venerdì 14 luglio 2017

All Roads Lead to Venice

Or at least to one of its outposts, trade center or emporium.
At least in the XII to XVI century.
At least in my mind (and gaming table)

Which way?

In WSS I read no tabletop gaming table can be considered complete without roads, for two simple reasons: roads are a costant landmark of any human inhabited area and your army need a way to reach the battlefield (of course opponent's one, too).

So I decided to add roads to my scenery collection, but I was unsure how. I could scratch build them, but I lack the time, so eventually I decided to buy some ready roads.

One of the thing I like most is flexible roads, so I looked for rubber roads on the net: most of my results led to very expensive options, until I found on ebay this seller: Jefferson Adrian aka "Fat Frank". He builds beautiful roads and other sceneries for wargaming at a very reasonable price.

I suggest you to follow his ebay account and his blog:

From the large amount of items availables I chose an intermediate scale, 70mm wide, and usable either with my 15mm or 28mm armies.

many shape aivalable!

a close up of the roads
I expect you will see them in almost every battle report I'll post from now on.

domenica 11 giugno 2017

Card Games!

Today we will have a break from miniature wargaming. Let's talk about card games.
When I was younger (well, I'm barely and adult now anyway), my first games, before diving into wargaming, were collectible card games, as Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Ho, and eventually, at the high school, Magic the Gathering.

I really loved MtG, the mechanics, the setting, the illustrations...but it went quickly expensive: to keep your deck competitive, you had to spend a lot of money and the continuos publication of new expansions (which makes older prints out of standard for tournaments) made me sick. So I had to shut it down.

In the following years, as you may imagine, my attention was entirely drawn by miniature wargames, starting with 15mm ancient wargames (as Impetus and Field of Glory) and continuing with 28mm scale (Lion Rampant, Ronin, Bolt Action, just to name a few).

So I was a bit surprised when my high school friends (who are casual gamers and absolutely not into miniatures games) started to develop an interest in card games. Since I already abandoned  collectible card games, I was not enthusiastic, until I realised I missed a lot of new generation card games, which do not require collection but are complete in their box (except expansions), basically board game without the board!

Now, if I should choose what to do during an evening with my friends, my first choice would be choosing one of our card games and having some games! Of course they require small space for stockage and transport and so they are useful as travel entertainers too!

Playing Munchking in Stockholm hostel last month!

Every game in our collection share the following characteristics:
  • easy to learn: we can't spend an hour to teach a new player how to play
  • easy to play: we want to feel relaxed after a game, it's a sort of after work meeting so everyone is already tired from the working/studying day
  • fun (of course!)
  • short: ranging from 30' (allowing multiple games in a evening) to 1 hours (with one exception): we are meeting during the working week.

And now a quick list of our games, if anyone wish a more detailed description, just ask and I'll provide a full review!

Samurai Sword

It uses the same mechanic as Bang!, bringing them into the Japanese setting. Each player has a secret role (Samurai and Shogun, Ninjas and Ronin) forming up to three different teams, (but you don't know who is your ally and who's your enemy). The game it's pretty simple you must attack the players to kill them and gaining one honour point (each player can respawn a set amount of times in the following turn), when the deck ends or one player reach its respawn limit, the game ends and the team with more honour points wins the game.

3-7 players, about 30'

Exploding Kittens

According to the disclaimer, the most founded game on kickstarter. In this game, drawing is the last action in your turn, and sometimes, in your game. The deck is filled with dangerous exploding kittens, ready to blow you up. If you draw an exploding kittens you die. Of course you can defuse them once (or more if you can steal defuse cards from other players), but they'll eventually blow up in your face! And then it's game over! Only one player will survive! I strongly advice to purchase the expansion Imploding Kittens too, which adds lot of variety to the game.

Ta Pum!

A cooperative game, useful to strenghten friendship, you can only win (or more often loose) all together. You represent a group of friends thrown into the first world war trenches. The missions are awful and only helping each other you can survive the war. The game has a beautiful French comic style of illustrations! (the game is French)

2-5 players, about 30'-1hour

Stay Away

Have you seen "The Thing"? Well, this is a blind game, one player at a certain point of the game will become the Thing and starting infecting the others, you must find him and kill him (via flamethrower). But you must pay attention about who you incinerate, if all the non infected players are removed from the game the Thing team win! There is a lot of bluff in this game, and I advice you to play at least with 5-6 players, but with 10-12 will still work and increase tension (lot of tension in this game, I really like it! I can assure you that will fear the infection (and the flamethrower) and do anything you can to convice other players to have mercy!

