Saga Urban Uprising

Urban Uprising is a scenario from Book of Battles. It is not well-named as there is no uprising beyond a possible event from 1 encounter. The board below loosely represents a Greek colony in the Crimea about to be fought over by the Last Romans and Pagan Rus. The buildings stand in for periods from Roman times through to the modern day but are good enough for the period. Units cannot move into or through built up areas, only keeping to the streets and courtyards. The terrain layout seemed about the minimum to drive the game mechanics. The 2 forces set up and enter at opposite board corners. The 6 yellow crystals mark encounters that will be revealed when a unit is activated to move within ‘Very Short’ of each.

Neither full force fits on the table at set up. Units will be moving in on the first and second turns. The game takes place at night so there are no charges or shooting at ‘Long’. Units must stay within ‘Medium’ of each other or suffer a fatigue at the end of a turn. A unit can take a 4th fatigue this way and will be removed from the game. This all seems to imply that an army should be in a clump with no units more than ‘Medium’ from any other. More than 1 clump could exist but the owner would have an easy choice of which to pick as the main force. It quickly becomes apparant that units will be doing a lot more dice-free manoevre moves than usual due to the distance between set up points and almost all moves being at ‘Medium’ or less.

The Last Romans start with some serious problems. If their cavalry move ‘Long’ they are likely to take additional fatigue through being lost in the dark. Their missiles can only shoot ‘Medium’. Finally they do not have space to spread out so will be taking constant losses from the Rus FROZEN WIND ability. This would usually be mitigated by moving away from table edges and getting in close with the Rus so any use of this ability will hit both sides.

Both sides move on. The Last Romans come across some civilians that they need to protect so these are sent to the rear out of the way.

The Last Roman slinger Levy are attacked by the city guard. They take some losses but being Levy generate more than enough victory points to offset any loss. The Rus uncover a couple of monuments that need to be guarded. 2 objectives remain to be revealed.

The Last Romans uncover a vital road junction but their fatigue is piling up. Their board has no way to remove fatigue except by a single rest action for each unit.

Turn 3 (out of 6 or 7) and we finally have some combat. The Rus Warriors load up on Saga abilities and wipe out the Last Roman levy. Losing the Levy is not a big setback but it causes nearby Last Roman units to take an additional fatigue, a commodity that they are already knee deep in.

The Rus push forwards aiming to drive the Last Romans off the objective near their Warlord. The Last Romans strip what fatigue they can and load up on defensive abilities. There are not enough dice left to move the archers forward.

A clash of warlords follows. The Last Roman Warlord is destroyed with 5 hits. He could have taken 1 as a fatigue (up to 3) and then another 4 on the nearby Hearthguards. Taking it on himself left the Hearthguard with the possibility of a counter-attack on turn 7. The game ended on turn 6 with the Rus controlling 4 objectives and the armies dominating 2 table quadrants each.

The final scores on the doors are Rus 18 and Romans 16. If the Romans could have held the final contested monument and pushed a Hearthguard into the North West map quadrant they might have pulled off a win. The mass of fatigue they were racking up would have made this unlikely. Some nations will do a lot better in this scenario than others, cavalry and missiles are definately on the back foot. Movement is more important here than in many Saga games where the tactic of loading up on Saga abilities and charging in is unlikely to do any harm. The difference in style of play does make this one of the more interesting options in Book of Battles

Saga – Eastern Princes Warwagon Tactics

Only the Saga Eastern Princes list includes a warwagon. General opinion is that it is or was close to useless. The unit has been buffed twice since first described and there might, just might be some light on the horizon.

The latest errata reduces the warwagon cost to half a unit, it generates a Saga die and has determination. If the determination is the only activation taken up by the unit then in effect the army has a free Saga die for use elsewhere. This is the same cost:benefit ratio as a half unit of 6 levy but loss of a single levy figure will knock out the die engine. With resilience 2 a warwagon will hold out far longer than a single levy figure. The warwagon is still vulnerable to missile fire, 2 shooting activations from 2 separate units should rack up the 4 fatigue in a single turn and put the model back in the box. Eastern Princes do have the advanced Saga ability GALVANISED that if the enemy has 3 or more fatigues will strip their own fatigue. This is an ORDERS ability so is one of the few advanced abilities that will work on a mercenary unit. This could keep the model on the table longer. It is also specified that destruction of the warwagon only deals 4 massacre points. There does not appear to be an additional massacre hit for being mercenary.

Armed with these conclusions the new warwagon plan is to activate it as little as possible and use its Saga die elsewhere. Where sustained incoming shooting is expected the model needs to be in the second line or behind cover but it can hold its own against a single shooting unit. If the warwagon can tie up more enemy activity than a single half unit of levy so much the better. Charging is off the agenda (specifically banned for the unit) but a weakened unit could hide behind the wagon, denying massacre points for being wiped out. The final decision is what to do with the other half point from the unit cost. Eastern Princes have abilities that benefit cavalry and hearthguard so any extra 2 (out of a purchase of 4) hearthguard will roll up.

As a rough plan to try it all out the Eastern Princes line up against Ordensstaat. Terrain is sparse, 2 regions of small broken ground and a large wood. The knights are on foot (no repeat of riding over thin ice as in Sergei Eisenstein’s film) to enable their levy to keep up and be ruthlessly burnt up by Saga dice buffs. The Eastern Princes hope to hit hard and fast with their cavalry then pull back to the infantry line if losses are high. The Ordensstaat will grind forward sacrificing their own levy without mercy. Their crossbow could inflict costly losses on the Princes’ cavalry if they are not ridden down too swiftly. Unless Saga dice are really tight the Princes will be using HESITATION frequently to block the knights NACH OSTEN ability for a free move of ‘S’ across the entire army.

