Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The British Are Here! - The Battle of Concord, Part 2

This is a continuation of last week's post, which covered the beginning of Bob's Battle of Concord. Last week, we left off with a rolling battle north of Concord between the British Regulars and Colonial Militia units, a defense force in Concord, and my Light Infantry moving back into town.  

Carl and Frank had their hands full north of the river as they kept trying to push towards the final stores of colonial supplies. Unfortunately, while they did manage to push the colonial forces back several times, they could never make a decisive thrust. They were ultimately repelled. Carl and Frank decided to cut their losses and start marching their troops back to town so we could regroup and head back to Lexington. 

It soon became apparent that our escape plan was about to become much harder. A unit from Sudbury arrived and took up position on a rise watching over the path the British would need to use. 

As an aside, the line of lichen clumps represents a small (and rather scummy) stream. 

The battered British detachment made its way back over the river and into Concord, harried by colonial units. The militia were forced back by grenadier units across the water. 

The British rearguard made preparations to begin marching out of town. 

The above picture shows the British positions as the game entered its later turns. My light infantry detachment finally got back into town (without seeing a single bit of combat so far). A combined force of light and grenadier units started to engage with the Sudbury militia that had a vantage point over the British exit route. And the rearguard continued to form up.

A exchange of fire saw the Sudbury unit chased off. Luckily for the colonists, the only place the militia could retreat to was in the same direction as the British were heading! 

More colonial units kept marching onto the board, placing themselves between the oncoming British. My Light Infantry was tasked with leading the British column out of Concord, so it was up to me to break up the oncoming Americans. 

Another overhead shot. British flankers have been sent out to chase the Sudbury unit away. The small, single-man militia units that can be seen are blinds working in pairs - one is the actual unit, one isn't. Only by getting British units close enough could these blinds be revealed. 

The colonists started coming on so thick that they were blocking each others movement. Of course, this also meant that a unit retreating from a charge would stop immediately. My light infantry was stuck in the face of a colonial horde, either firing or charging to try and force them back. 

While the British were able to force the American units back, more kept appearing on our flanks, which meant we had to send out our own flankers to keep them away. Our march was quickly becoming bogged down. 

Concord was almost abandoned, with the colonial militia supplies still burning. What British companies still remained in town prepared to hold back the colonial units threatening the rear. 

Finally, we reached the game's last turn (with the sun finally setting outside the store's window. We decided to call the game a draw. While the British had managed to destroy 3 out of the 4 supply locations, they weren't going to get back to Lexington without getting absolutely mauled. There were 5 large units of colonials between the British and the exit off the table, with more coming from behind and from the side. Bob decided that the result was much like the historical outcome, with the British arriving at Lexington battered and bloodied, have not expected such fierce resistance from colonial militia.

And that was the game! Another great effort by Bob with his fantastically painted miniatures and great terrain. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The British Are Here! - The Battle of Concord, Part 1

It's beginning to feel as though this blog would be completely dead if it weren't for Bob and his big community games. Maybe I should give the man a byline?

Nevertheless, Bob once again ran a session at 7th Dimension Games. This time it was the Battle of Concord - no Lexington. In the wake of a night full of distress calls, alarms, and lit candles in windows signalling the approach of the British, the Redcoats had arrived in force to investigate certain rumors of possible colonial supply and arms stores in the area. The British would have to move quickly - hordes of militia and Minutemen were converging on Concord, and the small force would quickly be outnumbered. 

I would be commanding the British along with two other players - Carl and Frank. We decided to split our force into three groups. Carl and I would both take detachments of light infantry and make a quick march to the supply stores, investigate them, destroy whatever we found, and then quickly return. Frank took the bulk of the detachment - made up of grenadiers - and would use them to both secure and investigate the town. Bob pointed out, to our amusement, that this was essentially the same plan the British used. 

We hoped that the result would be more in our favor. 

The above picture shows the beginning positions of the British. Light infantry lead the column, followed by the grenadiers. Another group of light infantry was waiting just off the road. Mounted officers stood atop the hill, while those on foot were mixed into the column. Wagons waited to cart off the wounded.

