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.
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.
The last 2 games in our campaign see Tintin and Lord Curr head to the countryside to put an end to the machinations of the mysterious cult. Lord Curr has won both games so far but combat losses have seen his point pool drop to well below that of Tintin and the Navy lads.
Lord Curr is escorting Mary to the rural plantation where the cult is rumored to be active. This is a 400 point game. Both companies have enough points in their pools to field the requisite strength. Lord Curr’s mob deploy at the road edge with Mary and the faster Incorrigibles in front. Singh takes up the rear, slowed down by his machine gun. The Navy lads take up positions at what they hope are key points close to the road. Mary must be escorted to the door of the plantation house but could leave the road and go across the fields.
Most of Lord Curr’s company head off at maximum speed but Singh holds back to give covering fire. They shrug off shots from Sub Lt Philips and his accompanying rating. Feedback from the first part of this campaign suggested that characters with objectives should not run (not the gentlemanly-thing to do) this would prevent Mary’s escort from running and tighten up the game. Unfortunately this episode was already ‘in the can’ when that advice was received.
Lord Curr and the Incorrigibles pause at the road junction taking advantage of the cover from the house.
The main party split up to allow some covering fire from the rear. Tintin’s lads move to the edge of the fields and open fire but fail to cause any losses.
Captain Haddock charges into combat with Lord Curr. Po takes on Mad Jack who is supported by Gerald Fitz-Curr. Lady Felicity shoots into the melee but in the end no one is harmed.
Lord Curr pushes on, pursued by Captain Haddock. Tintin struggles to keep up. Mad Jack is down but not out. In sadder news Sub Lt Philips buys the farm.
Lord Curr finally makes it to the plantation house. Mad Jack is still hanging on.
Lord Curr won again and earned 24 victory points but another Incorrigible and Gerald Fitz-Curr took an early bath a loss of 63 giving a running total of 332. Tintin lost, gained 5 points for kills but Sub Lt Philips cost 46 points leaving 429 in the bank. To even things up a bit Tintin ransoms Sub Lt Philips back for a 23 point transfer fee to Lord Curr.
Now to the final chapter, the cult have run off with Mary but the companies are in hot pursuit. They approach ruined buildings amongst the fields with even older columns just behind. Mary is with the cult leader and his intentions do not appear to be honourable. Both sides come on from opposite corners and it will take them a while to get into any danger. In the book version of this scenario the cult members are placed in base to base contact. This makes hitting the cult leader a random shot unless you have a machine gun like Singh which can hit everyone with a single burst and make for a rather short game.
Both companies move up keeping well apart except for Mr Slow (Singh) and a naval rating who stay at the back to give covering fire.
The Incorrigibles choose a slightly shorter route up the board; a benefit of having won the last game. The cultists are clearly up to no good.
Shots are exchanged with little effect. Everyone hugs the defensive terrain.
Singh is hit by the naval rating’s rifle but he is not out. One of the cultists is definitely out of play.
Things have taken a turn for the worse as Mary has had a makeover. Lady Felicity shoots Purple Mary but to no effect.
Purple Mary charges Lady Felicity. She can shoot as the monster charges in but it does not do any good. In the Navy Po is taken down by a gaggle of cultists.
Lady Felicity is out. The Navy lads start to pile into the cultists.
Purple Mary charges into Gerald Fitz-Curr. Lord Curr takes aim at Purple Mary and takes out Gerald instead. He will need to send flowers to Gerald’s aged mother. The Navy lads mop up the relatively harmless human cultists.
Lord Curr is attacked and knocked down by Purple Mary. Singh and Mad Mick pour machine gun shells and lob grenades into the melee. Lord Curr can take the risks but Purple Mary is hard to take out.
Finally Mad Mick decides to use his arc pistol and downs Mary, Singh finishes her off. Lord Curr manages to survive having now burnt all his luck points. Tintin and the Navy lads raise 3 cheers for the gallant Incorrigibles.
Counting points and subtracting losses Lord Curr ends with 210 and Tintin 333. This is hardly relevant as the campaign is a clear win for Lord Curr.
Looking at the maths the points pool as written will not work. Eliminating an enemy figure will yield 10% of its point value (rounding down). A lost model can be ransomed back for 50% of its points paid to the capturing side. So at least 40% of points originally paid for a model in the force pool are lost to the game. In practice a suitable budget overspend of points allocated to the full company will allow a campaign to keep running. There is, however, unlikely to be a surplus built up by any faction to upgrade models during a campaign. Any points earned are spent trying to keep the original roster afloat. One area for modification would be the points given for victory objectives. These are constant in scenarios but might be better linked to the size of forces involved (perhaps 10% of the game force points size). Some easy to determine bonus awards could also work. Examples would include first side to knock down or kill a model and most uses of luck rolls (which are optional) by a company.
Following on from a comment on the last IHMN post by our loyal reader we take a run through of the example campaign system from In Her Majesty’s Name 2nd edition. Lord Curr faces off against the Naval Landing Party with Tintin and Snowy on board. Both parties are seeking to root out the origins of a mysterious cult. The companies start with 500 points to run over 4 scenarios. Victory points come from scenario events and for taking out enemy models. These can be used to buy back models that are out of the game or to increase the skills and numbers of existing characters.
The first game sees both companies trying to retrieve 3 ancient texts from the mansion of a suspected cult member. The board squares are 3″ a side so movement is based around half squares. Opening a door will take 3″ of movement as will picking up an artifact. These cannot be be picked up if there is a combat in the immediate vicinity. Coincidentally the companies have simultaneously arrived at opposite doors of the mansion.
There was some pre-game tweaking to give each side better access to one book; leaving the final book dead centre to the board. The furniture had some effect on movement but mainly served to set the scene and show which boundaries were walls and which had doors. To clarify there is a double-tile central room and 2 narrow corridors at each end. The only entrances are through the opposite large doors. This game is played with 300 points out of each side’s pool of 500.