The Princes move a single mounted unit around the rear of the Teutonic line. The Germans move most of their line forward and take out 3 cavalry with crossbow shooting.

The Princes slam in and wipe out the crossbow unit. DRUG is a powerful ability as it can added 10 combat dice from the Hearthguard to the Warlord here. It is not so easy to line up as it requires a support unit to be in place before the melee takes place.

Meanwhile the bulk of the German line slides forwards. The big peasant levy unit are not too bad at shooting and are kept up with the line to provide fodder for the Teutonic abilities that sacrifice their own models.

The Teutonic line spilts, some chase down the Princes’ Warlord. The rest aim for the weaker Russian centre. Without guaranteed use of NACH OSTEN the Germans are having difficulty shifting all their units. Sage dice being put to better use in combat buffs. The Princes’ cavalry is not as exposed as it appears because FEINT will allow a single mounted unit to move in the opponent’s turn. Getting away from declared charges and avoiding the fatigue hit for multiple moves.

Careful use of the warwagon restricts where the Germans can charge but by sacrificing an additional move they can go round the side, keep out of ‘M’ and charge something else.

The Princes’ Warlord comes over to help in the centre but is eventually caught and destroyed.

By game end the Germans are still generating 5 Saga dice. The only Russian Saga die is from the wagon. 2 Warrior units, both too small to generate dice cower behind it.

The Germans have already won but to see what happens the knights charge in on the wagon for the final turn. 2 Hearthguard models are well buffed up but bounce off. The Warlord then goes in but with no useful abilities left on the Saga board. He too bounces. The wagon has 3 fatigue, it can’t take another from the combat so holds in place.

As all the toys are out we give the battle another go but with the Princes’ cavalry staying closer to the main line and the warwagon up in front. The Russian levy archers are enough to neutralise the German crossbow and take the missile pressure off the warwagon.

This game ends as a narrow Russian victory. The warwagon even manages to get off some ineffectual shooting. The Russian Warlord is just off camera.

To conclude the warwagon could be a cheap Saga die generator. It has minimal offensive capability but might not be worth the enemy’s efforts to destroy it. Sustained bow shooting might be its Achilles heel.

Frostgrave with Dungeons and Lasers

Dungeons and Lasers is a hard plastic modular building system from Archon Studio in Poland. Sets to build dungeon layouts are available direct from Archon. In the UK their distributor is Warcradle Studios. A much wider range of Archon’s products have been sold through Kickstarter and Gamefound. These are only available while the various pledges are live. UK delivery will be subject to VAT, shipping fees and the vagaries of International deliveries. Items from previous campaigns do, however, show up on eBay.

The common floor structure is a block of 4 squares each of 3cm sides. With 28mm figures that would be about 2m each making a single block 4m x 4m, a good sized room in a real house. It is still a bit of a squeeze with 28mm models partly due to their integral bases. It would also be a tight place for a fight if the usual 3-seater settee, bookcases and coffee tables were in place. The Dungeons and Lasers room boxes are of 9 floor block equivalents (3 doubles and 3 singles) with enough sides for some inner walls as well as round the edges. There are 2 dungeon base sets. The core set only comes with the Gamefound campaigns and has an equivalent of 42 floor sections. The starter set is available at retail with 21 floors and a selection of props to dress the rooms and corridors. The core set (in the Gamefound campaigns) costs less than the starter making the core the smart buy. Multiple starters will load up on the extras but there is a limit to how many statues, chests and the like that anyone might want. The dungeon rooms come with door archways but no doors. It is no surprise that they have no windows. In the above ground rooms every wall has a window so to make up larger building rooms some of the dungeon walls and floors might be re-purposed for interior use.

There are too many room, roof and pavement options for anyone to realistically collect the lot so the question crops up as to how many sets are really needed? A single starter could be used by a role-play dungeon master to create 1 or 2 rooms on the fly. It is not nearly enough for even a small skirmish game. The set up below for our Frostgrave game proved adequate and was made from 2 1/2 core sets and 2 standard rooms.

The pieces come in a dark grey plastic that could pass for stone but lacks depth of colour. Some of the rooms above were primed then painted with GW Contrast paints. This worked but was expensive. A core set used up roughly 1 can of spray paint and 1 1/2 pots of Contrast. Here is the cheap solution. Prime then hit with a dip made from wood stain. Apply liberally so the stain soaks into the cracks then wipe off excess stain. The walls are supported on the connectors supplied for assembling the rooms. They are then painted and left to dry vertically. The stain will then drip down the walls creating staining just like damp going down a real wall.

The exact mix of the stain or dip is varnish and water in about the consistency of milk together with enough acrylic paint to darken the final colour. The varnish needs to be water not oil based. It should also be satin or matt not gloss and the darkest base stain available. The end results can be glossy at best but with a gloss base can verge on the dazzling. The picture illustrates that this is a messy process. The water-based stain will just about come out of clothes if washed quickly in hot water but best wear old clothes and not do this in the front room.

Here are the results. These are not as glossy as they appear in the photo but having a stash of matt varnish to hand is helpful in case of overly shiny results. The torches and mirrors here came with the starter set and were also part of the original Kickstarter stretch goals. There is a conflict between gluing decorations to the wall sections and leaving them loose. If these extra bits are loose it will be easier to stack and store the walls but it will take more time to set up the rooms. Having tried it out the best approach seems to be glue any wall decorations in place. This provides some variety in walls that would otherwise all be remarkably similar and avoids the bits falling over during a game. Obvious room scatter such as chests and traps can be kept separate and placed as required for the game.

The Frostgrave setup has rooms with Contrast paint and dip alone. There are 3 colours of grey undercoat partly explaining the difference in room colour and the sheer volume of paint needed get several sets ready. The drop in quality when not using Contrast is easily outweighed by the time and effort saved.

