Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Monday, 2 October 2017

Sword and Spear Fantasy: Part 2



At the Colours show at Newbury I got myself a copy of the Sword and Spear Fantasy rules. After giving my first impressions from playing the game a few weeks ago I’ve now had a proper read and can add a few more observations. As I mentioned on my previous post I enjoyed playing the game. The rule book is full colour throughout and aesthetically pleasing, illustrated with pictures of troops in varying scales from 28mm down to 6 or 10mm. They will work fine for any scale, it is the footprint of the unit that matters.
The core of the rules are based on the historical version which I’ve played before. There are fantasy elements added at various stages such as new unit types (monsters, swarms etc), different stratagems, magic, flying and the undead.
Combat is resolved by rolling a small number of dice, the unit’s Strength value plus bonuses. Impetus is an important concept which I won’t get into in detail, but it allows advantages when a unit is fulfilling its battlefield role correctly and is lost when it is placed at a tactical disadvantage. Combat (and Shooting) is resolve by rolling dice, choosing the highest four and comparing them with the enemy’s top four, resulting in kills or forcing discipline tests (failure resulting in a kill). This is modified by attributes such as armour and powerful attacks. This is another point where both players are constantly involved and making choices which is a good thing.

Commanders make units more easy to activate and can rally units, recovering hits. Heroes are present but are a distinct unit type

Army lists are produced with a spreadsheet available online. There are sample army lists for a variety of fantasy armies, often with several different ways to represent a unit according to how you view it. So dwarf warriors might have the Shieldwall rule, or be Armoured or Heavily Armoured depending on which you think is most appropriate. Units can be designed from scratch, choosing unit type (heavy foot, beasts etc), discipline, strength, protection, missile attacks, a melee trait and up to three other traits, and automatically generates the points value. This is very handy. You can have exactly the unit you want. You have to go online to find all this as the formula or sample lists aren’t in the book.
Magic users come in three power levels and get magic points each turn to spend on spells. Spells cast at higher levels are more costly and effective and range also increases the points required. There are a small number of spells: attack, rally/heal, boost, protect, and specific rules for magical attacks on characters. I’d prefer a bit more granularity but I understand the author’s reasoning. One of the Stratagems available is summoning, which is essentially anther spell, I’d have liked a few more of these.
Stratagems include various bonuses to the army such as flank marches, improved scouting and equipping missile troops with stakes. There are also some fantasy items added to the list. This allows you to give further character to the army by giving Wood Elves abilities such as Woodsman, Scouting or Ambush.

 I like these rules and I plan to use them with 15mm armies on 80mm frontage. I might also use 6mm figures on 60mm frontage which I started years ago and never finished.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Sword and Spear Fantasy

A few weeks ago I played Sword and Spear Fantasy published by Great Escape Games. It is a fantasy conversion of their historical rules.  I played Clive at the club, http://bristolwargaming.co.uk and both the armies are his. Units have a discipline value which affects activation and their ability to withstand damage, a movement value, combat value and additional traits such as Impact, Armour and missile attacks.

The human army contained consisted of Knights, Heavy Foot, Archers, Skirmish Archers, Cavalry Skirmishers and Pegasus Knights. The Goblins had a Mammoth, Chariots, Trolls, Wolf Riders, Spearmen, Archers and Squigs. The Knights, as in the historical version, are extremely tough, saving hits on a 2+. To balance them the Squigs were designed to counter their abilities (Squigs are monsters from the Warhammer univers). The rules allow players to design units from scratch, which is great if your idea of what a fantasy unit should be like differs from the author's.

These rules have an unusual mechanism for command. Units and Characters generates a certain number of command dice (usually one) which are placed in a bag. Each turn is divided into several phases where some units on each side activate and complete their turn. A certain number of dice are drawn from the bag and the player with the most dice allocates them to units. Each unit has a discipline value and a die of that value or higher is needed to activate the unit. Some dice drawn will be useless and are discarded. Sixes, or a pair of identical dice given to the same unit give some bonuses. The other player then does the same. Then all activated units perform their actions, and their dice are turned over to 1 to show they are finished for the turn. Then more dice are drawn and another phase begins. When units are destroyed dice are removed from the bag according to their victory points.

Units activate in dice order, which means you never have to wait long before making decisions. Something I like in games is where both players are constantly making choices, rather than making decisions, spending 15 minutes carrying them out and then waiting passively thought your opponants turn.

Both sides had Wizards. Rather than having specific spells they get a random number of magic tokens each turn which can be spent on other units in the same way as bonus dice. This does tend to mean that mean that units pile up a lot of bonuses and doesn't have much character.

On my right I used several units of wolf riders to prevent the Pegasus Knights and Mounted Skirmishers getting behind the wood and into my rear. I lost some cheap units but they performed their role well, tying up a high value unit while I concentrated on the left and centre.
In the centre I had to spend a few turns spreading out from my starting position to bring the rear units into line. The Knights destroyed the Squigs and a melee developed that lasted some time.
On the left my Chariots attacked some Skirmishers in the woods and were then flank charged by Knights and destroyed. The Knights moved forward and looked like they would be unbeatable until I got my other unit of Squiggs into their flank. This unit had a spectacular run, destroying the Knights and pursuing and destroying multiple units. This left the flank largely clear and I moved my Wolf Riders round to flank the human centre.