Tintin is shot, down but not out. Other shooting is ineffective.
Lady Felicity rushes in on the downed Tintin. Calculus is attacked by an Incorrigible. To the left and right a sailor and 2 Incorrigibles head for the flanking books.
Tintin gets back up and in a couple of turns of melee takes out Lady Felicity; her stats are predominantly shooting based so the melee may not have been her best decision. Lord Curr has the central book but is pursued by Haddock, the factions have 1 each of the books in the side rooms. The cult has heard the commotion and shown up to run off the intruders.
Tintin and co’ clear the cultist from the door. In the adjoining rooms a sailor and 2 Incorrigibles make off with mysterious dark tomes. Lord Curr is still pursued by Captain Haddock.
The Incorrigible with a book gets away. Lord Curr continues to pull out of combat with Captain Haddock but is pursued towards the door. He keeps hold of his light reading. At the other end of the mansion the bookworm sailor is overpowered by a cultist.
More cultists show up and the remaining company members decide to get out of Dodge.
The final curtain call. Lord Curr is safely away with 2 companions and 2 of the artifacts. A steep price has been paid, Lady Felicity and 2 more Incorrigibles are down. As for Tintin’s company, 1 sailor is down and another captured, the remaining book remains with the cult. After the game Lord Curr spends a slew of victory points to pay Lady Felicity’s medical bills, buying her back to the company. The scores on the doors are now 499 points for Tintin and 452for Lord Curr.
The next game is also of 300 points so both teams will field the same lineup as before. They have enough paid for ‘redshirts’ to fill up on sailors and Incorrigibles. Both companies have been tipped off that Mary the kitchen-maid has important information on the cult’s plans. She can be found shopping at the busy commercial quarter of the city. It is hoped that she will reveal all for the price of a few gins. Oddly everyone has exactly the same tip off but Lord Curr will act first as his company won out in the mansion.
Here we see the runners and riders after the first turn. The vehicles move last but before shooting at 1D10″ each. Lord Curr uses his advantage to move on from the direction with least traffic. Models run to get as close to Mary as possible but Tintin’s men are hindered by the traffic.
Lord Curr gets to Mary on turn 2. Lady Felicity and the Incorrigibles provide covering fire. The Navy are still having traffic issues.
Captain Haddock closes in but Lord Curr is off like a rocket.
Captain Haddock charges Lady Felicity. An Incorrigible runs to the rescue but pays the price. Other models drop to shooting.
Lord Curr gets away just as the Rozzers show up.
Lady Felicity, Tintin and Snowy all help the police with their inquiries. Eventually Lady Felicity runs off and Tintin talks his way out of trouble. Other characters bravely run away.
The Incorrigibles lost 2 redshirts to Tintin’s 1. Lord Curr won but adjusting for losses and buying 1 redshirt back for each team the half time score (2 missions out of 4) is Lord Curr 421 to Tintin 470.
This terrain set was too easy for the first player which with higher leadership is likely to be Lord Curr. The house scenario was first run through and then re-set with a more challenging layout. This market market board gave similar results in 2 games. The lesson learnt is to run through a few turns to try out a scenario before a full playthrough.
The 2nd Edition of the Victorian Sci-Fi rules ‘In Her Majesty’s Name’ is out. The system is essentially the same as in the previous Osprey Blue Book version. The changes are summarised on the IHMN blog. A possible significant change is the addition of hero points. These grant a single use re-roll per hero point but if a figure starts with hero points they can earn additional points through the elimination of enemy models. Any combat success is based on both the shooting or hand to hand roll and pluck roll. It saves time to roll both of these at the same time as any obvious failure can swiftly be seen. The better characters have a pluck of 2 or 3 (on a D10) meaning they only fail 10% or 20% of tests (0 is 10). Better weapons reduce the pluck roll but even so low pluck characters are hard to take out. The addition of the hero points will further increase the resilience of figures with good pluck in the new edition. This can lead to hand to hand dragging on between hero characters as they use hero points to cancel the few failed pluck or ‘to hit’ rolls. If using pluck against ‘to hit’ rolls 2 D10s need to be rolled separately. The antidote to everlasting heroes is to ensure that a game has some clear end condition and better still offer the heroes something better to do than engage in endless combat with each other.
The new book has updated some of the lists from the previous 3 Osprey books. The lists from the Gothic supplement have been updated online. A more accurate name for that supplement would be Dracula, Romania and the Balkans as the whole game system is broadly Gothic. It would not be a lot of work to update the remaining lists as there would only be changes in points and the odd special ability. Hero points could be doled out to taste. Of the provided lists those that link to the old North Star boxes are amongst the most original. To try out the new rules Lord Curr’s company will take on Tintin and pals.
There is no Tintin list but the Royal Naval Landing party has a drunken Captain who will fit up as Captain Haddock. There is also the brave Midshipman Easy who can run as Tintin. Professor Calculus can be the Artificier. Fans of the radio series ‘The Navy Lark’ will recognise CPO Pertwee in the list but he is portrayed as the brave brains of the outfit. In the radio series Pertwee is indeed clever but would sell off everything in the stores and buy in any rubbish as replacements. This game is not running Pertwee but will use the Lieutenant who we will call Sub Lieutenant Philips.
In this game both teams are racing to get on board of the paddle steamer Troutbridge. The model is from Sarissa and far too much trouble to put together. MDF and cardboard do not like making curved shapes or thin rods such as the roof supports and railings. Toys off eBay are a much cheaper source of model boats. On a positive note the model is large enough for all the models to get on it. In this game the steamer is ready to cast off off with ‘the lad’ and other competent members of the crew below decks. We will allow it to steam off when models of only 1 faction begin a turn at the wheel in the helm section.