After all this we got a 5-player game of Frostgrave in action at the club. Each player started at a separate entrance with the aim of picking up as much treasure as possible then getting out through the portal at the far end of the dungeon. Frostgrave is a simple system; it has been further developed into Stargrave and Silver Bayonet. There are several Frostgrave books, one is specifically aimed at dungeon battles but it is not really required to play. There is not enough difference between Frostgrave 1st and 2nd editions to make buying the newer edition essential. The game did lend itself to players holding place at key junctions so they could move forwards and grab more loot while those held back were losing time and money. The wall spell is especially effective in dungeons although we did increase the chance of it dissipating. The game came to a conclusion when the first player escaped the dungeon. We then counted up loot and experience points. From a decision making point of view it was closer to moving toys around on the living room carpet than chess but it got the dungeon out, looked good and entertained the troops for the evening.

Pulp Alley Tomb of the Serpent

After a break painting up models and playing boardgames time to make some effort on the toy soldier front. Tomb of the Serpent is a campaign set of scenarios for Pulp Alley. Rather than going through them all in detail its heads down for a rush through using the solo rules to see how far one can get. Here we get through 4 games and reach part way through chapter 3. Doubtless mistakes were made with the rules but what are rules for if you can’t break them?

Our heroes will be from the St Trinians films with the Headmistress, Flash Harry, 6th and 4th form girls. The ‘shock’ ability of the 6th former reflects her feminine charms. The 4th formers are a gang and are not going to last long. We assume that they run off and will be back in time for the next episode.

The adventure begins somehere in the home counties with a key artefact hidden down the well at table centre.

Our hero and heroines are gathered around the well. Miss Fitton is going to climb down it while the rest of the gang try to keep out of trouble. This was the 2nd go at the scenario both using 4 rather tough ‘faceless’ enemy models. In the initial run through the ‘faceless’ gained 1st move, ran in and clobbered the girls around the well. There was no chance to recover and it quickly all went down the pan. Not wanting to set it all up for a new game the experience was put down to ‘planning’ and the new St Trinians strategy is to try and stay out of close combat range.

The solo player does not usually block hits so a lot of damage was taken on both sides. There also seemed little benefit in that side taking on the minor plot points beyond denying them to our heroines. Two solo ‘faceless’ were sent off after those plot points regardless as having 4 tough enemies going against our small group by the well was not going to work out well. Only 1 character can be in the well at any time throwing the problem of how to get back out when an enemy is standing by the top. This was approached as needing a successful dodge to get out and slide past.

This game saw more movement as St Trinians stay out of the way and concentate on whittling down single enemies by shooting. Eventually they down all but one and the relic is retrieved from the well. There was however rather too much rolling off and recovering from brawling as despite there being 5 plot points only the central well plot point was worthwhile fighting over.

For game 2 we move to North Africa (Libya or Algeria judging by the buildings). One of the 5 dubious individuals scattered around the board may give valauble information leading to our team finding another artifact. When a suspect is successfully interviewed a reward card is drawn from a set of 7. The mysterious cultists have turned up again and we both start from corners of the board. The cultist gameplay is easier here, try to block the girls from getting to too many of the plot points too quickly.

St Trinians get to 3 of the 5 suspects but only achieve limited rewards. There will be some game benefit but no clue as to the next artifact. Most of the school party are already down as the Head Girl tries for just 1 more cosy chat. Alas the cultists are too many and she is knocked down just as the Gendarmerie show up to sort out the mess.

We hear rumours of the artifact showing up again at a dig out in the desert. The gameplay is much the same, 5 plot points with 7 possible rewards one of which will be the artifact.

The cultists are not so strong this time and our league triumphs. The green guys look beefy but are little more than animated brocolli and go down easily. The cultists come out the worst from shooting and our girls break through Flash Harry finally uncovers the artifact hidden inside a lecturn.

We travel south further into the desert to a remote oasis. The cultists are involved in some sort of a ceremony and look a tough bunch. The weather is poor restricting vision to 12″, which will help sneaking up but hinder any long range sniping. If the head honcho cultist by the altar passes 3 challenges then the bad guys win. Our gang have to stop that and capture at least 1 more plot point. The plan is to concentrate on shooting at the cult leader and drop his health so he has less chance of finishing his evil incantations. The girls are not especially good at shooting but they are worse at hand to hand. We dig deep into our campiagn rewards and hire a gunman to help out. He is a little overdressed for the desert in riding coat and bowler but at least he will not get cold at night.

Things start badly with the cult leader winning one challenge then getting a free pass on the next. Luck then changes, the leader is forced back (using dodges to avoid some hits) but takes damage. He is down, gets up again and then goes down and stays down. A clear win.

The next scenario in line requires our leader to pass 3 tests on 3D10 (needing a 4+). She whiffs one so will play another scenario in this chapter and not move on with the campaign.

Silver Bayonet for Flintloque

Having languished for some 20 years in their boxes the Flintloque figures find another route to the table with Osprey’s Silver Bayonet. Their other recent trip out being with Muskets and Tomahawks. Silver Bayonet is a very simple gaming system and 10 figures a side should be more than enough. The system is set in the Napoleonic Wars but would run for any horse and musket setting from the end of the pike and shot period until the proliferation of breech loading rifles. Gamers command ‘historical’ forces with a 3rd monster force run by the game system. With nothing being strictly historical the Flintloque nations fit in well and being large models work with the various Games Workshop style gribblies. Games of both systems involve roughly the same size forces so some of the Flintloque scenarios could be easily adapted for Silver Bayonet. There are a selection at Orcs in the Webb and more scattered through the Alternative Armies digital archive. The challenge is to track down those with the more interesting play value. ‘A Stroll in the Park‘ has the makings of a Silver Bayonet adventure after a few changes in force compositions.