In the middle the human units were gradually being taken out. We didn't have time to bring the game to complete conclusion so my flanking units didn't make their flank charges, but we added up the victory points from the units destroyed, with me ahead, having lost mostly low value units and destroying high value ones. The Squig charge on the left flank was the decisive action.

It was an enjoyable game where the balance seemed to shift between players several times.  I have a lot of Dwarves and Copplestone Barbarians in 15mm, too many for even a double sized Hordes of the Things army, and I've been looking for a rule set to use them with, I think this is it. The magic rules were a bit dull, but I really like the fact that both players are always doing something and the ability to customise units.



Sunday, 20 August 2017

Sunday All-Dayer




Had an all day session, today, with a good mix of games. We played a couple of games of Congo, playing the Last Queen of Aksoum scenario with African Kingdoms attacking White Men, and then the same scenario with White Men attacking Jungle Tribes.




Here's a game of Bolt Action Doctor Who with UNIT versus a Sontaran invasion force.



Here's an excellent scratchbuilt Sontaran scout ship, made from a polystyrene sphere and a net.



Hordes of the Things with Hyborian barbarians against elves.



This is a Team Yankee game played in 5mm.



Alien Squad leader. The Human Imperials got eaten by the Hive Mind.



Here's a game of Kings of War, Undead against Wood Elves.




And this is Project Z.


Tuesday, 8 August 2017

New 40K, 8th edition, any good?

I started playing the first edition, Rogue Trader, back in 1987 and I've built up a lot of armies. 40K dropped out of favour at our club a long time ago and I've only played 2 games using any of the editions since the first. When 8th ed. came out with all the armies contained in 5 books I decided to give it another go. Several others at the club are also interested.

Kev and I played a game with a power level of 39. Power levels are simplified version of points values and save a lot of time. I'm a believer in getting what you pay for, but this saved so much time and fiddling with spreadsheets. Kev's army was rather character heavy, being based on the figures in the starter set.

He had a Death Guard Chaos Marine force a Lord of Contagion (a chaos terminator lord type), a Noxious Blightbringer (who boosts friends and hinders enemies nearby) and a Malignant Plaugucaster (a Psyker), two units of Plaugemarines, 20 poxwalkers (mindless zombies) and a Rhino.

I took Space Marines with a Lieutenant, 3 tactical squads and a Dreadnought. They had a rule where I could re-roll failed morale tests, which I forgot. We also missed the rule that the chaos marines could re-roll 1s to hit Imperial troops. My figures are all from the 80s, And yes, I need to sort out a lot of missing backpacks.

We rolled the No Mercy scenario which gave victory points for destroying enemy units, first blood and having a unit in the enemy deployment zone at the end of the game. The game lasts 5-7 turns, depending on a dice roll. Kev chose the deployment zone and picked Front Line Assault.

On my left I put one unit on top of a building with a good field of fire. I sent another to take on the smaller Plaguemarine squad on the left, and kept my Lieutenant loitering out of sight waiting for a chance to be useful. I put my Dread in the centre and another squad on the right.

The poxwalkers came through the centre losing half their number before climbing up to assault my marines on the roof. They were wiped out after several turns of fighting, taking 4 marines with them. we also missed the rule that those casualties had a chance of turning into more pox walkers. My Dred shot at several units, causing a few casualties and Kev's Psyker cast spells from the ruins in the centre.

On my left I quickly routed the squad opposite and moved into the centre to take on the Psyker.

On the right our troops exchanged shots through a building from the doorways before the Plaugemarines charged, boosted by the Blightbringer. The chaos squad was wiped out leaving the character but the Lord of Contagion came round the rear of the marines and joined in. My Dred charged him, was wounded himself and failed his morale test and was destroyed. The remaining marines were wiped out.

At the end, my squad on the left killed the Psyker, Kev's victorious characters and Rhino moved into my deployment zone and my Lieutenant made a dash for the enemy deployment zone for a victory point but didn't make it before the game ended.  I had killed two squads and a character, and drawn first blood giving me 4 victory points, Kev had destroyed 2 units and got into my deployment zone for 3.

I like the simplicity of the combat mechanism. Unit cards give the dice score to hit rather than a value to be compared to something else on a table. And the wounding mechanism is simpler (equal, more, double). I found the simple points system surprisingly good, I added up what Kev had in less than a minute and was able to put a matching force on the table almost as quickly.

The morale system is sadly lacking. Back in the 80s I used to be frustrated by the fact that by turn 4 the table was full of units either running away, or having rallied, coming back again. I can't comment on the intervening sets, but essentially the new system is that morale tests are modified by the casualties taken and the result of failure is additional casualties (fleeing) according to how much the test was failed by. There is nothing like suppression, there is nothing you can do to impede and enemy (such as pinning it down with one unit so another can advance in safety), except to kill them all. This detracts from the feeling of a real battle.

I have a lot of armies I'd like to get some use from and there will be players at the club willing to play this, so it will do. I have thought about converting other rule sets and writing my own army lists for them, which is a lot of work and I might not persuade many people to play it. I'll consider modifying the morale system though.