Monday 25 March 2024

TSA Bring&Buy Encore

This weekend there was another "wargaming B&B" organized by the Tin Soldiers of Antwerp. As always, there was a good atmosphere, and it was a joy to talk with wargaming friends from other gaming groups you typically run into during these events.

So what was my loot?

Nothing too much this time.

  • 2 old Avalon Hill games. Perhaps I might even play them sometime.
  • A few old wargaming booklets.
  • 2 volumes of the Funcken uniform guides from the 60s - always handy to have around as a painting reference.

As usual, a wargaming Bring & Buy always triggers conversations about the meaning of it all. "Aren't we simply shuffling old stuff around, as a merry-go-round?", "Will anyone ever play this stuff?", "What percentage of wargaming stuff bought is actually being used?" Etc.

But the best conversation I had was about the nature of wargaming rules. The number of rulebooks and supplements, big and small, old and new, simple and complex, ... that were on offer was staggering. So many rulesets that are sold 2nd hand without ever having been used ... These days, I don't bother anymore buying myself into the next "hot new ruleset". The illusion I once had that all rulesets were thoroughly researched and playtested before being published is long gone. I prefer writing my own rules, tuned perfectly to the needs or our own group. After all, aren't all the rulesets ever published not someone's houserules, written up as a booklet, and being offered for sale? And if so, it's much better to write your own ... :-)

Monday 11 March 2024

Romano-British vs Saxons

Yesterday we played an Ancients game. The scenario involved a Saxon convoy, which was attacked by a force of Romano-British troops. Rules used were Hail Caesar - depending on who was looking up what rules in what version of the book, we used a mix of 1st and 2nd edition rules.

Bart D. and Bart V. (acting as plumpire) commanded the Saxons, while Eddy and me commanded the Romano-British.

The first half of the game consisted of the usual manoeuvring, before the close combat clash happened. Two rounds into the close combat we decided to abandon the dicefest and declared the game a draw.

Edit: Eddy has posted a report on BGG as well.

The usual pre-game activity: shooting pictures and drinking beer!

The Saxon forces.

The watchtower was quickly conquered by the Saxons.

The Romano-British village.

A view of the table, as seen from the Romano-British side.

The approaching Saxons.

The Romano-British village.

Manoeuvring around the bridge in the centre of the table.

Bart D. and Eddy discussing finer points of ancient infantry tactics.

Another view from the Roman-British lines.

More scholarly discussion about ancient warfare.

The lucky general - no not Eddy, but the Napoleon 54mm soldier in front. The lucky general is our meta-mechanic: you can reroll any roll of the dice, but then you hand over the lucky general token to the enemy.

The final clash!

The situation at the end of the game.

Monday 4 March 2024

Tony Bath on Fantasy Gaming (1975)

Thanks to Zhu Bajiee (Realm of Zhu blog), we have another article written by Tony Bath to share. It's again an article from "Games and Puzzles", issue 39, published in 1975.

The article is titled "Fantasy Gaming" and outlines Tony Bath's view on the (at the time) new genre of fantasy wargaming.

Click here to see the full article

As with the previous article, we will analyze it further in follow-up posts, but for now, it's interesting to quote the last paragraph:

What is the reason for this sudden popular upsurge of interest not only in fantasy literature but fantasy gaming? We could say a little pompously that it is a revolt against the materialistic world we I ive in; this undoubtedly has something to do with it but I think it is more likely that, in these bleak and troublous times of unrest abroad and economic depression at home, we turn to the escapism inherent in fantasy. Once it was Cowboys and Indians or International Intrigue; now-as in the hard times of the 30s-Fantasy has struck the public imagination. What better way to escape from a world of strikes, pay claims and rising prices than to adventure through a mythical world, living by your sword and your wits, to trade spells and enchantments with master Wizards, and to drive through space and time in a mighty spaceship to fight the monsters from beyond? These thrills and escapes have long been available in the pages of fantasy literature; now they are also available in the form of fantasy board and table games and people of all ages and sexes are eager to try them.

You can still see all collected Tony Bath's materials on our Hyboria webpage.