There is little shockingly new in Silver Bayonet. The key combat factor is the use of 2D10s and needing to equal the target’s defense. The 2 dice are classed as either power or skill. If a hit is achieved the score of 1 die (usually the power die) is subtracted from the health of the unfortunate target. A basic soldier has a health of 10 so if hit has a 1 in 10 chance of being down in one. Models that survive gradually get better during a campaign and one of the best early buys is to increase that health to 11, effectively giving a model 2 wounds and negating the chance of an instant kill. There is no penalty to losing health above 0 except that fewer hits will eventually force an early bath. The twist in the tale is each player has a small bank of spare dice (usually 2 each of power and skill, plus 1 monster die). A player can use each spare die once as a re-roll or an attempt to reduce any damage. A common hit number is 14 so if 10 is rolled on the power but 1 on the skill (total 11) it is a good call to re-roll the skill hoping for a 4+ and a possible kill. In the case of 10 skill and 1 power it is probably not worthwhile spending a spare power die as the damage caused will be 4-10 but 1-3 will still miss (assuming 14 to hit). The spare power dice (only) can also be used to reduce damage, best saved for when those 10 score hits come in. There are very few modifiers to firing; skill, movement and cover, nothing for aiming and a rifle is no more accurate than a musket but has a longer range.

A typical Silver Bayonet scenario has the players moving on from the board edges with something bad in the middle. Objectives on the table will give an advantage in taking down the monsters or spawn more bad things (probably a mixture of both). The monsters are hard to put down, many are immune to just about any damage. Special weapons or ammunition overcome these immunities but you need the right tools for the monster of the day. The scenario set up should have some of the right kit hidden on the board although you can still end up with the right figures with the right kit but in the wrong place. The book scenarios have no end condition but do offer experience points for fulfilling objectives such as killing things, finding things and rescuing things. There will come a point where both sides realise that they have either achieved the optimum point score or that further losses would achieve nothing so both retreat off the board. When played as a campaign models improve a little between games so staying alive is a win. With the monsters being well-hard it pays to let the opposition wear them down a bit then finish them off (monsters and opposition) then get out of dodge.

Gameplay involves dicing for who goes first. The first player acts with half their models, then the monsters (with a basic automation), all the 2nd player’s models go then the remaining 1st player’s models. Going first can be an advantage as they can get out of the way of the monsters, allow the 2nd player to get mauled then clear up with their remaining models.

Of the 10 scenarios in the book we have played up to number 8 while trying to keep experience logged and used for a campaign. The plot was slightly hampered by losing the roster sheets after scenario 6 and having to resort to an earlier saved copy. None of the characters have massively increased in skill although there has been an experience gap that has led to the British being granted some extra game experience to keep up with the French. 2 games comfortably fit into a games night (just over an hour’s play in each) including set up and take down of the table and figures. Playing as a campaign is a definite benefit as it gives an incentive to cut and run if things seem to be going as well or as badly as they are likely to get.

There are certainly some problems with the rulebook. Most of it is fluff but the actual rules seem to be only detailed once but not all in the same place. This makes tracking down a particular rule tricky as the book lacks a comprehensive index. For example there is a section on the monsters, most of these have a list of special powers. Those are listed in another section and may modify standard rules scattered throughout the body of the rulebook. The monsters and traits sections are just about in alphabetical order. Some, however, are out of sequence causing some severe frustration: Inspiring is at the bottom of page 151 but indefatigable is over the page at the top of 152.

In summary a simple system that gets games played although it lacks the depth of decision making of some other games; such as the card system in Muskets and Tomahawks.

Congo Campaign: Finale

The 5th game of the campaign sees both columns at opposite corners of the table with a ridge of high blocking terrain between them. The expedition leaders have to get to their opposing corners. There are also 4 campaign discoveries and 2 dangers to be found amongst the upland spine.

With no shooting over the high ground both sides use their first turn to move as far as possible with as much as possible.

Lady Mary is on the central highlands with her askari, as is a group of her sailors. She is trading shots with Ujuwa’s bundukai but is having difficulty moving forwards.

Ujuwa and a group of bowmen are over the hills and off. Lady Mary has revealed 3 of the hidden discoveries but only 1 turns out to be useful. The remaining 3 are all true discoveries and are easily mopped up by Ujuwa’s groups.

Coordinated shooting from 3 groups of Ujuwa’s warriors sees Lady Mary and her group of askari wiped out.

The focus moves to blocking Ujuwa from moving off table. There is a lot of back and forth but in the end he makes it accompanied by 1 surviving bowman.

At the game end we see where Ujuwa got away (11 o’ clock on the image below).

Onto the final game; both sides are clustered around the central idol. Ujuwa has too many models to fit in the deployment area so a group of archers are off board. Each side has to grab items from within the wooded areas and get them off the board at the opposite edge to where they deploy. This all complicated by 3 of the items being for Lady Mary and 3 for Ujuwa but all the items begin the game hidden. There are also additional discoveries amongst the bushes but a group carrying those can only move ‘short’.

Both sides are trying to move in opposite directions and also trying to stop their opponent from moving at all. There is additionally a degree of splitting up to find which items belong to whom.

Opposing groups rush past each other. Ujuwa’s archers (just off the left edge below) have an item that Lady Mary needs. She sets off with her best groups (sailors and adventurers). Ujuwa heads in the other direction.

A group of Ujuwa’s young warriors approaches their exit point. They are slowed by Lady Mary’s own young warriors. The latter have picked up a missionary that was found hiding amongst the trees (white suit, pith helmet).

Ujuwa’s scouts and pygmies are whittled down by rifle fire but they do shield the archers in the woods.

The sailors try to take on the archers in close combat but whiff it and are pushed back. In better news the adventurers get off board. At the other side of the table Ujuwa’s young warriors are also off map.

