Tuesday, May 20, 2014

There and Back Again A Wargamers Vacation

Traffic Jam on the way to Fort MacDuff
Another enjoyable Huzzah has come and gone. It was a typical excursion. This and that cropped up so I was 2 hours late getting underway but managed to pick up Gary and still join my sister and our niece for supper. Very convenient that they lie roughly 1/2 way. We spent the next day lounging about and lending a hand with a few of the never ending little jobs on the farm and were then joined by my brother and some friends for BBQ and conversation. The pork chops and sausages had been cute when on the cloven hoof last year but were particularly tasty this year.

On Friday we hit the road again, arriving in Portland mid afternoon. We were expecting Rob Dean to be waiting but mother nature combined with what I see as typical airline efficiency to see him finally arrive about 7 hours later than anticipated with me waiting at the airport while he took the shuttle to the hotel. Ah well.  All's well as ends well.

Gary had preregistered for a game, viking raid or pirates can't remember now which was Friday night,  but Rob and I  just did the rounds checking out what was going on then got deep into discussing joint plans.
Escorting Maid Marion past a notorious band of outlaws, or at least that was the plan.
I had intended to not game on Saturday morning so that I would be rested for my game but my health being better than last year I accepted an invite from Chris Parker of Day of Battle to make up numbers in a Robin Hood skirmish using an unauthorized variant of Saga.  I've been curious about Saga due to the buzz and enjoyed the game despite the 3 young fellows on our side (ok so I may have a few decades on the other young fellows) having our butts kicked by a pair of young women playing Robin Hood and Friar Tuck. I would have been even happier if I had suceeded in putting an end to Little John whose Merry Men gave me a fair amount of grief on my third of the table but alas when I finally managd to catch and thump him, he made a huge bundle of saving throws and got away. You`d think he was some legendary hero. More on my thoughts on Saga later but kudos to Chris for running some games that are fun for all.

Pausing for a second it was a real pleasure over the course of the weekend  to see such a wide range of ages, interests and  game styles and a number of female gamers as well as the masses of male ones. There is hope for the future of the hobby yet.

After a quick break for a bite and an eye break, I got setup for Drums Along the Mohawk. It turned out I did have the bigger table which was great. Since I had failed to get organized in time to stage a full multi-player test game in addition to  the 2 player Google Hangout  game on a 4x5 table, I was relying on past experience that  it would all hang together with 8 players around a 9x6 table.

The game involved 3 parties of settlers fleeing toward a fort for refuge after being alerted to the approach of Loyalist and Indian raiding parties. The settlers (rebel/ patriot depending on your POV) each had 2 wagons each with 4 combatants and several noncombatants and 2 companies of 8 veteran militia/iregulars as escorts. Apart from the garrison and an artillery piece the fort had a company of rifles and one of infantry that could sortie once a convoy could be seen to be in trouble. There were 4 raiding parties, all of 3 "companies" of 8. Two were of Western or Wild Indians,  one was a mix of Tories and Mohawks that had been expelled from the Valley, the last was comprised of Royal Highland Emigrants, many also from the valley and some Germans sent down from Montreal. The wagons had about 6 feet to travel. The raiders each had an area of about 2 feet of wooded table edge to enter on but rolled to bring troops on with the odds improving until automatic arrival on turn 6.

The Montreal column pressed the settlers hard and twice came within a hair's breadth of caturing the wagons Early on I regretted making the Grenadiers shock troops since it looked like they might over run the opposition with bayonet charge after bayonet charge without a pause for breath but while some ran, other farmers stood firm and shot straight, repulsing them and in the end the last surving grenadiers broke and ran. The jaegers were contained by the Rebel riflemen leaving the last 2 Highlanders to watch from  a safe distance as the wagons rolled toward the fort. So much for the legendary luck of young gamers.

Across the table both wagon trains converged on the center road choosing to face the tough climb rather than skirt the woods too closely. I was surprised that none of the Indians used their speed to cut them off but since they also came darn close to capturing all 4 of the wagons rather than just the one they did burn and managed to avoid the reinforcements, I can't say my plan was better. Chance was certainly smiling on the settlers who several times got the first move when they needed it and won or tied melees where they were at a disadvantage  allowing the wagons to get a little closer to the fort and help.

At the end of the day the fleeing settlers took heavy losses but 5 out of 6 wagons made it to safety with food for the winter and seeds for the spring planting. More importantly, I again had the pleasure of running a game with a great bunch of gamers, polite, fair minded, smart, companionable and every thing a GM could wish for. It was especially good to see some familiar faces, I hope to see some of them again next year.