Here we see the action after turn1. Lord Curr’s lot are at the top of the screen. Both sides run on with the faster characters at the front to make the most use of their speed. Singh is dragging along a huge machine gun so can’t run and stays at the back through most of the game.
Both sides keep moving up, making use of cover. The sailors have rifles but Curr’s company have shotguns and pistols so the landing party try to keep a safe distance away. Some members of both parties remain behind to give covering fire.
The sailors are taking heavier casualties from shooting but there were more of them to start with. All actions are alternate so with more models the Navy have an advantage in that some will move after all of Curr’s Company have activated. In this report casualties are left on the table but down until the end of turn then removed. This is to distinguish them from models who are knocked down and could get up again.
Po the cook takes on Lady Felicity. She can shoot both her pistols in hand to hand fighting but still misses with both and fares no better in hand to hand. Po also fluffs his combat rolls. The next turn Po will run off towards the steamer. Elsewhere models take ranged shots at each other.
Po is the first model on the steamer. Lady Felicity now tries to take on Tintin.
The combat continues and Tintin is finally out as he fails 2 pluck rolls in a row. The only hero character to do so in the game. Snowy the dog runs off. The sailor boys are starting to pile onto the boat. Po has headed for the helm.
The ship sails; here shown with both decks apart for clarity. Lady Felicity and 1 of Curr’s Company are on board. Sub Lieutenant Philips, 1 Able Seaman, Professor Calculus and Po the cook are also on the steamer. Playing on for a couple of turns, Calculus is out, but Po takes down the company man. The fight between Philips and Lady Felicity could go on a while so she gallantly gives in.
Both leaders, Curr and Captain Haddock are left behind. As is 1 Able Seaman and Singh. Singh never fired a shot all game as in the few instances where he had a clear line of sight it was only to a melee with both sides involved.
Achtung Cthulhu is the twisted child of Modiphius Entertainment. H.P. Lovecraft died in 1937 so the setting is not ‘canon’ Cthulhu but the familiar overarching theme is bolted onto the World War 2 setting. Broadly there are British and Americans up against the Nazi Black Sun organisation (Cthulhu magic), loosely cooperating with the Nachtwolfe (alien tech) and Mythos creatures (tentacles). Shadows Over Normandie is a licensed boardgame series set in the same alternate universe. In the boardgame most counters are squads of about 5 ‘beings’, vehicles are individual counters, Cthulhu itself is a huge blob covering several game squares.
There is also a fan created Achtung Cthulhu Bolt Action mod called Bolt Achtung! The points values have not been tested to extremes but it includes the key models from the Modiphius range as well as spell casting (with the risk of the caster being lost in the attempt). It also models some larger Cthulhu creatures that are not in the Modiphus universe. Naturally all the regular Bolt Action and Konflikt 47 goodies can be shoveled in.
Returning to the official release; Achtung Cthulhu Skirmish is not a skirmish set of rules but is designed to play with several squad sized units on each side. A Cthulhu force could get away with monsters, possessed, summoners and the odd megalomaniac nut job but could equally well be built around a core of regular German troops. The Allies only have a handful of special units and will mostly comprise standard human troop models. There are no Soviet lists but the Allies could easily be fielded as Desert or Far East troops. The core German units could instead be Japanese or Chinese Warlord. This is excellent for the Bolt Action or Konflikt 47 player who will already have the nucleus of a playable army. The role playing types will not be so happy as they might be in possession of a few character models and an assortment of ‘gribblies’ but will need some serious assembling and painting to build a force for Achtung Cthulhu Skirmish.
The Skirmish rules are based on Dystopian Legions; a Victorian Science Fiction setting. Dystopian Legions is no longer officially supported but the rights are owned by Warcradle, a trademark of Wayland Games. The rules and army lists for Dystopian Legions are still available as free download PDFs. Unfortunately the cards which are a key but not essential element to game play are not available. The Achtung Cthulhu cards could be pressed into service as an alternative. An American Regular GI is 25 points in Achtung Cthulhu Skirmish, a British Regular lineman in Dystopian Legions is also 25 points and the stats of each are identical indicating that borrowing between the lists is feasible. The only vehicles each side has in Cthulhu is a truck, half track and a medium tank. The Dystopian Legions setting includes drones, armoured infantry and light tanks that might be a source of additional goodies for the Nachtwolfe.
Modiphius have released an alternate rules set Achtung Cthulhu Combat, also as free downloads. This is billed as a slightly simpler game system with the same units but a differing combat dice system and different point costs for models. Mechanics in Cthulhu Combat are more in common with the Bolt Action rules making it easier to adapt Bolt Action or Konflikt 47. Cthulhu Combat has no vehicles and less magic but more goodies for the Nachtwolfe. Ranges are different; a M1 Garand has a 24″ maximum range in Skirmish but 12″ short and unlimited long range in Combat (some weapons are penalised outside effective range but not the M1). They share the same Mythos theme in that deploying more Cthulhu-like units (by either side) will push up the Mythos level leading to an increased chance of bad things happening to random units. As the Mythos level rises there is also a chance of a mist rolling in which restricts visibility; to the benefit of the Black Sun player who has access to specialist close combat units. Players take turns activating units but in Skirmish melee only takes place after all activations. This means that several units can load into a single combat and a few troop types (vehicles and flyers) can run back out of it. The Bolt Action activation could easily be jammed in and some of the order dice effects map across to Achtung Cthulhu model conditions.