Largely due to losses inflicted Lady Mary pulls off a win. That is 3 wins each for anyone who is counting. The scenario rules as written imply a big victory points boost if Mary or Ujuwa themselves leave the board with an item required for their side. This is quite hard to do although Mary did come close with her assault on Ujuwa’s archers.

The final part of the campaign is adding up the accomplishment points earned by various bonus actions in the scenarios. These are combined with additional points from a dice race as Lady Mary and Ujuwa work around a track. The track movement is also affected by some of the previous scenario effects. Careful reading of all these effects would impact on how both sides treated the scenarios and the resulting game play. The campaign does work reasonably well by just going for it and seeing how the scores end up at the finish.

Adding it all up: Final score Ujuwa 37, Mary 28.

Congo Waiting for the Belazur

Game 3 of the Mungo Mah Lobeh campaign sees a change from the previous two with victory being based on control of territory. There are 3 quays along the river which Lady Mary must control as she is waiting for the arrival of the steam ship Belazur. There are also 6 hidden markers amongst the swampy terrain. 2 of these are dangerous and 4 contain discoveries. Lady Mary begins at one side of the river; Ujuwa in the centre of the edge opposite the river.

By the end of turn 1 Lady Mary has moved a group of sailors to the second quay. Ujuwa threatens them with a group of young warriors.

Keeping with the plan Lady Mary has groups by all 3 quays at the end of turn 3 but Ujuwa is hoovering up the discoveries. The swamp terrain could have different effects depending on a random die rol but in all cases during this game it revealed quicksand. This being difficult to get out of without racking up stress tokens.

Ujuwa starts to put on the pressure. The hold of the sailors on the middle quay is contested and constant attacks leaves the last man standing.

Another turn and the sailors are gone; now the adventurers are suffering from Ujuwa’s attacks.

Ujuwa ends with control of 2 of the 3 quays. Lady Mary suffered with a group of her young warriors stuck in quicksand for much of the game. A group of bundukai were tied up in a similar situation. Heavy rain reduced all gunpowder missile ranges; a bigger problem for Lady Mary than Ujuwa.

The game end sees Lady Mary losing 2 entire groups, they will be back but that made it almost impossible to hold the quays. She had also lost a guide but he recovered. On the other hand Ujuwa’s chief is now grievously ill. Lady Mary won the game by points but with no discoveries to Ujuwa’s 3 is on the back foot of the campaign. She travels on slowly to the next adventure but does recruit 2 new bearers. Ujuwa has moved on swiftly and improved his campaign knowledge much more than Lady Mary

Onto scenario 4; unknown species and stone statues. Both columns start at the table corners in columns of 3, not all of Ujuwa’s lads fit on the table at start. There is an objective in each of the wooded areas and discoveries to be made in some of the areas of dense bush. The objectives make up 2 separate statues. The 2 sides want 3 parts from the same statue which causes a lot of back and forth action as they all end up with the wrong bits.

Keeping to the usual pattern both sides push forwards to grab what is uncontested.

It all starts to go wrong when a lion appears and chases the pygmies off their objective (number 4). The lion comes and goes throughout the game; inconveniently appearing amongst the objectives.

There are 6 objectives but the columns only have 5 (Lady Mary) or 6 (Ujuwa) groups so when additional loot tokens show up these get left alone. At times a group will drive an enemy off an objective but as they are already holding one of their own will have to leave it and hope that someone else picks it up. Ujuwa’s advantage in groups is furthered as one of the 3 groups is of pygmies who operate as 2 sets so he has 7 maneuver units to pick up objectives and reveal discoveries. Better still one of his regular groups is of scouts and they do not roll for the effect of dangerous terrain.

The lion was driven off objective 4 by a group of Ujuwa’s young warriors only to later show up around objective 5. No one fancies going in to pick that objective up

The game starts to consolidate with neither player having a full set of 3 objective parts. Ujuwa tries to pull back with what he has and avoid being badly shot up.

With a lot of back and forth as columns fight for objectives, the stress tokens mount up.

Lady Mary’s adventurers had held objective 1 for most of the game but lose control in melee and it is soon picked up by a group of pygmies.

Ujuwa ends up with a win due to picking up more discoveries and 4 of the 6 objectives. Unfortunately this did not include a full set of 3 parts of a statue. Both Ujuwa and Lady Mary were downed in the game but they recovered. Ujuwa’s chieftain is also starting to look a little more perky.

This game was a lot more back and forth than previous scenarios as the map layout encouraged taking back enemy objectives. The lion was run using the leopard rules for this scenario. It is uncommon for the beast token to come out in games of Congo but in this case it did and made quite an impact on proceedings.

Congo First Contact

The first two scenarios of the 6 in the Mungo Mah Lobeh campaign book.

There has been a recent trend away from game genres reflecting colonisation and exploitation. Studio Tomahawk’s Congo is not looking good from that viewpoint. While it is true that factions can be European, Arab or native African in almost all games there are other African resources and peoples that are getting exploited. Wargames Illustrated have published a 1920s Amazon variant. At least 1 player has moved the setting to the Caribbean but in both cases the ‘ethical stance’ is unchanged.

Mungo Mah Lobeh pits the European explorer Mary Kingsley against the native shaman Ujuwa. The majority of both columns are native roughnecks and ne’er do wells in it for the money. The 6 games are all played between the 2 same base columns although either can gain additional characters or units for single scenarios. The leaders have slightly different aims throughout the campaign but winning the individual scenarios does not do any harm. Either leader could die during the campaign and their column still win based on accumulated accomplishments but it is a good plan to try and keep your leader alive.