4-12 players, 15 to 60 minutes

thanks to Isola Illyon for the image


A parody of Dungeons and Dragons, or fantasy RPG in general. A comic style hidden a nice mechanic with lot of fighting between the players and with the monsters to become the first character to reach level 10 and win the game! A lot of expansions and mods for different settings (for example Munchkin Chtulhu). It can last a bit longer than the other games, let's say 1.5 hour to 3 hours. Can be found here, or in many game shops.

The author playing as a dwarf (nano in Italian)

Ready to Rock

Last, but not the least, Ready to Rock! This game was created by an Italian guy and it really deserves to be known, the game represent a Rock concert, each player has a ticket (his starting point) and must reach the stage, where the band is performing to win the game!
Each turn the player can do two actions, i.e. playing two cards from his hand. There are basically two kind of cards: the path cards, which draw the path you can walk to the stage, and the flash cards, all well themed actions (drinking beer, groupies, etc...). One flash card can make you draw one random the stage card, this separated deck is placed on the stage and represents actions performed by the band which affects all the players. Sometimes can be very counterproductive!

The game is written in English even if it's produced in Italy and in the website you will find a nice tutorial and game aids, there is also a mobile page to be used for advide during the game! (So you doesn't have to ask for the rules booklet).

Players: 3-9
Duration: 20-40 minutes

sabato 3 giugno 2017

Infantry in Lion Rampant

Today, I'll focus mainly on the role of the infantry on the battlefield in Lion Rampant, the medieval wargame rules by Dan Mersey.

The Middle Ages features a pretty static infantry: except fiece foot, who were mainly found at the fringes of European territories, the standard infantry unit deployed in a static defensive spearmen armed formation. The main aim was to resist the assualts of enemy's cavalry: superb knights, sergeants or arabs mamelukes. Occasionally they could face some barbaric infantry, classed as fierce foot (let apart for a second the possibility to grade as fierce foot halberdier or sword and buckler, we will come back to this later).

During Dark Age, the situation was similar: the Roman infantry lacked the might of the past, and the Barbarian Infantry, often of low quality (levy, better represented as foot yeoman, IMHO) was used as a rally point for noble cavalry, according to Procopius. Even in the East, against Sassanid, the battles were mainly fought between  opponent cavalry.

Things become very different when talking about Classical Antiquity, between the classic Greece and the Roman Empire (principate at last), the infantry was the key of the battles, with cavalry often considerated an auxillary corps, at least until 3rd century AD. With the rules, as they are written, you cannot simulate this in any realistic way. So we must deal with Classical Antiquity separately (i.e. in a other post!)

So, back to Infantry in Middle Ages. In my humble opinion, there is one main issue. Two infantry units (segeants or yeomen) facing each other, causing a situation in which no one wants to attack, because the attacker rolls 5+ and defender 4+. I can see the logic of this: we just said that during this period sergeants formed a defensive formation and all that stuff. But, in some particular context, if you're fielding pretty specular armies (for example two Communals Italian armies) I'd advide to allow a sort of  incentive the clash of infantries that happened frequently during the period. It's true (and a bit hollywodian as the author likes) that infantry stood in front of enemies knights, but infantry lines often clashed.

The author probably decided that the variety and interplay of arms would avoid such situations, and it wanted us to focus on different arms, so adding a cavalry unit, or a foot man at arms or a fierce foot unit (not very common during the feudal age), could break the balance, and in most games, this will work. But mono-dimensional armies exist, even if the rules allow you to field max 12 points or 4 units of any determined kind of unit, but nothing could prevent you to field 3 sergeants units and/or foot yeoman units.

During our game, however, sometimes happened (maybe the knight ran away or were deployed at the other side of the battlefield, or whatever) that two units of foot sergeants stood watching each other for an entire game, none of them (rightly) wanting to lose their advantage charging the enemy.

According to rules can give an offensive edge to your sergeants (and yeomen), making them "offensive" : spending 2 points more, the unit's attack become 4+ instead that 5+. Anyway, I think tthat 2 points for +1 attack is too expensive.

What should we do?
  1. nothing, the troops variety or at least the difference in armour would break the balance.
  2. add a scenario optional rule, "Guelphs and Ghibellines": foot sergeants and yeomen gain +1 to dice rolled when attacking enemy's foot sergeants and yeomen for no cost. It could break the empasse. Use sparingly only in symmetric games (and under supervision of your parents).
Of course the latter option would diminishing the cost-effectiveness of purchasing offensive sergeants (still attacking 4+ on every enemy unit), but I already consider 2 points a bit too much for +1 when attacking. It's not even useful to break the balance, since the attack and defence are equal in sergeants or yeomen, but you can field 3 units vs 2. If the players with three static sergeants sits down, the offensive minded player will soon finds his men are too few to disrupt 3 enemy's units.