Saturday 2 March 2024

Hyboria: article by Tony Bath (1974)

Thanks to Zhu Bajiee (Realm of Zhu blog), we acquired a scan from an article written by Tony Bath about his legendary Hyboria campaign. The article appeared in the magazine "Games and Puzzles", No.23 of March/April 1974. Realm of Zhu has discussed Hyboria before, but you can also find a lot of information regarding Tony Bath's Hyboria campaign on our pages dedicated to this early instance of imaginations and wargaming.

Click here for the full scan of the article.

The possible influence, or at least the similarity, of the ideas developed by Bath and original Dungeons&Dragons as published in 1974 has been well researched, most notably by Jon Peterson in his book "Playing at the World".

This specific article is interesting, since it was published in March/April 1974 (Original D&D was published in January 1974). That means this article was written *before* Tony bath could have known about D&D, and so it gives us some insights into the mindset of how "roleplaying" was already part of the wargaming community.

The article references many of the things that are familiar to fans of Bathian wargaming: the campaign chronicle, the personalization,  tracking everything on a large map ...

I will delve deeper into some aspects in later posts, but are some quotes I found enlightening:

The participants in the world of Hyboria, however, are enabled to project themselves far deeper into their roles, and the game goes on and on, each session leading automatically to the next, and affecting what happens in that next session. Because more time is involved, much more personality and reality can be introduced.

Players are of course required to act within the limits of their Hyborian characters. If they are given the character of an upright honest man they are not allowed to play dirty tricks or behave treacherously; should they attempt to do so they would be heavily penalized. Chance can always take a hand in their affairs, and from time to time I introduce a new element, just to complicate things, such as an embezzling treasurer, or an earthquake or a civil revolt I try to be as unbiased as possible in this - or, as one player puts it, hostile to everyone!

As a relatively new player in Hyboria, I have been particularly concerned with two aspects of the game system, 'The umpire as God' and 'the player in character'. In Hyboria, everything is controlled by Tony, who makes rules so that he can take consistent decisions and we players can _plan on the basis of past history. This very flexible system can open up entirely new facets of the campaign with very little difficulty. It does have its drawbacks, since no one can be absolutely impartial. As Warlord of the Varnar Confederation, I have to remember that God is an Aquilonian!

This doesn't sound like roleplaying, it IS roleplaying!

So, perhaps Tony Bath is the true inventor of the roleplaying game after all! :-)

Battle of Devil's Ridge (2)

After our last ACW game, I still had to "update" our campaign records. Not there's much updating to do, since this game was the first in what hopefully can become a long continuing campaign.

It's also not really a campaign in the traditional sense. Campaigns in which troops are tracked on a map, supplies computed, etc. usually die out rather quickly. That's why I'm much more a believer in "narrative" campaigns. The continuity over many games is established by naming units and commanders, and give some of them an upgrade or downgrade after each game. In the next games, those units or commanders have a history, which will be the record of the campaign. It's a  much more freeform manner of linking games together, which usually also lasts much longer than rue map campaigns. The same player doesn't even have to play the same side. It's the units and commanders that acquires new abilities, not the players.

So, after the "Battle of Devil's Ridge", the following happened:

  • The commanders that took place on each side received a "battle medal" (in my ACW games, commanders are chosen pseudo-randomly from a deck of 12 cards). A "battle medal" allows a commander to turn a missed command roll into a successful roll, once per game.
  • Each player could also name a unit that behaved heroically during the game. The following units received the following abilities (units selected by the players, but abilities by me):
    • Maker's Mark Militia: +1 firing die
    • Rebel Yell Rangers: minimum 2 hexes movement
    • Elijah Craig's Cavalry: +1 charge activation roll
  • The units that were routed, are now known by adding a numerical indicator to their names:
    • Eagle Rare Rangers ==> 2nd Eagle Rare Rangers
    • Woodford Reserve Riflemen ==> 2nd Woodford Reserve Riflemen

I keep track of these extra abilities by adding small post-it notes or stickers (I have a sheet of card symbols) to the cards representing these nits or commanders.

Overall, these are light-weight mechanisms to keep track of how units are doing during their careers!

Monday 19 February 2024

Hougoumont assembled

Last summer I reported that I had started on putting together an MDF kit for Hougoumont. I finally managed to put together the last building.