The first scenario sees Lady Mary with an additional unit of askaris granted by the campaign for that encounter only. Both sides are pegged at 6 units in play but additional campaign units can be used to replace less efficient core units as they are available. The core units replace losses between games but the characters and auxiliaries can increase or decrease in number. In the 1st game there are 3 masks to be recovered and sold; one by each hut and 6 discoveries of which 3 are harmful in the 6 wooded areas. The low bush areas are impassable. The value of the masks and discoveries is not known until they are found. A mask is worth more if sold to a dealer at a board edge that is randomly determined each turn. This all means that getting control of the majority of the game tokens does not guarantee a win although it does tip the odds in that favour.

The 2 sides start at opposite corners and with nothing in shooting range concentrate on moving up quickly. Actions depend on choosing 1 of 6 cards, 3 cards in a turn. The cards determine how many groups can move (including melee), shoot or make a terror action. There are not enough move symbols on the cards to get every group moving every turn so some groups are still stuck in the corners.

A single group could still move in each of the 3 card plays in a turn so both players get control of a mask by the huts. Ujuwa can gain campaign points by successfully casting spells so wants to be up in the front line. Lady Mary has a slight benefit in reducing combat losses but really wants to be out of the danger zone.

In turn 2 the action hots up as there is a choice between nailing down open objectives and putting damage onto opposing groups that already hold objectives. No one can get to the 3rd mask before it is removed from the game. The sailors move out of danger with their mask. There is some scattered shooting from the pygmies and both columns investigate the artifacts in the clumps of trees.

Ujuwa has 2 discoveries from the trees, is moving on a 3rd and holds 1 mask. The sailors get their mask to the off-table dealer for a victory point boost.

Lady Mary’s musketmen start to open up. Most of the opposition back off as they already have a decent haul of loot but one group (at 11:00 below) is isolated unable to get away.

They are overwhelmed losing their loot. The end game shows both sides pulling back. Running the numbers Lady Mary has pulled out a victory and a slight campaign advantage. Ujuwa had lost a sacred warrior who recovered and a native chief who is now rated as poorly.

Onto the next encounter; the search for deeper knowledge. The terrain is moved about a bit but the overall plot is similar. The 3 huts each have a villager who must be recruited to join a group. The 6 clumps of trees are high dangerous terrain. Each contains 1 of 6 objective markers. 1 through 4 are good but 5 and 6 generate a hazard. Which marker is which will not be revealed until they are moved onto. Here we see the deployment with the columns at opposite sides of the table.

At the end of turn 1 each column has met with 1 villager while the third is still to join the party. To recruit a villager a group must end an activation in contact and roll a 5+ on a D6. Lady Mary succeeds on the first attempt and later pulls back away from danger. Ujuwa spends most of the game trying to convince the other villages to join him. Instead his failed recruitment rolls provide Lady Mary with a steady supply of new event cards.

Action is focused around the 2 huts with unconvinced villagers. Lady Mary has a group of solders and another of adventurers. Both are armed with rifles and try to reduce Ujuwa’s strength by shooting. Ujuwa has 2 groups tied up in fruitless discussions. The solid green counters are the discoveries, flipped when revealed and for 5 and 6 removed after their effect. One of the discoveries was never revealed as numbers 1 to 4 had already come up and it would be a fair deduction that it would be best left alone.

Stress tokens mount up, Ujuwa is pretty strong by the centre hut but his young warriors near the other uncommitted villager are having a hard time of it. They break off negotiations to give the adventurers a swift kicking but Lady Mary brings up some of her young warriors to fill the gap.

Ujuwa finally has control of the 2 remaining villagers and pulls back with them, using other groups to cover his retreat. The young warrior group is down to 1 warrior and a sacred warrior (bottom of image, the 3rd model being the villager).

The final turn sees Ujuwa shed stress and continue to pull back.

Looking at the scores on the doors Ujuwa pulls off a win. He has 2 villagers and 2 discovery counters. Lady Mary has 1 villager and 1 discovery counter but also has a government official that was found hiding in the bushes amongst the trees. Lady Mary did posess an additional discovery counter but that was snatched away in dangerous terrain. It landed up in another area of dangerous terrain next to a pack of wild hyenas courtesy of some unfortunate events manipulated by Ujuwa. In other news Lady Mary has lost her bearer and Ujuwa’s chieftain is in worse health despite liberal applications of healing plants.

Both scenarios were played on different days but looking back at the terrain and force set up they might be best played as a single longer session. Almost all the game elements being the same but moved around a bit. The next scenario sees a river, landing places to defend and crocodiles.

Warmaster Wagon Train

Escorting the wagon train is often an interesting change to the standard ‘last man standing’ wargame. This is the scenario from the Warmaster Revolution ruleset so has probably been through some degree of prior testing. Chaos guard the wagons with Empire trying to destroy or capture them. The terrain has been chosen to try and match that suggested in the rules.

The chaos forces deploy first so the Empire can see where they are and optimise the ambush. Chaos puts the best cavalry in front so that even if they fail to receive orders a half move ahead will keep the column moving faster than an infantry half move. Two big infantry blocks cover either flank and marauder cavalry protect the rear.

Chaos: 2000

General 125

2x Hero 160

Sorcerer 90

4x Chaos Warriors 600

4x Chaos Marauders 240

3x Marauder Horsemen 270

Chaos Knights 200

2x Chaos Hounds 60

2x Chaos Chariots 190

Harpies 65

This list builds on that used in the previous battle. The successful marauder and warrior block has been doubled up. The chariots hit hard but are brittle. Swapping both units for another unit of knights might be preferable.

The Empire plan is to use the cannon to disrupt the chaos centre, knights break through from the rear and a halberd block blocks the main road. The 2 shooting blocks are deployed where they can get off good shots and will not be blocked by their own melee units.