For the British, each grouping of two stands formed a company. The Americans would differ in that their 'groups' could consist of as many as twelve stands! However, the British officers would allow 'detachments' of stands to all take the same action at once, such as moving, charging, or firing. 

Carl's light infantry headed north over the bridge to one of the objectives. Grenadiers moved in behind them to secure the bridge, and both groups were watched carefully by the first groups of milita. Both sides were reluctant to open fire first, so the beginning turns of the game consisted mostly of movement.

Since units couldn't move through one another, Frank had to get a company of grenadiers out of the way of my light infantry. Hoping to deter another group of colonists, he put them in line just off the road. 

And my boys were off and down the road, their boots kicking up dirt into the early April air. 

Unfortunately, they were followed by the group of colonial militia, who quickly set up on the only bridge that my men could cross back to Concord. The colonials celebrated this early, minor victory. 

North of Concord, a large group of militia had gathered to stymie British progress. Again, as neither side wanted to be the one to fire the first shot and thus be labelled the aggressors, the British prepared to fix bayonets to see the colonists off. 

Frank decided that leaving the bridge in the hands of the militia wasn't a good idea - especially so early in the game, when we knew more militia would be arriving later - so his grenadiers fixed their bayonets and charged. They forced the militia off the bridge and sent them running into Concord with many dead and wounded at their feet. They unexpectedly took casualties of their own, however, and the shock of the militia's ferocity sent the redcoats in a brief retreat. 

Bob determined that some shots - famously heard 'round the world - had been fired in the melee south of Concord, and so the militia on the north side of the river, already on edge, opened fire on the approaching British. 

Taken by surprise, the light infantry fell back and regrouped with some grenadiers that Frank had sent across the bridge. The larger British detachment then attempted to move back into battle with the militia. 

Thus began a rolling fight between a combined force of British light infantry and grenadiers, and an ever-increasing amount of colonists. American units broke several times, but their greater numbers meant that there was always another unit to either fill the gap or threaten a British flank. 

My detachment of light infantry had a relatively easy time. They made it to the forge and discovered that the colonists had hidden a few cannons. They were destroyed, but in the process the forge was accidentally set alight. Deciding not to risk any of my men putting it out, I had my column about face and prepare to march back. 

And while the fighting raged across the river north of Concord, fires blazed in the town as Frank's grenadiers discovered and destroyed supplies meant to aid colonial resistance. 

And so we leave the battle for now. Part 2 will come out next week with the game's conclusion. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Cops, Crooks and Cthulhu!

It was the day after Halloween. The moon was right (although not in evidence), the candy was ready, and Bob had set up another community game for us to play. There might be, at some point, a time at which I'm not surprised and delighted by one of Bob's scenarios. Luckily, this wasn't that time.

Really getting into the spirit of the season, the scenario was an apocalyptic clash between the Forces of Law & Order (both corrupt and stick-up-the-bum straight), several gangs who suddenly found their illegal stashes of booze in serious danger, and a motley assortment of cultists, monsters, gypsies and, worse of all, clowns who had their own nefarious plans. There would be plenty of trouble and effluvial grime for all! 

Above is the map of a section of Pinchburg, both above and below ground.

I haven't really covered Bob's rules in my posts about his games, and they do deserve special mention. The rules are usually rather simple which is a great boon when there are 10 players in a game who have varying levels of experience with miniature games. The complexity comes from Bob's role as Gamemaster. There are always a plentiful amount of NPC's in the game - whom Bob plays as - whose actions can either help or hinder players. Bob also makes great use of various action cards from RPGs and other sources. These cards can have rather dramatic results in a game, like forcing allies to suddenly attack one another or perhaps save a character from certain doom.

I took, as my group, the Albion Knights. Over the course of the game these characters involved into a bunch of endearing buffoons whose esoteric dabblings resulted more often in tomfoolery than any sort of effective battling of evil and the infinite writhing madness that lurks in the dark corners of the cosmos. 

Other factions included a group of G-Men and Pinchburg's Finest, two local gangs, two cultist groups (the Orders of St. Cosmos and St. Damian), a group of the Esoteric Order of Dagon looking to spread their influence out from Innsmouth and band of Gypsies with bloodthirsty intentions. Oh, and the Konfederacy of Klowns. Insane clowns. I bet even Nyarlathotep shudders at the thought.