Below you see the entire construction. The next phase would be to give the entire structure some colour and/or pimp it with some additional geometric elements (e.g. windowsills etc.)

For size comparisons, I also put some 42mm and 25/28mm figures next to the buildings. Good news is it could work for both scales.

Sunday 11 February 2024

Battle of Devil's Ridge

This weekend I hosted an ACW game, in a new imagination-cycle of what could become a narrative campaign.

The scenario is based on the scenario "Kuhstall" for the 7YW, and published in the The Wargamer's Annual 2018, which itself is based on the Battle of Cowpens. It involves an attacker who has to cross a ridgeline, deal with some hidden troops, to finally take a 2nd ridge in order to control a bridge over a river. In our setup, the Union took the role of the defenders and the Confederacy the attackers. Rules are our own houserules (in continuous development ;-)), and unit names are completely imaginative.

I set up the table beforehand, this is how it looked before my wargaming friends arrived:

The table as seen from the Union (defender) side. The confederates will enter the table from the far side.

The Union will have to defend the ridge on the left, and the Confederacy will enter from the right. Only 4 light units for the confederacy are already setup.

The reinforcements for the Confederacy - they would come on the table in 2 "waves" with a 5 turn interval.

The battlefield as seen from the Union side.

Bart V, Bart D, and Wim arrived, and after the usual pre-game chatter and selecting drinks, we were ready to start the game. Bart V would play the Union (2 brigades), Bart D and Wim would each play a Confederate flank (2 brigades each). I would plumpire - although since 2 of us were not fully familiar with my house rules, plumpiring resolved to umpiring ;-)

Bart D and Wim pondering their initial setup, which meant selecting what units to put in the first line and 2nd line, as well as selecting their commanding generals from randomly selected cards.


Bart V doing the same, deciding on his initial deployment.

So, after a very brief recap of the rules (details are left for later, that's what an umpire is for!), we were ready to start the game. I will not give a detailed blow by blow account, but only show some of the action pictures.

Bart V was commanding the Confederate right flank. The initial infantry regiments are marching forwards.

Lots of the fun in miniature wargaming is manipulating the toys.

Bart V trying to decipher the rules (all on a single A4!).

We have progressed a few turns, the 2nd attacking line is setup.

A view from the Union right flank.

Another view from the union right flank.

Yes, sometimes dice have to be recovered form the floor.

The Confederate attacking line is forming, ready to cross Devil's Ridge.

The game in full swing.

Heavy fighting all across the front.

Another view along the frontline.

By this time, it was almost midnight, and we decided to stop the game. Some still had an hour of driving to do. The game hadn't progressed as far as I would have liked, but we decided to call it a draw. 

Here are some more views of what the game looked like when we stopped playing (I took these pictures the next morning), but with all the clutter (dice, markers, ...) removed.

After the game, each player could also select a unit which did heroically well, and these units will receive a special ability for our next game. It's a nice way of introducing some continuity in a series of linked games, without worrying too much about heavier campaign mechanics. Bart V selected the Maker's Mark Militia, for stopping 2 cavalry units, Wim choose his Elijah Craig's Cavalry, and Bart D selected the Rebel Yell Rangers for charging opposing infantry in the woods and routing them without suffering a single loss themselves. The commanding officers which were selected from an iniaital draw of cards will also have a probability of receiving a stat or ability increase.

Overall, it was a fun game, although the scenario was perhaps a bit too ambitious in terms of number of units and game length.

Imaginative ACW unit names (2)

I finally decided on the final list of my fictional ACW units - with a little help from Chat GPT. All based on whiskey and bourbon brands. Some purists might say that some brands rather reflect a name that is more appropriate for 'the other side', but as with all imaginations in wargaming, inventing names is part of the fun.