My undisciplined, low morale levies and Nobles try their best to look like Hussars and trained infantry.

Saturday evening I managed to squeek into a game of Fire and Sword. This is another set of rules that I had wanted to check out but more than that Sienkewitz's (sp?) Trilogy has been one of my favorite works of literature and Pan Zagloba and Pan Yan heroes since I was introduced to With Fire and Sword by a Classics Illustrated Comic when I was knee high to something. Minifig Winged Hussars were amongst my first metal wargame figures.

The game was a fantastic spectacle with tons of colourful troops on wonderful terrain but there are much better photos on the web than any that I took with my smart phone. (Mind you I'm pretty happy with what I took. Really must add more light to my room. ) Check out the link below.

The rules were fine with a lot of conventional, well proven mechanics along with a few new twists. In many ways a classic OS approach where you just pretend you are commanding real troops, I'd happily play them again but doubt that I would buy a copy unless I didn't want to write my own. Over all it was an enjoyable evening of gaming with a great bunch of guys. Thanks and Kudos to the group that built and tested the game. I'll keep an eye out for what they do next year.

I hadn't preregistered for any games on Sunday but Rob (on the right above. I am embarrassed to have to admit despite having played one game beside and another across from him plus both participating in a round table, I am having a mental block on the other chap's name despite his being a good gamer and pleasant companion.)  and I were able to grab spots on opposing sides in another medieval Saga variant (unauthorised) game, 100 Years War this time. It was an enjoyable way to wind up the con. I can see why the rules are so popular but like many popular  games while I'd be happy  to play a game if invited, it would be just a social event and I have no interest in getting  "into" them.  

The dice and battle board mechanism makes for an interesting game within a game, like managing a hand of Memoir cards. However, like many fashionable rulesets of this century, it seems to me that it gets players making choices that often result in their units taking appropriate action with reasonable results but it distorts the players view of what is happening or what a commander would be thinking. The player chooses to use his dice to maximize the effect of his longbowmen because its the most efficient use of the dice he rolled compared to his board. 

Its a very narrow and somewhat arbitrary distinction between mindsets and I don't think I have quite expressed exactly what I meant  but its not really important and its late. Perhaps a discussion for another day.

Anyway, I am home from the 2,000 km round trip and fired up to get cracking at various things  such as getting a "final" solution for my gaming room that will allow a slightly bigger table with temporary expansion capability, getting a workshop set up to finally get my spin caster into action and getting a lot more sculpting done and improving myself, not to mention a bunch of painting and playing of games.

In the meantime please use the following links to spend some time browsing pictures of all the things I didn't photograph. 

And some more by Richard Wallace  


  1. Great looking pics, splendid figures!

    1. Thanks. The Seige of Danzig was especially attractive. Many teddy bears were sacrificed by those guys to make those grassy steppes.

  2. Great pictures Ross. Those Indians look fantastic. If I ever move back to NS (hopefully for retirement) that is a con I'd like to go to.

    1. Maybe you should gather some guys to carpool down probably 10 hours by interstate, or go for a slower New England vacation and cut through Quebec to drive through Vermont and New Hampshire, a very pretty drive on smaller roads. You're about the same distance away. It would fun.

  3. A post and I haven't even thought about downloading my pictures from Cangames last weekend. Looks like great fun was had by all.

  4. I think the other fellow was Robert Dunn to confuse with me, Robert Dean. :-). Now I need to reorganize my painting space to start on follow-ups. Reorganize is the right word; the current chaos is actually a descent from some primal order once present...

    I've also got a package from Prince August awaiting a signature at the Post Office, so there's never a lack of things to do...

    1. Right, never "Bert". How could I forget?

    2. Yes, I am Robert Dunn. You must have forgotten how both of us on the other side of the table were named Robert. :-)

    3. A momentary lapse for which I do apologize.

  5. Ross: your setup had a look wonderful (As ever!). What have you used to depict roads? These were not made with sand as you usually does.

    1. I needed to repaint the 2nd cloth anyway and since anything that makes packing and set up and take down easier is good, I painted on the roads and the footprint for woods and fields. I will probably have to repaint next time but I don't often use that cloth at home.

      You would have liked the Polish game.

  6. It was. Every now and then it does me good to crawl out of my burrow and visit the outside world.