And this is the first issue of Medieval Warfare that could need a fix. Bear in mind I just proposed one of the possible solutions.

Second issue: where are the halbardiers and (later in period) sword and buckler men?
Well, that's an interesting topic: in the rules there are two ways to portray them:
  1. use offensive foot sergeants or yeomen (the unit costs +2 points) attack and defend on 4+ and lose schiltron, armour as the main unit (3 or 2).
  2. use fierce foot (4 points) attack on 3+, defend on 6, wild charge! armour 2.
I see none of these option is very used by our local club, why?
Offensive foot (either sergeants or yeomen) are the best way to represent halberdiers, in our opinion, because they retain their defensive capabilities, but they cost too much. Fierce foot aren't really loved because they're wild charger, and stay almost halplessy if they fail to countercharge.

Possible solutions:
  1. offensive foot cost reduced to +1 point
  2. add a new upgrade for foot sergeants and yeomen (I really had sword and buckler in mind when I wrote this) (I cannot think about an appropriate name now, let's call them AlternativeOffensive), leaving the hot minded troops as fierce foot.
The unit switch Attack with Move and Attack Value with Defence value. It lose Schiltron special rule, and gain Countercharge Infantry special rule.

So an Alternatively Offensive Foot Sergeants unit (Sword and Buckler for example):

Attack 5+  Attack Value 4+
Move 6+   Defence Value 5+
Shoot - Shoot Value-
Courage 4+ Armour 3 (2 if foot yeomen)
Max movement 6"

By the way, this is exactly how I would represent Early Migration (i.e. Early Dark Age) infantry in  those people still using massive infantry charges, instead that relying on cavalry for their attacks (the latter are often referred as Sarmatized Germans). Of course I would also represent in the same manner Celts infantry during Classical Antiquity. But I think this post is already long enough and I shouldtalk about them an other time.

lunedì 29 maggio 2017

Summer (painting) Campaign!

The council of war was reunited last week and our plan was finally set.

The main question was: what's next? What's the next big project our club will devote the next year? We decided a theme, after many years (Luca waited for this about 17 years) we are finally jumping into the Thirty Years War period, also known as Pike&Shotte period!

So, our next step was to decide which ruleset had to be used for the period. After FOG:R was ruled out, due to the massive number of miniatures and (most important) time needed to set up and play a game, there were two pretendants: Liber Militum Tercios (supported by Luca) and The Pikeman's Lament (proposed by me).

Every general is going to gather his forces: Luca, Paolo and Stefano already own a relevant collection of 15mm miniatures for the period, most of them painted and based (using the DBx standard, since they were meant to be used with FOG:R).
Marco, Jack and me, on the other hand, bought 28mm warlord models, Luca and Paolo decided to join us in that scale, too.

During our war council we decided that the games are not mutually exclusive, we will use Tercios to recreate the proper battles of the period and TPL for skirmishing action like foraging and raiding. We found an agreement on bases (for 28mm) and so we should be able to game Tercios in 15mm and 28mm and TPL in 28mm. There are also ideas to link the game of the two ruleset in a kind of campaign game, but it's all pretty vague, for now.

Now, it's time to paint! First armies are expected to be ready for the winter. Of course, future developements will be posted in this blog, so stay tuned!


Luca - Imperial Army (15mm and 28mm)
Jack - Spanish Army (28mm)

Marco - Swedish (28mm)
Stefano - Swedish (15mm)
Paolo - Parlamentarian (15mm); Danes (28mm) [still thinking about them] 
Riccardo - German Protestants (28mm) [loosely based upon Saxons]

martedì 16 maggio 2017

A wargamer in Stockholm

Some months ago I was looking for a destination for a late spring travel when I saw on a Facebook group a post about a wargaming exhibition in a museum in Stockholm, so I got in touch with Dalauppror, asking for more informations. You can read the results of that conversation in this post.

To Stockholm!

Sweden was a crucial country for the history of European warfare at least from 17th to 19th century. Its capital, Stockholm, hosts various testimonials of the country's past deeds.
Its capital Stockholm has plenty of monuments and museums emphasizing the glorious military past of the country, and it's pretty easy find something a wargamer or warfare lover could enjoy.

I will only focus on wargaming related places I visited, of course there is a lot more to see in this amazing city!