Empire: 2000

General 125

Hero + Sword of Fate 85

2x Wizard 90

4x Halberdiers + Skirmishers 280

Handgunners 65

2x Crossbowmen + Skirmishers 160

3x Crossbowmen 165

4x Knights 440

2x Pistoliers 190

2x Helblaster 100

2x Cannon 170

Steam Tank 130

The Empire army is neither fish nor foul. The halberds are very average but there are not enough of them to make a decent tar-pit. The knights are the best units but more are needed for serious hitting.

Both armies field more commanders than they need but this gives them the flexibility to move around separate groups. The chaos front and Empire blocking units are both led by Generals. This is to give a better chance of these groups acting under orders. If a General fails an order then the whole army cannot receive more orders. With a little luck and some daring a General can issue a few orders and then stop before failing any orders. The remaining commanders can then continue to issue orders although the General can issue no more orders that turn. This ensures that a crucial part of the army will move at a possible cost of less important elements being left behind.

Chaos moves forward putting out flyers and wolves to block the Empire’s missile fire. Units of both are driven back and confused. Part of the chaos flank has to make way for the flyer’s retreat but they avoid being confused. The Empire front swings in to try and block the road. The knights set up a line to threaten the chaos rear.

Chaos forces shift forwards but leave a rearguard line to hold off the Empire knights.

Shooting pushes back the chaos flanks. The Empire front closes in on the road

The knights make a mess of the rearguard. Pistol fire pushes back the chaos infantry to the front. There are no losses but in the retreat the elite chaos knights are forced to make way. The chaos knights are confused and will not be able to scythe through the Empire infantry ahead.

Chaos forms a new desperate rear line. The wagons move forward but lack any covering units from the fire of the Empire crossbows on the hill.

The wagons are not quite close enough for the Empire crossbow to charge them on initiative and their hero fails the order roll to shift them. Nevertheless Empire missile fire eliminates 4 wagons. This does not get the Empire any victory points but prevents chaos from gaining points by moving them off table. It would be better to melee the wagons but in Warmaster a unit must shoot at its closest target that it can see. Elsewhere the Empire tightens up the holding line and moves further up on the chaos rear. For the first time in the game the steam tank passes an order to move.

Chaos make a strong effort to push through the Empire centre and possibly break Empire morale. They shatter the majority of the line and move up units to block the crossbow fire on the remaining 2 wagons. Unfortunately the last halberd unit and a rogue skirmisher still block the road and the chaos general fails an order roll to move the wagons off-road.

Empire halberds destroy the remaining wagons. They have the option to capture them but with a strong chance of chaos troops getting them back. The Empire knights continue to slice through the chaos rear.

With turn 6 over the game could continue for 2 more turns but chaos have no wagons to move off and they are 1/2 a unit from breaking morale. The larger Empire force is nowhere near breaking so an Empire victory is declared.

With the terrain all set up and the armies out of their boxes it would be a shame not to swap sides and have another go. Only the highlights are presented below.

The Empire have the problem that their artillery is very slow moving and vulnerable to being taken in the flank or rear by flyers or cheap cavalry. To counter this the Empire artillery is at the rear and sides of the defensive box. Knights are at the front to try and punch through any Chaos blocking units. With the Chaos army being so much smaller than the Empire they are not able to threaten so much of the column. Both sides begin the game by activating their generals to ensure that key units move up. Both blunder after their first activation role so turn 1 is effectively a mutual write off.

As the game progresses the Empire artillery gets shots off on Chaos units before those units are able to move away from the board edge. 2 units are destroyed as they are unable to retreat. Chaos should have hidden the flank threat behind a hill (not failing their activation rolls would also have helped). On the plus side a group of chariots and Chaos knights bursts through Empire pistols holding the other flank. The Chaos knights have a clear pursuit to attack the wagons. They decide not to destroy 2 wagons but hold on as there are more points to be earned for looted than destroyed wagons.

The Empire pile all they can in an initiative charge into the chaos knights. They wrap around the knight’s flank with halberds but those knights are tough. Chaos wins the combat and to rub it in pull back putting their knights further out of the way for the next turn. Empire knights have some success pushing back on of the Chaos blocking units by hitting it in the flank. The 2 rear wagons are stuck on the road as their path had been blocked by the Chaos knights.

The Chaos knights evade right back. This does not pan out well as the Empire crossbow and hellfire gun line moves up on them and eventually drives the unit off table with missile fire. As the chaos knights are no longer in play their wagons count as destroyed not looted. The rest of the Empire army pushes forward covering the remaining wagons while chaos blocks the road. Units of chaos marauders and knights are badly mauled by Empire knight charges.

The chaos line breaks through the few Empire knights on the road and captures more wagons. Chaos has now suffered enough losses to break their army and must withdraw. Chaos has 6 victory points (2 looted wagons and 4 destroyed). Empire has 5 (chaos broken and 1 wagon that will be saved). An army that has broken cannot claim a win so the final result is a draw.

To conclude a worthwhile scenario. Success depends in part on the army list so is best played twice with swapping sides or without forewarning using ‘best effort’ lists. There are interesting puzzles involved in choosing which commands to activate so the units do not get in each other’s way and some progress is made even if the activation dice go against you. The issues is slightly eased with the Warmaster Revolution rules that allow some limited movement if an initial activation is failed but not blundered.

Fantastic Battles

Fantastic Battles is a set of miniatures rules for fantasy or historical gaming. It is available as a PDF or for slightly more as a printed A4 book from Amazon. The author might have been poorly served by Amazon. For whom the dice rolls is a Spanish Civil War ruleset with a similar Amazon printing option but those rules are on heavier paper and with a sturdier cover.

There are limited rules for formations so the rules should work where the relationship between formations is key. They would be fine for most ancient or medieval periods. They would struggle with pike and shot where shot support horse and pike support shot. They should work for linear shot settings such as the Seven Years War. Napoleonics would not be a good setting.

