Friday, July 8, 2022

Vacation Blues & What do you want from your games?

 An odd title for a wargaming blog post I know, but my wargaming funk followed me all the way into my first week of vacation.  I had BIG plans for this week.  Literally BIG plans because I started painting up more 28mm figures - this time El Cid Spanish - as well as planning for a big Gettysburg MEGA game - but try as I might - I have not been able to get past this dreaded wargaming funk.

A young Disgruntled Fusilier, pondering the imponderable - the lead mountain

Like usual, though, I was able to spend a bunch of time thinking about wargaming.  And if thinking about wargaming counted for hobby time, I could look back on a life of complete fulfillment 😊

Before I go any further and take you all down a rabbit hole with me, I should mention that I was able to get in a single, solo, game in this week.  I finally broke out Hold the Line: The American Civil War boardgame from Worthington out and played their Gettysburg scenario (Little Round Top) solo. 

Sickles' III Corps holds the Peach Orchard salient in my first ACW "Hold the Line" game played sans miniatures

This got me thinking further about Grand Tactical gaming and playing out BIG battles, and leads to an even bigger question which essentially drives all other questions - what do you want from your games?  

I'm not sure if I've ever properly reflected on this topic.  Sure, I've reflected on a "mission statement" for horse and musket rules, and even WW2 gaming, but what do I want, that is what do I mean to get out of, my gaming?  What do you expect to get from yours?  Why does this question even matter?

For me it's an important question because there is an endless list of projects, scales, and games on my "to do" list.  Murphy's Laws of Wargaming dictate that any project plan can become modified the moment you discuss it with other wargamers, so depending on the games you want to play, your prioritization of effort in an age of extremely limited time, bandwidth, and availability is key to successfully assaulting the lead mountain.  

The last few years, joint project plans with gaming pals have been the driver for purchases and project plans - some came to complete fruition, while others have not.  The games and their scope ranged wildly from Viking Skirmish battles, Cold War tactical battles with tank companies and mech infantry battalions, massive Napoleonic battles in search of the right rules, Seven Years War battles, and World War II tactical battles.  

With an eclectic choice like this, one should never hope to be bored or unfulfilled right?   My gaming has ranged from a commanding handful of Viking Warriors, all the way up to complete Army command at Aspern Essling or Antietam.  If I really think hard about it, while I love tactical games played at Battlegroup's "platoon" or even "company" level, I've always strived to play games that have been about Army command.  The Corps-on-Corps fight for landmarks, villages, river crossings, the destruction of the Army across the field in the Horse and Musket era, or the successful integration of all-arms against an operational or tactical problem in the more modern era.  That's tough to achieve for a miniatures gamer who still wants to push miniatures as there are scores of board wargames that foot the bill nicely for a broad mission statement like that.  You can bathtub your games and call everything a brigade and still get to roll to-hit, to-kill, and to-stand, but does it still serve the purpose?  If it's fun for you and your pals, then yes, it's worth it.  If it's boring to do solo and your pals might not accept that level of bath-tubbing - then what's the point?  I think this is where the purpose is so important to games - because for my purposes, playing at this big scale means:

  • using smaller minis to create the desired effect.
  • the mini terrain  is hugely important to creating authenticity and scale in your mind's eye.
  • you're going to need minis - alot of minis to achieve the look you want.
  • you're going to need the right rules to accommodate playing a game like this.

So for me, what do I want to get out of my gaming?  I want to recreate the fight at the Corps or Division level when it comes to my historical gaming.  I want to see the clash of brigades for a ridgeline, or the untimely arrival of a flank-marching division where I did not plan for it, and I want to do so mostly on a 6 x 4 table.  Impossible?  Maybe - but at least it gives my project planning purpose.

My purpose for gaming - what I want to get out of the affair - is setting foot into the commander's boots - looking through his field glasses and be confronted with the tough decisions he faced.  I'd prefer to do this at the Corps or Divisional level - so Army command is really what I want to get out of my miniature gaming.  That's the purpose of all of this work - so where does that leave me?  Still unsatisfied?  Adrift at sea?  Ready to hang up the gaming spurs and retire?

What do you want to get out of your hobby?

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Ravenfeast Disaster: BACK TO THE BOATS!

Ken and I played our first games of Ravenfeast this past Sunday and the game did not disappoint!  I called the post "Ravenfeast Disaster" more for what happened to my mighty Viking warband than anything else. 

 I'll explain.  

Over the past month or so, Ken and I were prepping 28mm Dark Age Vikings and Saxons for our first Ravenfeast showdown which finally occurred this past weekend.  Our original goal was to have everything painted by "Late June" so that checked a major project accomplishment box on my list.  I now have 36 warrior Danes and 3 command figures, all from Victrix, painted up.  Selecting a date, Ken and I were ready for the showdown and the only thing missing was the scenario.  

Foolishly, I picked a doozy of a scenario - the "back to the boats!" scenario which pits a 300 point raiding force trying to escape to the safety of the coast, against a 500 point ambushing force.  