To try out the system the Skirmish rules will be used together with 3 scenarios from the Secret War Operations booklet which is a also a free download. Some of these scenarios use relatively few models and look to be more trouble setting up that the limited gameplay predicted. These 3 scenarios use a 4′ square board and the same terrain as both forces fight over a ruined monastery. The Black Sun here are Black Tree fallschirmjäger. The Americans Warlord Marines, the Commandos Warlord and Black Tree Paras. The gribblies, heroes and villains are Modiphius. The Modiphius models take some getting to the table as almost everyone has at least 1 part to glue onto the main body. The alien Mi Go have at least 5 pairs of limbs all of which need gluing on although as aliens one could leave some sets off or add a few more. In many of the non-human casts it is not too important exactly which bits go where as long as it all holds together. Some tweaking was required to fit the force layouts to the models available. The image below shows that for the human models Modiphius are close enough to other 28mms but are more slender.
The first game has relatively small forces trying to control 2 objectives each within 1 of the central ruins. Here we see both sides deployed and ready for the off. The 2 sets of smoke are a Mythos effect and provide cover throughout the game. Even without these there is a good deal of cover which should give a benefit to the Cthulhu player as he relies more on close combat troops.
Both players rush forward. The Allies grasp both objectives but the Black Sun pile a unit of Servitors (tentacled possessed ex-humans) onto the rightmost objective. They were unable to wipe out the Allied defenders so that objective remained contested. An attempt to simultaneously overrun the other objective with Mythos ‘Deep Ones’ failed leaving the Black Sun a unit down and the Allies controlling 1 objective. The Servitors sorted out the remaining humans around the other objective leading to control on the following turn. Still with points gained for every turn of control the Allies kept to their early lead and pulled off a win.
Although the Black Sun had 2 spellcasters no spells were successfully cast. In retrospect command points could have been spent to increase the chance of spell casting. Most spells are of short range meaning that getting into position to cast spells means risking the expensive spell caster. Casting spells increases the chance of bad Mythos events occurring so a player could cast spells with no game effect beyond increasing Mythos events. This seemed bad form so was not taken advantage of.
The second game expands both forces. The Black Sun are trying to push forward into the Allied side of the table. The Allies are trying to destroy Black Sun units. Both sides have reinforcements that arrive on random turns. The Black Sun happened to draw more early doors units than the Allies. The Servitors move up making some use of cover.
They are now well past the centre point and taking some casualties but being already dead do not see this as a big problem.
The Servitors hug the hard cover for a while but eventually come out. That machine gun team is about to take an early bath. The real problem for the Allies are the purple worms mid screen. They burrow so avoid terrain are built hard and hit hard.
The Black Sun are through. The paras are tough but not that tough and the worms make a mess of them. Chaos hounds are also running up and the Black Sun commander can be seen just moving out of the ruins. It all seemed in the balance for a while but when the worms hit it all went to pot.
The final game in the set of 3 uses less models but a higher points count as the Allies field a tank. Both sides are trying to inflict maximum damage on each other. There is more wiggle room in what to field and the Black Sun buy spells for augur (a die re-roll bonus) and a level 2 summoning. The summoning spell is a no-brainer as summoned creatures do not count as part of the player’s force size and could lead to a new unit every turn. Bought from the lists a unit of 3 Nightguants costs 105 points. A Black Sun Canon with a level 3 spell book costs 130 points, has a better than 50% chance of summoning Nightguants every turn and has several other useful command benefits on top. In a matched game the Allied player would want to deploy at least 1 sorcerer with the level 1 ‘sever control’ spell to stand any chance against summonings.
The tank rules work more logically. It can spew out a ton of firepower (which might well all miss). It can be attacked in close combat (and some of the Mythos beasts could chew it up) but not fight back. It can pull out of melee if not destroyed beforehand but keeping just out of enemy charge range is a good plan. Other friendly units can also hose down the melee attackers with firepower if they have not already activated. A much bigger danger to tanks are anti-tank weapons. In this game the Black Sun have panzerfausts and the tank wisely spends much of the game staying away from them.
The Black Sum move up using Mythos and summoned creatures to soak up the Allied firepower. Once the gribblies get into close combat Allied losses become unacceptable. The Black Sun troopers keep out of the blood bath and provide long range fire support.
The Black Sun commander is exposed and is hosed down by the tank. The tank is now close enough for the Black Sun troopers to move forward and light it up with their Panzerfausts. As the tank is a massive points sink this now pushes the game into a Black Sun victory.
The Achtung Cthulhu Skirmish system does work and at the price (free) it is hard to argue with. Some gameplay gripes should however be aired.
There is a good deal of randomness in the game (not necessarily a bad thing). In general 4+ is good on the dice but rolling a 6 may give a bonus. The mortar only killed 1 figure in 3 games and usually missed by a considerable distance due to the indirect fire deviation rules. Grenades use a similar deviation mechanism and due to the risk but possible high damage wherever they hit were not used in any of the games.
The command system which gives a bonus to units within range of a commander does work but is a layer of detail that can easily be forgotten. As it increases the potential of success spells are more likely to be cast, units are better in combat and morale failures less likely. This is all going to prolong the game. The morale rules have limited effect. It is fairly easy to fail morale and this affects shooting and melee. It is also relatively easy to regain morale levels at the end of a turn. Failing a morale test will add 1 and only 1 shaken result. A unit can have a greater chance of failing but will only lose the the 1 level in a single test. A unit of shaken 3 or greater will rout but because of the ability to recover this requires several independent morale tests in a single turn or bad recovery dice rolls. Routing is possible but no units routed in any of the 3 games as they tended to ‘get better’ before dropping to rout.
A club game of ‘In Her Majesty’s Name’ with 2 armies from the base book lists. Lord Currs company using the North Star figures with some additional adventurers from Wargames Foundry (Lord Curr, Mad Mick, Lady F., Singh, 5 Incorrigibles) against the Black Dragon Tong, figures from all over the shop (Wu, Lieutenant, Yeti, 3 Warriors, 3 Tong). The Tong field a Yeti but in this game a Triffid is standing in using the same stats.
