Redmen pull up behind the scouts

Skirmishers to the ridge!

The Trucial Scouts open fire!

One hit!
A quick note: In the Soldier's Companion rules, the base number to hit is a 6 on a d6. This base number can be modified up or down by various factors - usually up. For hit numbers greater than 6, a 6 still counts as a hit but the defending player has a chance to "save" the hit by rolling under the difference.  However, saved hits still count towards the morale check. See below.

But it's saved.

Open order skirmishers behind cover get a healthy defensive bonus.

The morale roll...
The bowmen hold.

The ambush team fires....
Only half of the figures count as firing because they are using muzzle loaders then factor in long range and nothing much happens.  Afghanis with jezzails these are not.

What's that odd machine?  The Gatling deploys.

Fancy Footwork
All those years in the grammar school marching band finally pay off as the second rank pivots to face the new threat.

"Give me an L!"
Though not in the letter of the rules, what's the point of having two rank regulars if you can't do fancy marching about things with them?

Hellions Fire!

No hits on the red men.

One hit on the traitorous Scouts!

Easily saved

Gatling test script Item 2: Open fire at the enemy

Har'd'tak watched a small red coated figure as it did something at the side of the odd looking gun. little flashes of light flickered from it and for a moment the Hellions watched unconcerned. Then a sandstorm of bullets kicked up the sand up and down their position. Khaki clad figures could be seen  running between the gashants and the gun, bringing ammunition to feed this terrifying beast.

Two hits!

Doubled thanks to Yankee technological know how 
MGs double all hits. This didn't help here and both were saved.

Morale Failure!
However as noted above, all four hits still modify the morale roll and the skirmishers run away in terror - but still intact.

Run Away!

Har'd'tak's men squatted nervously on the other side of the ridge. They would not face this new terror for treasure or glory and wishing to live another day, they quietly withdrew.

The Scouts Make another ineffectual effort
Under less than withering fire, the bows continue to hold.

Scouts Withdraw!
Time for the regulars to have a go!

The Red Tide approaches!

Martinis Thunder!

Begging your pardon sir....
No hits?!

There seems to be something wrong with our bloody Martinis today
No hits again?!

The bows execute a tactical retreat

The Earthers advance

The bows keep running

Another shot
No hits?! What madness is this?

The Bows saunter away

Fer C___t's sake - Hit something, anything - even the bl__dy dirt!

And the game ends as the last bowman walks calmly out of sight.

Cybbel looked down from his mount.
"So what was the problem Sergeant?"
The NCO held out a handful of shiny gold metal fragments.
"Old ammunition sir - the wound brass type case. It's been in storage so long it's starting to fall apart.  The men are cleaning their rifles now and I have the platoon NCOs taking stock of the drawn case ammunition and redistributing that. We should have enough for another engagement without haveing to draw on the old stuff"
"Thank you Sergeant, carry on."

With things well in hand, Cybbel turned back to his poetry.
"When you lie bleeding on the red Martian Plain...."
No that wasn't right...

In a simple mud hut, in a simple mud village, two dishevelled figures listened expectantly to the sounds of battle in the nearby valley. One sat listlessly, the other searched the ground behind him with his finger tips and having found a not quite blunt bit of rock, began sawing at the thongs that bound his wrists.  Help was coming.  

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Kas'trum Campaign Pre-season Game one - One of our Ruperts is missing.

The early morning Sun licked steaming humidity up from the marsh surrounding the canal hamlet of Roogie's Landing. The adjutant of the Earl of Hereford's Regiment of Foot (The Hedgehogs) was doing his best to shuffle papers in the marsh reed shack that served as the battalion office but the damp made the pages stick together in a most unsatisfying manner. There was a knock at the door - or rather a series of thumps on the door frame. "Enter"
"Morning sir," came the voice of one the captains as he pushed aside the the thin blanket that served as the door to the shack. "We've heard rumours that a shipment of contraband has just arrived and is being stored in some ruins just up the abandoned canal. It is probably nothing like all the previous rumours but I'd like to send a patrol to take a look."
"Who do you have?" "Well there's the new chap, Puller. Fresh from Sandhurst. He landed a couple of weeks ago and could use some seasoning." "Right give him a couple of good NCOs and send him out. The usual reminder about no heroics of course." "Right you are sir, I'll put him on it." The captain stepped out through the door and the adjutant turned his attention back to the petty administrative tasks that even the most g-d forsaken outpost of the Empire required - At least it wasn't Venus. "Mister Puller", the Captain said in a voice that while quiet, seemed to permeate every corner of the Officer's quarters. "Sir" replied a young thin voice. "I have a job for you. You will be taking out a patrol today, nothing too strenuous. You'll be assisted by Sergeant ----- and Corporal Jones. Two good men. Follow their advice and you won't go wrong. No heroics mind. Out, a quick look around and straight back to report." "Yes Sir!" replied Puller. "Get your kit together and I'll see you outside in a couple of minutes to brief the men. The sergeant has them well in hand."
After the Captain turned and left another voice piped up "I say, Toffee! Off to have a go at the natives wot?  Good show!"
"Right you are Pomfret, I"ll give them one of the old school tie!"
As his batman Puller wasn't quite so sure, but he daren't let anyone see his nervousness. Stiff upper lip and all that....

I wanted to run a quick pre-campaign game to refamiliarize myself with the Soldier's Companion rules. I have a set of revised SoC rules by Bob Giglio that I will be trying out later in the campaign.

I decided to go with a British platoon versus a full warband of Hill Martians. In theory this should be roughly balanced, but I wasn't too worried about a perfect match.  

The Patrol sets out
The British head out in column for rapid movement. The notional objective was a set of ruins on a hill at the back of the table.

What's that on the ridge?

Eyes hidden in the boulders.