Taken from the Ravenfeast site without permission - no challenge intended etc etc ipso facto lawyer stuff...

Talk about trial by fire!  Ken brought his awesome-looking hordes of Gripping Beast Saxons which looked like children fighting against grown men (the Victrix are closer to 30mm's tall and the GB figures are 25-28mm) - my Vikings looked like massive, Salmon-fed beasts compared to the waifish, grain-fed Saxons.

Come here smaller Saxons - we only want to have coffee and chat about important issues with you.  Ken's outstanding GB Saxons on the left, my Victrix Vikings on the right.

Anyways we played through the scenario and I have to admit I completely underestimated the decisions that had to be made and the tactical finesse required to be successful in Ravenfeast.  Rather than a simple "hack and slash" game, Ravenfeast requires some planning (and luck) to be successful, especially against an enemy that outnumbers you.  There are important decisions to be made.  Let's get to it.

My take on "Back to the Boats!"

My Vikings along the road to the coast spot a Saxon Ambush!  I break them down into smaller tactical sub groups each with an archer, while my Bondi spearmen surge forward with the Jarl (commander).  This tactic worked pretty decently but my rolling was crap - not killing a Saxon this entire first game.  Seriously - a game that finally requires "1"s to be successful and I roll more "6"s than I ever have in my life.  

The ambush is sprung.  2 x huskarls, supported by an archer, engage the Veteran Fyrd!  

Meanwhile, Karl the Jarl and his Santa-hat wearing Berzerker friend charge down the road.  You two finish them off - I'll save your seat on the boat!

Saxon ambush.

Another Saxon ambush!

This game seriously started to remind me of an American football game where a lane needed to be created for a running back to carry the ball down the field.  While my brave but tiny and expensive tactical groups were slaughtered by Ken's cunning Saxons, the Jarl, Berzerker, and a few spearmen make off with the loot, only to run too close to another advancing brace of Saxons and are surrounded and cut down, slaughtered to a man.  My rolling ensured that I killed ZERO Saxons.  Every one of Ken's men were "Veteran Fyrd" and so his quality was not bad compared to my crappy spearmen and archers...  Anyways, Ken employed a tactic whereby he would run a few Saxons around a Viking already locked in close combat and finish him off, ensuring that not only did I lose a point on the D6 during defense, but also during my attacks.  The rest became simple numbers.  (forming a shieldwall helps mitigate this tactic to a certain extent)

Huskarls being slaughtered by Saxons
Come here you godless heathen arrow slinger!  Said the Saxon to my archer. 

One of my favorite pics from the battle!  Heavy combat!  The red marker is a wound token.

The afore-mentioned lane opens up!  Karl the Jarl and company attempt to blitz through the gap.  If Karl makes it to the table edge, it's a minor victory, but as any odin-fearing Dane will tell you, a minor victory is still a victory!

To the boats, men!  Retreat!  Karl, a Bondi spearman, and the Berzerker, who fought no one the entire first battle, run off!

Karl at right: try to look inconspicuous - they might not notice us?  But you are still holding your sword up in the air, my lord?

never mind - they noticed us...Saxon Lord with the green cape rallies the Saxons and goes for blood Karl dies here along with the Bondi spearman.  Ironically, the Berzerker fails the morale test and routes...

We re-racked the forces and started again.  You quickly realize the value of a shieldwall (increase defense by 2) but the raiders need to MOVE!  Huge decision.  Do you trade solid defense for speed?  Or break down and run for the coast?  I tried out the Shieldwall and while I finally killed a bunch of Saxons, the end was still the same.  In fact I died further from the coast during this game!

My thoughts about Ravenfeast are that it does indeed deliver on the hack and slash feel that you're looking for after binge-watching "The Last Kingdom" but there is so much more to it than just the combats.  You must plan ahead and try to anticipate what the enemy will do.  When and where to form a shieldwall is critical in light of your objectives.  You also have to be ruthless and sacrifice men to the greatest extent possible.  The whole thing feels very genuine and to be completely honest even though I lost both games, was an absolute blast.  We're both looking forward to playing again.

Saxon shieldwall from the second game 

one of my favorite pictures from heavy combat!  The cowardly berzerker killed no one!

Shieldwall meets shieldwall in epic combat!

The Danes' numbers are whittled down but they took about 7 or 8 Saxons out with them this time!

So that's it - we really enjoyed Ravenfeast and are looking forward to playing again.  A key thing to remember?  Dont spend too many points on expensive troops, especially if said troops make up 50% or more of your force!  (like in this game).  I should have had way more Bondi spearmen as fodder, perhaps led by a hero in each case.  The trick is speed to get your Jarl back to the boat!  

I'll finish this post with some gratuitous pictures of my warbands!

Saturday, June 4, 2022

Viking WIP in....28mm?

 Yes you read that right.  Dipping my toes into, a new scale for me.  I vowed I'd never do 28mm or start a new scale for that matter, with my beloved 10mm, 15mm, and 1/285 MicroArmor serving as staple scales.  That being said, I've been enamored with the free Ravenfeast Viking skirmish rules by the LittlewarsTV crew and picked up a print copy of Ravenfeast for free at the last convention I attended.  