The scenario is breakthrough with a few tweaks. After 6 turns the rozzers will show up and arrest anyone they come into contact with. Without some sort of clock in this scenario it can degenerate to a shoot out or melee with the survivor winning rather than having one side try to get off-table. Lord Curr’s lads are trying to break through with the Tong defending. Lord Curr has a strong shooting force and the Tong would be better at hand to hand. In the game the vehicles move up and down the roads and the civilians move randomly. Either will provide cover or simply get in the way.
Relying on the terrain items to hand we present Mexican California Alta. There is a strong Chinese population attracted by work on the railway to Mexico City. The Tong are spread out along the East board edge but Lord Curr has gone for a concentrated push to the South West.
The Tong hurriedly re-deploy to cut off Lord Curr.
Crisis comes as the monster charges in, accompanied by an expendable minion. Lady F. (the target of the monster charge) breaks off and the other company men open fire. The tiny cogs are being used to indicate game status such as not moved or ran.
The monster goes down, not an auspicious start but a company man is also down. Singh takes out a Tong swordsman with his machine gun.
The game is starting to morph into a series of melees and short range firefights. This is to the advantage of the Tong as figures shooting and fighting are not figures getting off the board.
The authorities are on their way and the path ahead is still blocked by the Tong.
The Rozzers de-bus and arrest some of Lord Curr’s lads. Singh is the recipient of a citizen’s arrest. Without the police intervention Lord Curr could have run onwards and possibly taken down Wu and his lieutenant. It makes more to sense to come quietly and sort it out with the authorities, doubtless money will be changing hands. A clear win for the Tong.
The game took about 1 1/2 hours so with some time left we reset and tried other options. ‘Catch The Pigeon’ has a moving objective that one side must catch and take off board. We deployed the objective at the table centre and its first action was to move directly towards Lords Curr’s lads who promptly captured it with the Tong still way downfield. A lesson in thinking through a scenario before setting off with it.
Trying again we set up ‘Bad Jack’. The forces are trying to take down an escaped monster. It is not clear if or how the monster moves but it has a speed bonus. We had it move along an axis perpendicular to the 2 player forces. If a player’s model came within its charge range it would move to contact. Lord Curr was the first to get close, Bad Jack charged, Lord Curr’s people bravely ran away. The Tong moved up and lost a man to Curr’s shooting. Soon afterwards one of Curr’s incorrigibles rolled a 10 for shooting followed by a 1 on the monster pluck die; the best possible rolls in the game. ‘Bad Jack’ was down, game over.
We have already looked at the use of toy motor vehicles for gaming. There are also opportunities within the Lledo line for horse drawn transport. The models are box scale which means that just about anything goes yet some examples are a close fit to 1/56th. This article covers similar ground to a ‘Fiends in Waistcoats‘ page. Unfortunately the Photobucket images on that post tend to be blurred out. The Lledo models come with 1 or 2 horses using a limited variety of model sculpts but a wide choice of signage, most of which is not period specific. The models do not fit into an exact time frame. The best guess would be 1890 through 1914. Those with pneumatic types being more useful in later periods. In the UK horse drawn vehicles would be likely if uncommon up to the 1970s. The comedy drama ‘Steptoe and Son’ being an example of horses used in the rag and bone trade.
The Lledo horses come in at least 2 sculpts and seem too small for 28mm. This comparison with a Crusader Miniatures 28mm cavalry sculpt shows that they are not far off. The problem being that one would expect a heavily built draft horse to be larger than one allocated for riding.
The Lledo models are inexpensive if bought as job lots from eBay. Individual purchases are inflated by the postage cost. Two good suppliers of horses are Northumbrian Painting Services (who run Reiver) and Warbases. Here is a Reiver team used to pull a limber. Note the smaller breastplate on the harness of the inner team. Only the lead pair have a full collar. The actual limber provided with the team is a small wheeled 18th century type. Reiver swapped the wheels at no additional cost and the box limber was made out spare parts. At the time of writing the cost to buy a team and limber is 25p more than the cost of the horses. An insignificant extra cost for 2 wheels and an axle even if they go straight to the spares box.
This a Warbases horse with Lledo cart. The Lledo draught horse is a little smaller and less bulky than the Reiver. The Reiver horses also have thicker bases that will need to be cut down or the cart platform built up to prevent the horse standing above the ground level of the cart.
Choosing Reiver, Warbases or other suppliers is a case of swings and roundabouts. If making up a postal order the other goods both companies supply might come in useful. Reiver have some unusual 28mm equipment in their Chinese, Japanese and VBCW ranges. They also have some splendid basic metal and resin carts. Warbases have drivers (also available from Reiver), excellent animals and some nice resin cobbled bases for your carts. Their own carts are MDF, an option that works best where there are no thin fancy bits involved.
These are Reiver horses with a removals van sprayed and painted over blue for a possible role as a police ‘Black Maria’. The built up carriage base could do with less building up.
A brewer’s dray with the original Lledo driver.
The top down shot shows the vehicle space compared to a Lledo motor vehicle that has been calculated as true 1/56.
The fire engine is a lovely model but perhaps a little small. The 1/56 scale Fiat pick up gives an idea of relative size. The engines were made in different capacities so perhaps we can get away with it. There exists a low quality but useful video of the same builder’s Shand Mason fire engine. The example in the video was in front line use until 1913, then put into storage but pulled back out as static water pump during World War 2.
The figures that come with the various Lledo models are not entirely useless. Most models have no figures and even those that do may not follow this guide on Plastic Soldier Review. Here they stand by an Artisan 28mm. The guy with the dog is of limited use but the dog is a keeper.