Union Infantry

  • Maker’s Mark Militia
  • Wild Turkey Volunteers
  • Old Forester Fusiliers
  • Gentlemen Jack’s Gds

Union Light Infantry

  • Four Roses Rifles
  • Eagle Rare Rangers
  • Woodford Reserve Riflemen
  • Jack Daniel’s Jaegers

Union Cavalry

  • Knob Creek Cavalry
  • Jim Beam’s Dragoons

Union Artillery

  • Fighting Cock Cannoneers
  • Yankee Yeast Artillery

Confederate Infantry

  • Bluegrass Bourbon Bn
  • Magnolia Mash Militia
  • Virginia Vintage Volunteers
  • Moonshine Mountain Militia
  • Bayou Bourbon Brigade
  • Old Elk Regiment
  • Widow Jane’s Warriors
  • Buffalo Trace Brigade

Confederate Light Infantry

  • Rebel Yell Rangers
  • Rebel Rye Riflemen
  • Rebel Reserve Rifles
  • Rebel Oak Infantry

Confederate Cavalry

  • Cornhusker Cavalry
  • Old Dominion Dragoons
  • Elijah Craig’s Cavalry
  • Larceny Light Horse

Confederate Artillery

  • Southern Comfort Cannoneers
  • Lee’s Liquor Launchers

Tuesday 6 February 2024

Imaginative ACW unit names

I'm running an ACW game this coming weekend, and I thought it would be a good idea to generate some fictitious names for units. Some fellow wargamers across the pond probably might consider this sacrilege, but why not? As a European, I don't have a strong emotional connection to the American Civil War, so some playful imagination-style names wouldn't harm our wargaming. After all, for other periods, scenarios are full of "Bratwurst Grenadiers" and "Kartoffel Cuirassiers" fighting for the bridge over the "Schnaps River".

That's all very well, but how to come up with invented names that sound plausible? Or to be more exact: that sound plausible for a European whose native language is not English ... It's a small pet-peeve of mine: lots of the pseudo-French, -German or -Dutch used by English-speaking wargamers doesn't sound at all plausible to me ;-)

This is exactly the sort of problem why ChatGPT was invented (yes, they had wargaming imaginations in mind!), so I decided to have some fun:

Me: Can you generate some fictitious names for units in the American civil war?

ChatGPT: Of course! Here are some fictitious unit names for the American Civil War:

  1. Stonewall Brigade
  2. Liberty Rangers
  3. Ironclad Infantry
  4. Blue Ridge Rifles
  5. Confederate Guardsmen
  6. Union Sharpshooters
  7. Dixie Dragoons
  8. Prairie Scouts
  9. Mountain Warriors
  10. River Raiders
  11. Thunderbolt Brigade
  12. Wilderness Wolves
  13. Rebel Rangers
  14. Union Avengers
  15. Keystone Cavalry
  16. Bayou Battlers
  17. Crimson Hussars
  18. Appalachian Avengers
  19. Shenandoah Sentinels

Hmmm, some of these sound more like American Football teams. Let's try to refine ...

Me:  Can you make them somewhat more inspired by historical units?

ChatGPT: Certainly! Here are some fictitious unit names inspired by historical units from the American Civil War:

  1. Iron Brigade of the West
  2. Louisiana Tigers
  3. Bloody First Minnesota
  4. Texas Rangers Battalion
  5. Fighting Irish Brigade
  6. Black Hat Brigade
  7. 54th Massachusetts Volunteers
  8. 69th New York Militia
  9. Stonewall Jackson's Foot Cavalry
  10. Pennsylvania Bucktails
  11. Cherokee Legion
  12. Kentucky Orphan Brigade
  13. Michigan Iron Brigade
  14. New Jersey Blue Devils
  15. Ohio Light Artillery Battery
  16. Virginia Black Horse Cavalry
  17. Georgia Hussars
  18. Alabama Red Warriors
  19. Tennessee Mountain Rifles
  20. Indiana Graybacks

Ok, but I need Confederate units ...

Me: Can you limit the names to Confederacy units?

ChatGPT: Certainly! Here are some fictitious unit names inspired by historical Confederate units from the American Civil War:

  1. Palmetto Riflemen
  2. Mississippi Rebels
  3. Georgia Sharpshooters
  4. Alabama Volunteers
  5. Texas Legionnaires
  6. Louisiana Grenadiers
  7. Florida Swamp Rangers
  8. Virginia Cavalry Raiders
  9. Arkansas Mountain Rangers
  10. Tennessee Volunteers Brigade
  11. North Carolina Tar Heels
  12. South Carolina Palmetto Guards
  13. Kentucky Long Rifles
  14. Missouri Border Ruffians
  15. Maryland Southern Defenders
  16. Confederate Hussars of Mississippi
  17. Georgia Ironclad Infantry
  18. Alabama Hellhounds
  19. Texas Lone Star Battalion
  20. Louisiana Tigers Heavy Artillery

Ok, this looks better. But if 18th century imaginations all sound like Bratwurst and Kartoffelsalat, why not have some more fun?