My original intent was to play Ravenfeast on the cheap in glorious 15mm a la "Storm of Steel Wargaming" but Ken insisted we play in 28mm (he has a good sized collection of Dark Age figures).  A few mouse clicks on the Victrix site and their 60-figure bag of Danes and along with a bag of Dark Age Archers arrived speedily from the UK.

Ultimately this works out because I'll base my 15mm Saxons and Vikings on 40mm square bases and play Hail Caesar or even try my luck with "Big Battle Ravenfeast".

Anyways, I'm sure you're not here to see my future plans, but rather for the eye candy!  Be gentle, this is my first real foray into 28mm painting!  I'm quite happy with them so far.

Close enough for government work...

So far I have 2 x full warbands completed.  I'll knock out a third one and that should give me enough points for a 350-400 point game.

When they have no Saxons to fight, these Danes are perfectly content fighting each other!

Not going to lie the shield transfers look way nicer than my hand painted shields!  These fellows have their basing material down.  I'll be painting and flocking the bases next.

The third warband waiting for their basecoat!

A macabre command group!

So that's it.  I still have about a few more Vikings to paint but I'm chugging along with my painting.  28mm is quite different from the mass-production I'm normally used to with 10mm or 15mm.  I can very quickly paint one of these guys up in an evening, and Ken and I have committed to playing a game mid to late June.

Speaking of plans, lots of ACW coming up on the horizon.  I'm going to try to play Live Free or Die set in the ACW like the most recent Littlewars TV Battle of Seven Pines, and I'm working on sorting out a scenario for Altar of Freedom for the first day of Gettysburg.  Lots of exciting ACW action coming up!

Since we're full of surprises today too, I picked up a few boxes of HaT 28mm El Cid Spanish to play "Soldiers of God" with Ken.  Readers of the blog will recall we played "Soldiers of Rome" this past winter and loved it!  The wife, who is Portuguese, naturally acquiesced to me fighting in the Reconquista!!  God Wills It!!!!

Sunday, May 15, 2022


 Ken and I attended the annual "Kozcon" in Mullica Hill, New Jersey yesterday.  Kozcon is a mini convention held in honor of late-gamer Dave Kozlow, who passed away from cancer.  The con is put on by friends of Dave and was very well attended.  There was a $25 entry donation with all proceeds benefitting the American Cancer Society, which was really cool to participate in.  The crew also put on an outstanding "dice off" where participants would buy D6 at .25 cents per die and roll off for lavish (and I mean lavish!) prizes.

I will also mention that the whole affair was catered by a local Italian restaurant and there was no shortage of food.  (I think I consumed my body weight in garlic knots)  There were ADLG tournaments, a massive Flames of War historical game on a small 4x4 table (Ken and I played in this game), a massive Blood & Plunder game, an old west gunfight game, a massive Brother vrs Brother ACW skirmish game, and a neat Mass Battle game from TFL called "Strength and Honour".  

My biggest nemesis/opponent of the day?  The garlic knots...

The whole convention was a single day and much fun.  The atmosphere was very jovial and friendly and the food was terrific - this was NOT something to be missed!  I tried to get pictures of all of the games but most of my pictures were of the awesome FoW game I played in.

Fistful of Lead rules

Hot Lead in Dry Gulch

Blood and Plunder

Orsha, 1944 - Keep the train station open!

The Dice off begins! - I snuck away to snap pics of the other games

This looks like a diorama - not a wargame!  Blood and Plunder action

Avast ye scurvy knaves!  Service that piece quicker!

THe dice off for lavish prizes - each D6 is .25.  Winner takes all.  They would roll the lot, remove 1s and 2s, roll again removing 1s,2s, and 3s, etc.  Wait until you see the prizes!

The prize tables

The scratch-built Orsha Train Station, Belarus, 1944!  Operation Bagration is in full swing.  It was different playing late war Soviets!

We had 2 full strength Soviet rifle companies and a storm group on the table to take the Orsha Train Station.

My Soviets surge through the rubble and down onto the tracks.  They'd be under constant German artillery and rocket fire the whole way across the tracks!

THe left Soviet company jumping off as well - IS-2s in support.

Progress as we reach the first set of tracks - there is a German covering platoon in front of the train station and a nasty surprise - 2 x Tiger tanks on the German left flank...

Water tower and coal station!

There was so much artillery on a 4 x 4 space the whole ground is littered with "ranged in" and "pin" markers

Soviet HMGs - I didn't move them until the last possible moment to provide some semblance of cover fire

Guess which one is the flame thrower stand??

Inching closer to the train station!

first assault against the covering platoon.

Goes the Soviets' way and the covering "blue" platoon is pushed back.

Second company has reached the "third rail"

Remainders of Blue Platoon consolidate

the only assault against the train station all day!  it's beaten back by fire.  there are more platoons in the train station that weren't pinned.  D'oh!

We called the game at the end of Soviet turn 5.

All in all, we had a blast and I am looking forward to next year's!