More examples, these would work for the 30s or 40s. Some figures are aimed at the early 20th century. Many are too small to be of any use.
Batman is a very well known genre. He has been about since the 1940s and DC have not been shy of promoting and marketing the Batman brand. Alongside a possible 52 different simultaneous comic titles set within the Batman multiverse there have been films, TV, games and toys. All this adds up to it being highly unlikely that any gamer has not heard of Batman. Batman has evolved since the 1940s and the whole setting has been rebooted several times. Bruce Wayne is a constant but Batman is not always Bruce Wayne. Batman has gone through several Robins and some named characters have taken on different roles. Dick Grayson, for example, might be Robin, Batman or Nightwing. For the villains the logic is easier to follow. Most characters are either masked or mutated. If a villain is defeated another can take over the role, the new recruit is probably insane and not even aware that they are not the original. Even in cases where a key player is clearly dead DC have the ‘Lazarus Pit’ to sort it all out.
The Batman City Chronicles game by Monolith is currently not on retail sale. It can be ordered through Kickstarter and copies are relatively common on eBay. At the time of writing these copies are selling for less than new Kickstarter orders (accounting for postage and currency transfer fees). The sales pitch is that everything comes in the 2 basic boxes but expansions are available that include more of everything. To keep comparisons simple this article will only consider the base Monolith game.
The figures in the boxes are sold unpainted. With most characters being made up of a few simple colours it is not too much effort to get them all painted up. These are the heroes. They include some characters that might be described as neutral rather than good such as Catwoman.
They are supported by various police types. Due to the corrupt nature of Gotham some of these models could end up supporting the bad guys.
Speaking of which:
They too have supporting henchmen and thugs. Note that while key characters are unique sculpts the goons are in sets of 4 identical poses.
Some characters have more than 1 model. Each has differing powers in the game and represent different stages of the DC timeline. Here are the 4 Batmen:
These miniatures are used to provide a variety of play scenarios. There is no campaign or official design your own but no real impediment to heading down that route. The equipment needed for play is relatively small. The scenario below is one of the smallest in the game and has Batman trying to prevent Two-Face from polluting Gotham’s water supply. A standard Knight models game would need a board twice this size. Unfortunately although Monolith include 2 double sided boards these cannot be easily matched into a double board as is possible with their similar Conan game.
Batman Gotham City Chronicles was not the first kid on the Batman block. It has aspects in common with Knight Miniatures Batman Miniature Game and the Heroclix brand which began with DC Heroclix. All 3 models are of much the same size and build. Here is a Knight, Gotham and Heroclix joker, all roughly ‘man’ sized. The Heroclix pre-paint is not too bad. Some skill would be needed to paint the eyes and eyebrow, the Robin model has the ‘R’ inside his badge. The colour scheme of many of the Heroclix models is less good but in many cases a touch up rather than a full repaint is in order. An exception is that many Batman characters fall in the 4 categories of male costume, no cape, male costume cape and female, cape or none. A full repaint will convert most of the likely suspects within these 4 sets.
The larger models work less well in Heroclix as they are designed to fit within a single size pack regardless of the potential size of what they are modelling. These 3 models are all Solomon Grundy.
Marketing ruins what would be a cheap Heroclix solution. They are in sealed packs and address numerous themes. They are often sold off in bulk on eBay but sourcing a particular mini is probably not worth the trouble. Heroclix really have pushed the DC franchise with models for many of the comic characters, not counting Marvel, 2000AD and Hellboy, although some models may now be out of print. Knight include models that are DC but not strictly Batman. Speedsters such as The Flash have an important though optional section of the rules. Monolith on the other hand are broadly restricted to Batman and his pals.
The Knight models were metal but are moving to resin. The sculpts are a similar style in both. Some of the metal minis need pinning and the resin models need careful cutting back with a sharp knife as they often have some remaining sprue stubs. They are better sculpts than the Monolith models but not massively so and model for model Knight are considerably more expensive.
To decide on what models are needed where and the degree of crossover the game-play of the systems needs to be considered. The Knight models game is based around all action happening at night. Not unreasonable given the bat theme and the usual Batman story lines. Game set up requires placing 6 lamp and 6 sewer cover models. The sewer covers allow limited movement from 1 entrance to another. The lamps provide a fixed area of illumination everything else is pitch dark. Buildings are recommended but models will not usually enter them. Batman can leap up and down from buildings and many villains will also be looking for grappling rope equipment to do the same.
The restricted light sources effect what can be seen and severely clamp down on shooting. There is also a strict ammo limit so a lot of the action revolves around manoeuvre and close combat, Batman can see in the dark so is at a big advantage. Games are point based with a cost per figure as well as an equipment cost. Firearms really eat into that equipment budget so a gang will be unlikely to have many guns, all of which will be of limited use due to the darkness and restricted ammo allowances. Victory is a case of controlling or capturing objectives some of which give additional benefits such as ammo caches. Key players such as Batman and The Arrow are especially powerful but many games will be between more balanced forces, often with both sides being villains, a possible turf war scramble.
This Joker gang is the set from the old Suicide Squad starter box. It is 348 points and 1700 funding, 200 over the standard gang funding allowance but the Joker has 300 bonus funding to spend so there is still 100 to spend on the gang.
The base Monolith game is scenario based with the good guys attempting to succeed in some goal within a time limit. The bad guys tend to have some way to stop this in addition to knocking all the heroes out of the game. Monolith and Knight depend on allocating resources to figures before the figure acts. In both games wounds can reduce the pool of resources available. Fighting, shooting and movement are as might be expected. Monolith also include allocations for manipulation and thought. It is these categories that are often required to win a scenario. The Knight system has all resources allocated before a turn begins. One side will have an advantage being able to see their opponent’s allocations before they make their own. With Monolith resources are allocated as required and in any order. An action can be made and later on resources spent to re-roll the dice needed for an attempt. Up to certain limits the re-roll can be paid for several times, after each roll is seen. The problem is that any action has a fixed limit on the number of times it can be performed and only a small number of the full resource limit (usually 2 points ) can be regained at the end of each turn ready for the next. In Knight models resources may be lost due to wounds, otherwise the whole allocation limit is recovered at the end of each turn.