Games can be run in any scale but fits in well with Warmaster based 10mms. Some of the provided lists matching closely with Warmaster army units. The key difference in modelling is that Warmaster runs units in sets of 3 bases. The basic Fantastic Battles building block can be a rectangle or square but putting 2 Warmaster bases together as 1 Fantastic Battles base works out. This will lead to some left over Warmaster bases and some fiddling for the few single base Warmaster units such as giants or the steam tank.

To compare the rules the same terrain will be used as in the last Warmaster report. The Empire army will be based on that in Fantastic Battles. There is no equivalent Chaos list but the ‘free men’ list is the closest starting point. Both forces have been closely modeled on those in the Warmaster battle although as the stats differ they will not be an exact match. In Fantastic Battles there is a short list of set troops types that can be customised by adding up to 3 traits, plus 1 more shared by all units of a race to each basic troop stat. Units are rated for resilience (hits), movement, melee, shooting and save. Some of the traits modify these base numbers others add a new ability. Add mounted and the unit moves faster and is better in melee. Flying gives obvious benefits over foot sloggers. A unit that is mounted and flying flies faster. Some abilities are mutually exclusive. A unit cannot be slow and fast. The limit to 4 abilities makes it harder to create some of the high power, high cost units available to Warmaster.

Although troops are bought by the unit they can be deployed alone or as groups. The groups are of up to 4 units of the same type. They add up their individual stats making them more powerful and more survivable. A single unit can move as it wishes. The groups are forced to wheel and adopt formations making them harder to shift about.

The Empire army is 991 points and Chaos 992. Unit costs are in increments such that getting an exact 1,000 is hard in troops alone. There are some cheaper ruses and special items that fill out the totals. Here the Chaos have ‘quartermaster’ to reduce problems with deployment. The Empire field ‘master of horse’ and gain a bonus to mounted charges. Chaos was the defender and deployed first. The Empire deployed second but in a reduced deployment area. The Chaos training allowed most of their line to stay in place. 2 units ran on in front; a boon as they were going in that direction anyway. The Empire saw some losses to units from desertion before the game began and the deployment of their knights, already a tight squeeze was further messed up.

In each turn the armies take turns in shooting then activate by chit draw. The armies have a chit per commander and another for all units out of command. The out of command units are activated first and have only a 50% chance of following orders. Here the steam tank has moved forward. The Empire begins to sort out the rest of the line. The knights are proving a problem as (like in Warmaster) most units cannot move through other units. The Chaos army moves forward in respectable order.

The steam tank hopes for the best but is a target for the massed Chaos chariots.

On the other flank barbarian horsemen crash into Empire crossbow on the hill but fail to achieve enough hits to eliminate them. Shooting and melee is through rolling dice based on the attacker’s stats and beating the save of the defender. Tactical factors will affect the dice rolled and some weapons change the score needed but it is a single die score not a case of roll to hit then roll to save. A problem with Fantastic Battles compared to Warmaster is that final hits need to be recorded. They can be reduced by a ‘bless’ spell from a wizard or a rally action from a commander but eliminating a significant number of hits from a unit within a game is unlikely. In Warmaster excess hits are removed at the end of a phase.

The Empire pistols are having difficulty getting into the combat as they need to wheel into action.

The crossbow don’t last long nor did the steam tank. Chaos units crash into combat where they can. The barbarian warriors are faster than the tougher Chaos infantry warriors. The activation sequence has an effect on melee combat which can extend over several turns. If a unit charges into another that has not yet activated it can counter-charge or if it has missiles gains a benefit in combat. Otherwise the target just hangs around, it will fight back but with no additional bonus. Where a combat has extended to a subsequent turn any unit in melee to its front only can elect to withdraw. They will end up out of combat but with their backs to the enemy. If that enemy has yet to active it can still move and if quick enough can catch the original disengagers in the rear. If a unit tries to disengage but is in contact with enemy that have already activated then there is no additional penalty if they fail.

The Chaos centre moves up. The unit in the built up area have been slowed by the terrain. The Empire pistols still hold on but losses are mounting. The Chaos knights are suffering badly from missile fire. As there is only 1 unit of them they can only soak up a more limited pool of losses.

The Empire right is looking good. The Chaos chariots and knights are gone. The missile units are running out of targets so are moving to find new targets instead of reloading. The Empire pistols are still hanging on but one unit of halberds has gone.

The pistols are finally removed but the victorious Chaos units are some way from the Empire centre. The crossbow unit piles into the flank of the remaining warrior and halberd melee. They are not great in combat but the flank attack benefits them and harms the Chaos warriors.

Breaking the Chaos warrior unit sees half the army destroyed and an Empire victory. Empire losses were also substantial but as their average unit cost was less they could hold out. If the Chaos army had time to sort out their victorious left the Empire would have been in trouble.

Fantastic Battles could appeal to anyone not liking the command activation rolls of Warmaster. The effect of these are, however, much reduced in Warmaster Revolutions. A limited number of units can always make a single half move forward each turn. As in Warmaster command range is important. Uncommanded units will have to roll for actions. There is no initiative for units close to the enemy as in Warmaster so in some cases generals will have less control in Fantastic Battles.

To wrap up a note on wheeling. Groups of 2, 3 or 4 units need to know how to wheel. With large blocks of models a wheel template is a big help here. If playing with 10mm figures on 4cm bases it is a fiddly business to work out wheels. Getting the calculations wrong can mean the difference between getting a charge in or not. Thankfully maths comes to the rescue and we can work out the length of any arc for a given radius. It is θ * r where θ is in radians. Using some rounding to nice numbers here are wheel distances for 4cm bases to angles that might be judged by eye. Those without a protractor to hand could use the movement value for the next highest degree of turn.

Degrees2 bases3 bases4 bases
304 cm6 cm8 cm
456 cm9 cm12 cm
608 cm12 cm16 cm
9012 cm18 cm25 cm