I suggest starting your tour at the Armémuseum. The exhibition will lead you throughout six centuries of warfare in Sweden, providing an excellent introduction for the various wars the country fought during its history. Dioramas, 1:1 soldiers mannequins, paintings and weapons allow the visitors to imagine the world who those soldiers lived in. Rather interestingly, the museum doesn't simply focus on the warfare, but explain also in details the everyday struggle for survival soldiers and civilians had to fight during wars (and peace, often). Of course weapons lovers won't be disappointed, modern to contemporary section is particularly well represented by a wide display, ranging from sub-machine guns, to pistols and a complete UAV!

Soldiers must eat, too

Yes, there is also a Goliath!

If you can manage to visit Stockholm before 7th January 2018 you can also visit the temporary exhibition War Games. An amazing journey from the birth of gaming (chess, chaturanga, go) to contemporary wargame rulesets, passing through Prussian kriegsspiel and '70 boardgames. A must for any wargamer and boardgamer. It's quite a unique chance to see Black Powder or Bolt Action behind the cabinet of a museum! (and in the museum shop!)

Kriegsspiel (my forbidden dream is a double blind game)

The second place I suggest you to visit is Livrustkammeren (Royal Armoury). Its entrance is exactly on the side of Royal Palace, in the very centre of Stockholm. The museum itself is located in the cellars of the Palace! There is a well assorted collection of armours and weapons of course, but the most important pieces in its collection areprobably the flag and the robes Gustavus Adolphus was wearing at Lützen before his death.

A temporary exhibition about Katanas was also held in the museum during our visit. Small, but interesting, though.

In both the two temporary exhibitions, several references to present days are made, through games, or movies. We realised that in Sweden museums aren't something just preserving the past, but actively trying to set a link to everyday world.

Both Armémuseum and Livrustkammeren admission are free of charge, so no excuse!

If happen to pass near the city centre at about 12 AM, don't lose the changing of the guard. It's held in front of the Royal Palace and it lasts about one hour. You can observe both ceremonial uniforms and real serving regiments uniforms, and a musical band performs amazing marches and songs.

Were we talking about Gustavus Adolphus' death? Well, if you want to see his grave, take a short walk (just 5 minutes from the Palace) and visit Riddarholmskyrkan, where many Swedish kings are buried. Of course the Lion of the North lays between them.

Medeltidsmuset is a small museum, hidden under a bridge (literally), which allows the visitors to dive into middle ages' everyday life in Stockholm, while not strictly about warfare, I nonetheless found it fascinating (did someone say "free admission"?).

Vasamuset. A well preserved (and restored) huge galley, exhibited in a 6 floor museum, it's something out of ordinary. It's also the story of one of the biggest fail in naval engineering, due to a mix of political meddling/ingerence and poor calcualtions, this ship, intended to become the admiral of the fleet, sunk during its maiden voyage, probably one of the shortest in history for a galley, lasting nly 120 meters. You can see the ship externally from different levels, under the keel and up to the mast. The lateral exhibition give an insight on the history of the ship and about the life of the sailors, what they ate, how they fought and so on.. A small section analyses the bodies found inside during salvations and speculate about their stories. The entrance is not cheap, but it's decisely worth the money!

If you are willing to do some shopping in Stockholm I can suggest to start here:
  • The science fiction bookshop, offers a wide choice of books (of course) and GW miniatures, some boardgames and interesting gadgets. 
  • Alphaspel (I didn't visited it, but its website looks interesting)
  • Probably there is also a GW shop, but since I'm not really into GW, so I didn't check.

Of course I did not forgot to contact Dalauppror, And...we managed to get a game of The Pikeman Lament! I could bother you with the AAR of the game, but he's already written about it in its blog, so just read here.

So, it's everything from Stockholm. As travel suggestions: low cost flights are aivalable and (from Europe) reasonably priced, I have no special advice, since people are kind and they all speak an awesome English, so I never had any difficulty in my trip. Just remember that the weather can get quit cold, so be prepared both for sun and for snow!

~ My thanks to Fabio for reviewing this post ~

domenica 23 aprile 2017

A game with Ronin and some thoughts about it

After some months since our last game, yesterday Marco and I played Ronin, a skirmish game by the Osprey wargaming series, written by Craig Woodfield and set during the Sengoku Jidai, litteraly the “Age of warring states”, i.e. the “feudal Japan” or “the age of Samurai”!

It was a project we started last year and we quickly painted up our forces (the started warband, or buntai) can be made up using about five models. Marco chose Samurai, I chose Sohei Warrior Monks, Stefano, Alberto and Edoardo also went Samurai. All our models are from Perry miniatures, except on Reaper Ronin (which is currently having issues with his sword).
For a good review about mechanics read this blog: they explain the game very well.