Me:  Can you also draw some inspiration from brands of bourbon?

ChatGPT: Certainly! Here are some fictitious Confederate unit names inspired by historical units and brands of bourbon:

  1. Rebel Reserve Rifles
  2. Dixie Derby Distillers
  3. Bluegrass Bourbon Battalion
  4. Kentucky Colonel Cavalry
  5. Tennessee Whiskey Warriors
  6. Magnolia Mash Militia
  7. Rebel Yell Rangers
  8. Old Dominion Dragoons
  9. Bayou Bourbon Brigade
  10. Virginia Vintage Volunteers
  11. Cornhusker Cavalry
  12. Bourbon Barrel Battalion
  13. Rebel Oak Infantry
  14. Peach State Potentates
  15. Bourbon County Brigade
  16. Kentucky Mash Maulers
  17. Deep South Distillery Defenders
  18. Rebel Rye Riflemen
  19. Whiskey Rebellion Regiment
  20. Moonshine Mountain Militia

Me: How about adding some unit numbers? 

ChatGPT:  Absolutely! Here are some fictitious Confederate unit names inspired by historical units, brands of bourbon, and including unit numbers:

  1. 3rd Rebel Reserve Rifles
  2. 1st Dixie Derby Distillers
  3. 7th Bluegrass Bourbon Battalion
  4. 5th Kentucky Colonel Cavalry
  5. 11th Tennessee Whiskey Warriors
  6. 4th Magnolia Mash Militia
  7. 9th Rebel Yell Rangers
  8. 12th Old Dominion Dragoons
  9. 6th Bayou Bourbon Brigade
  10. 8th Virginia Vintage Volunteers
  11. 2nd Cornhusker Cavalry
  12. 15th Bourbon Barrel Battalion
  13. 10th Rebel Oak Infantry
  14. 13th Peach State Potentates
  15. 17th Bourbon County Brigade
  16. 14th Kentucky Mash Maulers
  17. 20th Deep South Distillery Defenders
  18. 16th Rebel Rye Riflemen
  19. 19th Whiskey Rebellion Regiment
  20. 18th Moonshine Mountain Militia
Ok,  this sounds promising, we can use these for inspiration. But I need names for the Union as well.

Me: Can you give me a list of historically sounding fictitious unit names for the Union army in the American civil war, inspired by whisky brands?
ChatGPT: Certainly! Here are some fictitious Union unit names inspired by whisky brands with a historically sounding twist:
  1. Old Charter Chasseurs
  2. Four Roses Rifles
  3. Eagle Rare Rangers
  4. Buffalo Trace Brigade
  5. Knob Creek Cavalry
  6. Woodford Reserve Riflemen
  7. Maker's Mark Militia
  8. Basil Hayden's Battalion
  9. Colonel E.H. Taylor's Troop
  10. Widow Jane's Warriors
  11. Jim Beam's Dragoons
  12. Rebel Yell Rifles
  13. Bulleit Bourbon Brigade
  14. Elijah Craig's Infantry
  15. Wild Turkey Volunteers
  16. Jack Daniel's Jaegers
  17. Old Forester Fusiliers
  18. Gentleman Jack's Guards
  19. Larceny Legion
  20. Old Fitzgerald's Fusiliers

Ok, all set!

Sunday 31 December 2023

Bryan Ansell

Through various wargaming forums, I heard that Bryan Ansell passed away yesterday.

Although I never met or talked to him, he had a large influence on me when I was starting out in wargaming during the 80s. As a Games Workshop afficionado during those days, his name was very familiar to me, most notably because he was mentioned as first author on my very first miniature ruleset I ever bought, Warhammer 1st edition.

He also was featured with his chaos army in Warhammer Armies for the 3rd edition, in a very iconic photograph.

Thank you for everything you did for the wargaming hobby!