These are the stat cards for incarnations of Batman from both games. The Knight model has 8 points to allocate each turn but could get them all back. The Monolith model has 11 to spend but will only get 2 back unless he rests and can then recover 6. The various boxes indicate the limits that can be spent on each activity. Both games have a range of bonus skills which will need to be learnt or looked up during the game. Monolith use symbols, Knight key words but the principle is the same. In both systems additional gadgets will grant further skills.
In tournament play Knight insist that only their own models are used, even for the street lamps. For friendly games the Monolith miniatures provide a competitively priced alternative except that the gamer has to load up on minis not just get the ones they might need. In the Knight models game almost every miniature must be unique, each with its own stat card. The cards have changed from the metal models to the more recent resin models and some individuals will have more than 1 model and hence stat card but all the cards should work with the rules. The latest version of these rules and the stat cards for all the available models are free downloads from the Knight models site. The stat cards are accessed from the sales page of the associated mini so do take a little tracking down. When building a Knight models gang with Monolith figures there will be plenty of leaders but a limitation on basic goons as many of the Monolith goons have guns wheras guns are an expensive and risky option in the Knight game.
To summarise both games have a lot in common. Monolith players would be foolish not to at least look at the Knight rules and cards. Players of the Knight game could make use of the Monolith materials. The base box would be a hefty investment for a single player but a group or club might make substantial savings. The Heroclix models are good enough should they show up at the right price.
The Curse of Dead Man’s Hand is the zombie expansion for Dead Man’s Hand. It needs the main rulebook to play. Although it does not need the expansion Legend of Dead Man’s Hand a fair part of the book is made up of gang experience statistics that make no sense without the Legend book. Curse includes a campaign of linked missions together with stats for supernatural baddies and some new regular gangs. The undead are allowed to fight battles outside this book although the text warns that some of the victory conditions in the existing scenarios are not going to work with an undead faction.
What follows is a playthrough of the full Curse campaign. As the scenarios chosen depend on the results of previous games not all the possible line ups have been fought. The exact details of the scenarios have been glossed over so a reader would need to buy the book to fully re-create these games.
All the scenarios are played out on the same board but increase in complexity as the campaign draws on. Even so Dead Man’s Hand is a simple game and there is never going to be much complexity. Here we see the town, the buildings are TTCombat. The mat is designed for Gaslands hence the road forming a loop.
The first action sees 2 guys trying to run past undead monsters on the rooftops. The description of these monsters include no indication of flying so we assume they can jump off the roofs taking a single hit roll as if they fell off. The monster’s actions are largely controlled by the game. They will try and attack then run away. The good guys have to run past them or shoot them down.
Our lads got halfway up the street before being caught and brought down. This is a simple scenario with few options. If treated as a puzzle and thought through before setting off the good guys might make it. Luck is an important factor is that a hit from the monsters has a 50% chance of doing any harm, the living are hoping for more than their fair share of misses.
Having lost the first game the living are now less strong and the undead stronger. The rational for that being pretty easy to follow along with. The undead have 3 evil dwarf spirits and a host of zombies to face off against only 2 living. One side has to wipe out the other.
Another unhappy ending. 2 undead and 2 evil dwarfs are down but the good guys were overwhelmed with numbers. This scenario and the previous only made use of a fraction of the town playing area. The zombies here are from the Zombicide game. These fit in well size wise with the Artizan metal figures, the same height but a good deal skinnier.
Now the good guys face zombies and a massive beast (the Batman Solomon Grundy model). Not convinced with the effect of pistols on undead, two living are equipped with shotguns.
The living all activate before the undead hulk and pull back to form a gun line with their rear protected by the railway station. Even with the high levels of luck in the Dead Man’s Hand combat system both barrels of a shotgun at point blank range are a major asset. The bad guys are all down at no loss to the living. This scenario has also been notable for only making use of a fraction of the playing area.
With the score at lost 2, won 1 the living head out to disinfect the town. The 4 buildings (including the railway carriage and water tower) at the top of the board are infested. At least 3 must be cleaned out.
2 Buildings purified but 2 good guys down. The ending is still anyone’s game. The zombies are coming back as fast as they are being shot down. This scenario is showing good use of the terrain as the living need to move and try to avoid the dead. The witch who could have been a major threat is down giving some relief to the living. Those oxen have been very well behaved not moving throughout any of the games.
A knife edge victory. 2 of the living are left. Both still in combat but not down. The models on top of the railway carriage are in ‘reality’ inside it. The carriage has been disinfected. The remaining dead return to dust with a victory for the living.
The final battle and the living face off against the full force of the undead. The living line up at the end of main street. The main body of undeads are holed up in the railway station but the witch and a handful of zombies hover at the flanks hoping to whittle down the living.
The battle does not go entirely to plan. With the firepower of a full posse the living are able to concentrate shots into the flanking zombies. The witch herself does not last long, only getting off 1 useful spell attempt and whiffing it.
Realising plan ‘A’ is not going to work out the undead heavies charge out. Although still at full strength the living have been forced to split up with their best man (the sheriff) still far to the rear trying to avoid the last of the flanking zombies.
The undead hulk charges into hand to hand in a combat that he is almost certain to win but loses. He is a powerful fighter who is hard to stop but he must stay close to his undead leader forcing the leader to expose himself to possible attack. Just crossing the railway lines is a powerful ‘mad bear’ thingy that could do some serious damage if it gets in close.