The Knights started with a quick round in the Pincher's Pub, a venerable if somewhat run-down local establishment. The Order of St. Damien started outside at the front, with the G-Men arriving at the docks at this late hour. 

Guidry, seeing a flash of white robes outside, decided to investigate. Imagine his surprise to see the Knight's hated enemy, the Damienites, just outside! With a noise that was rather more of a shrill yelp than a battlecry, Guidry charged into combat with his spear! The rest of the Knights rushed outside to his aid. The Damienites surprised the Knights with the careful application of 12-gauge buckshot, and the shillelagh-wielding Mullally died with a good portion of him splattered against the outside wall of Pincher's. 

The G-Men, suddenly alerted by the booming report of a shotgun, rushed through the tavern, ignoring the pints of bitter on the table and the taps on the wall. One of the feds was stopped, however, by the strange sounding music emanating from the violin of a Gypsy hidden in shadow. The Gypsy managed to slow the operative and his boss (who was dragging the hapless dancing man by the collar) for a couple of turns before slipping out the back door and into the night.   

Meanwhile, in the sewers, one of the gangs managed to summon a Banshee to do their bidding (i.e., find a secure a large stash of booze). The Klowns had also summoned in a relatively new spirit for the age - the Doughboy! The being the 1920's and all. The Order of St. Cosmos advanced into the sewers, intent on summoning their own master's minions into the world. Looks like the Knights were going to have their hands full!

The G-Men, emerging from Pincher's, sight their guns on the retreating shapes of the Damienites and open fire. They manage to fell the shotgun wielding cultist, but not before the rest managed to slip into the ever-crowding sewers. With no time to explain, the Knights shout for the other forces of Order to follow them. Pinchburg's police do so, while the G-Men take an alternate route...

And while the skirmishes raged in the street above, dark magicks were being practiced in the sewers below. The Cosmosites managed to reach a Place of Power and, intoning inhuman verses, tear open a rip in reality. What stepped forth was an abomination, an eldritch beast - an offspring of Shub-Niggurath, the Black Goat with a Thousand Young!

Not to be outdone, the Innsmouth folk also completed their ritual, and the smell of rotting fish and worse things began to overpower the already potent stench of the sewers as Father Hydra slithered out of the depths.

Not wanting to be left out of the monster mash, the Damienites (having given the Knights the slip) reach another Place of Power within the sewers and summon a facet of their own deity - the toad god, Tsathoggua. And the Gypsies managed to summon a winged demon even before that!

The Knights were in a lot of trouble if they were planning to banish all of these horrors from Pinchburg. At least they had some backup...

The sewers quickly descended into a horrific melee, with tentacles flailing, teeth gnashing, and sane men screaming their minds away into oblivion. Alliances were made (and broken) as factions attempted to complete their own objections while foiling those of the other players. 

In a stroke of bad luck, the Banshee managed to sneak up on the coppers and, with a single shriek, killed three of them with fear-induced heart attacks. The other two, going insane, killed each other in a blaze of gunfire. 

More confused were the Knights, who turned around after an explosive moment of sound and heat to discover that their erstwhile allies had suddenly died!

Seeking help, the leader of the Knights sprang headfirst through the cultists and garbled out a spell of summoning from his August Tome of Reckoning. What came forth was a spirit of flame and vengeance - a Champion of law and order!

Things weren't going quite so well for the rest of the Knights, however. Arlo was stuck in a life-and-death struggle with a knife-wielding Damienite, and Waldo was devoured by Tsathoggua! Poor Guidry, armed with only a spear, hoped to keep the brute at bay while an unlucky group of gangsters stumbled across the summoned god and opened fire!

Meanwhile, the Cosmosites and Deep One hybrids skirmished near a sewer whirlpool. The offspring of Shub-Niggurath, hungry after its summoning, ate one of the Cosmosites in its blind need to feed. The other cultists made sure to watch their back even as they were attack by the frog-men. 

Father Hydra turned his attention to the Doughboy, but the new spirit's slam attacks and the Klown Ringleader's megaphone kept the slithering horror at bay.