End of the trail - or is it?
The Martians reasonably placed pickets out while the main mass started concealed. This bends SoC a little but makes sense.

Red and barren vistas.
Looking up the table. The terrain is simple but I think effective.

Look sir! Up there!
The British spot one picket and are in turn spotted. The classic desert problem of no cover.

Reporting back.
Winning the initiative, the picket moves off the hill and behind the ridge to report. I ruled that the main Martian body would not move until they knew what was going on.

Advance with resolution! 
The British shake out into line to maximize firepower.

The conference.
The Martians decide what to do.

Moving up the valley
While the British, seeing no opposition, move up the valley to the protective boulder field at table centre.

Secure the centre!
Under the rules as written, the British (or European regulars) will win the initiative more often than Matian/Native armies composed of irregulars. This can give them several moves in a row.  This has been a bone of contention with some SoC players.  Bob Giglio's rules change this up to allow a reduced number of actions for the non-initiative player.

Open order and into the rough
Moving forward, the British take a half move to open order so they can move into the rough. Knowing when to use mass or open formations is essential when playing Soldier's Companion.

Take firing positions men!
Into the rough and taking cover.

The cunning natives plan.
Finally getting another initiative, the Martians shake out into two separate groups.

In position.
Under the rules, the British could just stay in line and all would be good, Spreading them however, just looks better.

One band heads up the hill.

One band headed up the hill.

The other heads west behind the ridge.
The other heads behind the ridge.

The rough ground holds things up.
There were some bad movement rolls that delayed the flanking force.

Hold your fire - They're too far away lad!
I measured the distance to see what the ranges were and figured I should show that on the table.

Up, and over!
Up on the hill, the second band heads toward the broken ground on the hill top. The rules say that a low wall does not impede cavalry so I went with an action shot.

Shaking out behind the ridge.
The flanking group tries to get into position. Low rolls and infrequent initiatives make this difficult. Again Bob's revised rules will make this go a lot faster.

The natives head into the rough.....
The Martians disappear into concealing terrain. Not really allowed under the rules as written but it fits the theme.

And disappear - the cowards!

Into line.
The flank force moves into line - not a legal formation for irregulars but of no consequence in the long term.

And the earthers wait under the blazing sun.
A long series of initiative rolls was made here. When the British won, they didn't want to leave cover in the face of possible cavalry. In turn, the Martians weren't going to charge light cavalry against infantry in cover.

Orders are orders, move out!
I ruled that the British would eventually think nothing was going on so would proceed the mission.

But the hills have eyes.
The Martians chose to wait.

A quick look then back to barracks.
The British move forward in open order - not the best for defending against cavalry but better when facing snipers.

Forming mass to charge.
Mass or open - those are the choices for irregulars and charging in open order is a bad idea. By declaring a charge by a hidden unit, the Martians take the initiative.

Why have the dice gods forsaken me?
The charge goes in - Not! The roll gets halved for charging over the hill. But still that's a crap roll.

Re-checking the rules didn't help. 
And yes it is - charging cavalry gets 8 dice not 4 but the extra 4 dice still come up garbage.

Over the hill!
The charge comes up just short. Frustrating.

But come up short, ending in disorder....

Puller takes a shot!
I let Puller take a shot with his Webley but to no effect.

And the whole line opens up.

Casualties on the hill...
The left wing firing on a second charge coming down the hill dropping one rider.

Form triangle!
The British win the next initiative, allowing them to form triangle - a very period formation.

The riders fire!
Mass formation limits the number of figures that can fire and muzzle loaders halve that rate resulting in an anemic effort.

As do the band coming down the hill.
The other band takes a shot.

Like Earther like Martian - the only thing taking hits is dirt.
Also forgetting to check ranges first. This does highlight the difference between muzzle loading and cartridge firing weapon ranges.

From disorder to line to lay down fire.
The charge having failed, the band shakes out into an open line to maximize firepower and defence.

The hill band charges!
The hill band makes an excellent charge roll.

Puller's men fire at the skirmish line taking one down.
In the defensive phase, the British fire.

As the second charge is about to hit, the triangle fire! 
Inflicting hits.

Two more hits!

But no effect!
But no kills.

Hits on the second charge.
The charging band does not fare as well...

Taking hits...
And Martians drop....
And taking kills. But the Martians make their morale check and the charge goes in.

But not all...
The melee is relatively ineffective with the Martians being mounted, coming out a bit better.

The reluctant warriors steel themselves and charge again!
Allowing the Martians on the ridge to charge in. The morale roll to charge in open order passed with a squeek.

The mass of melee
With the melee joined and the British surrounded, this was the deciding moment.

And the British fall under the knives of the Martians.
But the British could not hold leaving some men left to be captured.

Num'da looked at the fallen earth men. "Take all their arms and ammunition - we can use that later. Share out any cloth and metal and be sure to set aside the widow's portion."
"And the bodies War Leader?"
"We don't know their burial practices - lay them out in rows. We're not barbarians."
"The roogies will get them...."
"They might, yes - but let the red mens' ghosts bother the roogies and not us. And move the goods out of the ruins - they know we're here now."

The Captain watched as a full company scoured the site of Puller's last stand. His men were busy dragging the scarlet clad bodies to a waiting cart, handkerchiefs wrapped around their faces to keep out the stink and the flies.
A sergeant approached "Guns, ammunition, leather, cloth and metal all gone. It looks like they were stripped and then cut to pieces. It might have been animals... From what we can find it looks like two are missing from the patrol. We can't tell who yet."
"Animals indeed!" snapped the Captain, "The most vicious animal on this ball of dust walks on two legs. Get them on the cart, and for God's sake find a tarpaulin to cover them before we take them into camp. A patrol wiped out is bad enough without showing the results to the new arrivals."
There would be a price to pay.