The living player lets the evil leader have both barrels of shotgun at close range. The leader ducks back but the shot would have missed anyway. Another living dude moves out of the saloon, aims and shoots the evil leader (the baron) through the head, game over.
Show ‘s over with a win for the living as the cause of the undead menace is brought down. The games illustrate the importance of luck in Dead Man’s Hand games with almost certain actions failing and eventual victory coming from a 1/5 chance of success (aim, +1, pistol at point blank, +2 , needing 19+ on 0-19) )although other opportunities would have come up for either side to win had that shot failed.
The games were played as a run of short sessions over 3 days but the whole campaign could have been run over a long-ish evening. The earlier scenarios are best seen as an opportunity to bone up on the nuances of the rules rather than a supreme test of strategy.
Curse of Dead Man’s Hand includes new cards for all factions although the card draws here tended to favour the living. This is because some event cards favour shooting and as most undead models do not shoot these cards are unlikely to be used except perhaps to block plays of event cards by the living player. There is certainly enough variety to play the whole campaign again with the added gaming bonus of getting the basic rules back off the shelf. The scenarios could be adopted for other rules such as Dracula’s America or 7TV, the various special rules are flexible enough although all the shooting and melee stats would need to be re-jigged.
Konflikt ’47 is the alternate WW2 Bolt Action. Due to a total lack of coordination Gates of Antares, Konflikt ’47 and Bolt Action v2 all came out from Warlord within a short time of each other sharing the same Bolt Action roots but diverging all over the place. Gates of Antares uses a D10 rather than D6 chance system and in the fashion of science fiction has a multitude of differing weapon types all of which are much the same when it comes to using them. Konflikt ’47 has some of the original Bolt Action rules and some new bits that are not in Bolt Action v2. The notable change being a more intricate reaction system and more uses for the ‘Ambush’ order. Recent Konflikt ’47 supplements have retro fitted some of the Bolt Action v2 changes; notably the increase in LMG dice to 4 and MMG to 5. Konflikt ’47 still uses multiple dice for HE not templates and more reasonably has special rules that apply to the alternate universe it is set in. This does pose a problem for the regular Bolt Action player. How many of the alternate Konflikt ’47 rules to implement without fouling up one’s Bolt Action rules knowledge? This game kept to the Bolt Action v2 rules except for multiple dice HE and ‘period’ specific special rules. This generally worked except for fear inducing units who affect the Konflikt ’47 reaction mechanism, which does not exist in Bolt Action v2.
The lists here are based on those from EasyArmy so are not quite the same as in the original Konflikt ’47 rules booklet. The choices are not far off the WW2 equivalents with the option to swap out an armoured car for a light walker and a tank for a heavy walker. Amongst the specialist infantry choices available the Germans have chosen a huge unit of undead (Cryx Mechanithralls) and a small unit of ‘werewolves’ (Cryx Bane Knights). The Soviets have a unit of heavy infantry (Khador Winter Guard). Both forces include a seriously heavy walker, the Soviet ‘Mammoth’ weighing in at 500 points. To allow for these high pointers the game was played at 1,250 points.
Set up from the Soviet side shows a unit of heavy infantry at bottom right with scouts having forward deployed in advance of them. The single massive unit of German undead occupies the gap at 11 o’ clock. The Soviets kept both walkers off board. The Germans only held back their light walker correctly calculating that even a direct hit from the pre-game bombardment would be unlikely to penetrate. As it happened the bombardment came in for both sides but only scattered a few pins. To keep with the apocalyptic theme the 40K scenery has been trotted out. The building bases count as dense terrain so no units can see into the rubble and out the other side.
Here we see the German Thor walker laughing off 2 pins. The Nebelwerfer did score 1 hit during the game so just about paid for itself.
The Germans are off. The Warmachine Banes are standing in as shrekwulfen. Its all charging and flashing sharp things so the match up is about right. They sliced through the Zis 3 and the odd infantry figure then idled about for the rest of the game. Loss of the Zis was a major blow to the Soviets as it could have taken the German walkers to the cleaners. Set up here in ruin (rough) terrain it had some protection but could only turn not move from its deployment position.
The Thor did a roaring trade in dropping HE on just about any Soviets in sight. Here the ‘light’ Spinne comes into view of the Soviet Mammoth. Both big walkers are basically HE generators. At +4 HE they can barely affect each other (armour 10 but penetration +4 ) unless they drop shells with indirect fire (+5 penetration).
The German vampire commander (no rules for this but he fits the part) surveys the scene. The Soviet Cossack walker strolls on and whiffs shooting at the shrekwulfen.
The Soviet Mammoth expends ‘mammoth’ amounts of HE to finally shred the German undead swarm who would otherwise have had the Soviet scouts for breakfast.
Things start to go poorly when despite turning attention to the regular German squads and the nearby panzershrek the Mammoth is unable to disable them before the panzerfausts and panzershrek come into range.
The Germans dominate three quarters of the board with the Cossack walker down and the green infantry squad hardly a threat.
The inevitable as a 500 point Mammoth goes down to less that 1/10th of its points in panzerfausts. With no means to even scratch the Thor and rapidly running out of infantry the Soviets take an early bath.
Lessons learnt are that spending a silly amount of points on single units is not a good idea. They are especially vulnerable to cheap anti-tank weapons. The HE heavy walkers had the ability to dole out a lot of damage but in practice were less of a threat. Usually hitting at 3 or 4 up they would miss 1/2 or 1/3 of all shots. This encourages targeting multiple HE weapons at the same enemy to maximise the chance of a result. If that target is put down with the first shot the remainder from the same firer are wasted. The undead were well worth their points soaking up a considerable volume of fire that might have been better used elsewhere except that if the undead do close to combat it is not going to be a happy outcome.