While every other player was duking it out down in the sewers, the Gypsies had free reign in the streets above. They took advantage of the relative quiet to slink around and attack the semi-innocent citizens of Pinchburg, and soon the streets ran red with blood. 

Kept at a stalemate, the Ringleader called in the rest of the Klowns, who began a conga-line-of-death down the tunnel. 

The last two pictures are from the last turn in the game. You can see that the Klowns and Father Hydra were still locked in combat. The two gangs started fighting with each other over the booze stockpile. The Hybrids and Cosmosites were still going at it, while most of the Damienites and the Knights were dead. The G-Men had finally entered the sewers and were steadily plinking away away at Tsathoggua, but the eldritch monster was steadily advancing towards them.

We decided to end the game there, and it was starting to get on in the afternoon. Once again, Bob put on a great game, and all involved expressed their gratitude for the fun time.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Jousting in the Skies - Wings of War AAR

I'm back again with another community game. With the coming of the 100th Anniversary of the first World World, or the Great War, there has also been a mini-renaissance of the same era in the wargaming community. Our own group at 7th Dimension Games has been similarly affected, most visibly with the revival of Wings of War/Wings of Glory, the card-driven WWI biplane combat game. The main backer behind this effort has been Gary, whose games I've written about before, and whose massive WoW/G collection was made available for the events he has been organizing. 

This event was a 9-person game played across 3 of the WoW/G play-mats, so an area a little larger than 3'x6'. On one side were the Allies - 2 single-seat fighters, a two-seat fighter, and two bombers. I was the pilot of the Sopwith Camel with the two hearts on the top wing. 

On the other side were the Germans, all in single-seat fighters. You can also see the three trenchline cards, which represented the objectives for the game. The Allies had to escort their bombers across the table and destroy the trenches, and the Germans had to keep their trenches protected. 

With both sides being so far apart, it took several turns to close the gap, and so almost all of our cards took us straight forward at max speed. You'll notice that both sides basically flew in formation for the beginning of the game - once combat was joined, however, orders were damned and pilots flew at their own discretion. 

The first pass! Shots were exchanged, cards were drawn, and several pilots just gave each other a grim wave as both sides flew past one another. At this point, however, the Allies had a slight advantage, since three out of their five planes were two-seaters with machine guns able to fire out of a rear arc. 

The Germans didn't waste any time, however, and quickly came about to pursue the Allies, who were now flying at high-speed for the trenches. Thinking myself clever, I planned to come about at give the chasing Huns a bloody nose. 

Unfortunately, these three colorful fellows foiled my plan. While I managed to fire at the purple, green and yellow biplane, my own Camel was promptly shot down. I wasn't the only casualty, however - Russ, the pilot of one of the bombers, also pulled some high value cards and nose-dived into enemy territory. The game had just started, and the Allies were already down two planes, including one of the all-important bombers!

Not yet deterred, the remaining Allies fighter pilots came back around as the remaining bomber stayed on target - the rightmost trench card!

Amazingly, even with air superiority, the Germans couldn't manage to take down the bomber, whose gunner happily sighted in and wiped one of the trenches off the table. 

And then incredibly destroyed the second trench! With all of its bombs gone, the bomber turned away and started to retreat back to the Allies lines, covered by the two remaining fighters.

It was at this point that Russ and I started to suspect we had drawn all the high value cards from the damage decks - it certainly seemed like our fellow players were drawing plenty of zeroes!

The unfortunate bomber was eventually shot down, having drawn enough cards from the fusillade of bullets fired from the following Germans. 

And so went the last Allied single-seat fighter. By the now Germans had taken quite a few blows of their own, and had been reduced from six fighters down to three. 

Now the game turned into a cat-and-mouse chase between the two-seater Allied fighter and the remaining Germans.

But even with a pile of damage cards with plenty of zeroes and ones, the last Allied fighter was taking too many shots from too many angles, and eventually went down.

The end result was a 30-26 win for the Germans - if the Allies had managed to shoot down just one more plane, they would have won!

It was another fun, big community game. I'm looking forward to playing WoW/G again, and Gary's still working away on his 20mm terrain for a game of Through the Mud and the Blood.