Monday, 31 March 2014

Donnybrook - and a lesson in scenario design

Last week we tried our first game of Donnybrook. It fell flat.

Granted, when I first saw the rulebook, I was pretty impressed. To be fair, the rulebook is impressive. A lot of inspirational photographs, nice scenery, good narratives. I can see the attraction, and I think it is a well-written wargaming book.

When reading the rules, I was a bit less impressed. The rules claim to portray skirmish combat 1660-1760, but there is very little in the rule mechanics that make that particular assumption. The rules are so generic that they would fit most periods. Simple card activation to activate each unit in turn; and different type die rolls to beat a target number to resolve morale, combat etc. Modifiers are kept to a minimum, which is a good thing.

So, I set up two small forces to battle it out with my regular wargaming pal. One force was hidden in a village, the other side had to drive them away.

Gameplay was disappointing. The mechanics are so simple that very few decisions need to be made. You cannot decide what unit to activate – the cards do that for you. The whole game revolved about moving your troops asap to the enemy (lack of other things to do or think about), and fight it out. Not much excitement was felt by neither of us.

After a game, we usually have a discussion about what worked in the game and whatnot. We did play skirmish games of that particular size before, so the game should have been to our liking. But then we realized we did experience something similar with another skirmish game we tried a few years ago, that also turned out to be a bummer Lack of a good scenario!

When setting up a skirmish game, I usually make sure all sides have good objectives, that go beyond the simple: "engage and destroy". One side might have to free hostage. Or capture a treasure and bring it back to base. Or escort a wagon across the board. Or blowup the jail. Or … you get the idea. Such setups work even better if more than 2 players are involved.

For our Donnybrook game, due to a busy day at work, I completely neglected a good scenario. I should have known better. The lack of a good scenario was the reason the game felt very bland.
I also realized this is a lesson I picked up many years ago. Skirmish games are memorable because of good scenarios. Good gaming mechanics might help, but the scenario is the most important thing. Otherwise, you just have a glorified randomizer that determines the outcome of the game.
So, a good scenario is the thing, but that does not depend on Donnybrook or any other gaming system. It depends on the game organizer. Lesson learned (yet again).

Looking back, I still think Donnybrook as a gaming engine is very bland and not very exciting. When using exciting scenarios, the game can be made excellent, but that is not a feature to be claimed by Donnybrook. That is player's imagination at work.

In the end, I still like Donnybrook as an excellent book with excellent photographs. But as a gaming engine? Probably not.

Friday, 21 March 2014

Flagstone fleets

In this month's Miniature Wargames (issue 372), there is again an article from our renowned little wargaming group.

From the blurb on the editor's page:
Phil Dutré likes nothing better than to get together with his chums in Belgium and lie around on the patio. At the same time, expect to see him equipped with a telescope and charts as he commands squadrons of men’o’war as they do battle outside his back door. Yes, not content with simply sitting around with their Trappist beer, the Schild & Vriend Gentlemen’s Wargaming Society like nothing better than to scuff their knees and toes over a watery tussle in the garden. Hard a’starboard and watch for sails on that concrete horizon!
As a teaser, here are some quick pictures:

Addendum December 2014: A short version of the rules, without any designer nots or gaming philosophy, can be found here.

Monday, 17 March 2014

More Oldhammer Monsters

Some more Oldhammer monsters and strange creatures ...

Demon - originally Winged Fire Demon:
Fimir - these I bought painted at a convention only a few years ago.
Zoats. Note the size difference between the newer models on the left and the older model on the right.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Oldhammer Monsters

The past few years, there has been an increasing interest in Oldhammer - playing Warhammer but with the rules of 3rd, 2nd or even 1st edition. Not only the rules though, also the miniatures should preferably be the ranges that were produced in the eighties. Now, this is not really necessary - the true aim of Oldhammer is to play according to the free spirit that Warhammer embraced during that period. There are quite a number of blogs devoted to Oldhammer, but two that I think are worth following are Oldhammer, Eldritch Epistles, and Realm of Chaos 80s. There are more, of course, but listing them all would be too much work.

Anyway, since I started my miniature wargaming career with Warhammer 1st edition, and was really obsessed with Warhammer 3rd, I acquired quite a lot of miniatures during the late eighties and early nineties. For some reason, I never sold any of my fantasy miniatures, so I still have a huge number of old Citadel miniatures from the golden age in my collection.

Below are just a few examples. All were painted by me, more than 20 years ago. I did include links to the relevant catalog pages on the Stuff of Legends website.

Balgorg --

Slann wizard on his palanquin & Human Slaves

Jabberwock --

Giant Eagle --

Culchan -

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Painting table Saturday I - various ancients

Never one to miss a bandwagon to jump on, especially when it increases the post count, here's my first Painting Table Saturday post:

On my ever-so-slightly-out-of-focus (no idea what the camera AF thought to focus on) painting table today are:

  • Various Romanish figures and four stands of Thirty Years' War pikemen awaiting basing to be finished
  • Two stands of Swedish GNW cavalry awaiting rebasing to 60x60mm bases
  • Various bits of baggage for my next Ancients game (hiding behind the wet palette box)
  • Two GNW figures by Warfare Miniatures
  • 9 auxilia awaiting a bath in Army Painter dip

These last two items are here in close up:

Again, an equally out of focus photo, but at least in this one you can see the AF selected the bottle of Creall brown paint to focus on :)

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Inaugural game

A quick post to say that we played the first game in the new wargaming room this weekend.

We played a straightforward ACW game, using our house rules developed over the years. Bart took the Confederacy, definfing a hill position, while I took the Union, trying to attack that very same position. A nice bottle of prosecco (offered by Bart) and a nice tasting of the relatively new Belgian whisky "Gouden Carolus Single Malt" brought us in the right mood.

Not wargaming figures, but the drink that goes with the game.
 The game was a fairly straightforward matter, since I didn't really have the time to prepare a full scenario as we usually do. Units were brought on the table as reinforcements, as long as figures were available. Apparantly, this gave an edge to the Union, and it was decided that the Union held a smal moral victory at the end of the wargaming day.

All in all, the new room functions ok. I still need to work on some things, such as providing some music, but overall, the new premises seem to work.