The two buntai (warbands) (150 points) in our game were: Bushi (i.e. Samurai Faction) and Sohei (Warrior Monks).

Marco's Bushi buntai approching!

2 Ashigaru with yari
1 Ashigaru with Yumi
1 Ashigaru with Teppo
1 Samurai with Katana, Intuition, Kenjutsu
1 Hatamoto mounted on Warhorse, Kenjutsu, Bujutsu

1 Initiate with Naginata
1 Initiate with Yumi
1 Initiate with Teppo
2 Sohei with Naginata, Naginatajutsu
1 Senior Sohei with Tetsubo, Fast, Poweful

I arrived late at the club, so we could play just 6 turns out of 12.  It was quite a long time since we last played Ronin, so resolving shooting and combat took a bit more time than usual.

We chose a skirmish scenario, and rolled for weather and time of the day heavy mist and night. They both reduce LOS to 12”, so shooting had a small impact in this game, which quickly degenerated into a massive melee in the middle of the battlefield.

A consideration I did when chosing the scenario is that, even if there are 7 scenarios included in the rulebook, but 2 (duel and tournament) are of small interest to me, and another (assassination), though interesting, involves a ninja buntai, with its own special rules and, although historically correct, is to be considered a “special” scenario. So, the basic scenarios for “normal” buntai reduce (to me) to encounter battle, capture and objective, defend an objective, raid/defend a village. I will probably check En Garde! to gain further inspiration.
We also wanted to try how mounted combat works and so spent some time checking on the rules the exact mechanic. Our opinion is that, although the differences between mounted and normal combat are small, they flow elegantly in the general combat mechanic determined by combat pool. The mounted models may perform ride through attack, which at the expense of halving the combat pool of both fighters, allows the riders to move in the combat phase (before and after resolving combat). This add a completely new layer of strategy to the game. Another very lovely nuance is the possibility for assaulted models to choose to attack the horse or the rider.

My general impression is that this set of rules provides some occasions of strategic thinking, sometimes very chess like, but with the random element of the dice rolling. Using more than the basic 100 points, will, however, led to a game not so quick as other skirmish game. We would probably have needed at least a total of 3 hours to end the game with ease. Probably with more experience this time could be considerably reduced (maybe to 2 hours). 

The game was suspended at the middle of the action, but Marco’s retinue lost two models, and I had to models seriously wounded, so any possibility was still open, and for this reason I decided not to have a complete description of the game. I will do one when I’ll have a complete game to describe in detail (excuse the pun).

We had a debate during the game: do the stunned counters and light/grievius wounds initiative malus stack or not? It's clearly stated that stunned counters are cumulative, but the model just suffer a -1 for the initiative roll. Any idea? My thought was that yes, they stack, Marco didn't think so.

mercoledì 12 aprile 2017

Pikeman's lament unit cards

As I discussed here, we found summary cards for LR units' stats very useful both for our games and for conventions to illustrate the game to newbies. They contain all the information any player with some knowledge of the rules can require to play the game smoothly. Also they're quite inspiring and aesthetically better than roster sheets. Inspired by Tim Charzinski LR unit cards I decided to realise cards or The Pikeman's Lament, too (PL from now on).

PL is a game wrote by Daniel Mersey and Michael Leck set during the age of...pikemen, of course, exactly Pike and Shot, thus meaning approximately the 17th century, an age of costant wars, the English Civil War, The Thirty Years War, The Eight Years War, and continuous fighting along the borders of Europe, involving Ottoman, Polish, Russian, Venetians, Spanish against Berbers and many others. (check Desperta Ferro for Spanish Tercio in North Arfrica).

Lion Rampant cards use the same flag in the background for all factions (and it couldn't be otherwise: too many Nations, Kingdoms, Caliphates, Emirates, Signorie, Duchy, Empires during Middle Ages). I decided to characterize some Nations with a different background flag, of course the list is incomplete, but we can work on some more with time.

I decided not to follow always the most historical flag, I preferred to have a quickly identifiable one, based on the assumption the flags will be printed on black and white, so the various crosses would all have looked the same (Swede, Denmark for example). I know the heraldic lion rampant for Sweden isn't the most correct choice, but it seemed to me the less time consuming option.

Here is the link to the cards!

The starter set includes:
  • Sweden (can use also for Scotland)
  • Holy Roman Empire (or Austrians Asburg)
  • France
  • Royalist (can be used as England during TYW)
  • Parlamentarian 
Will follow soon:
  • Ottoman Empire
  • Most Serene Republic of Venice
  • Catholic League 
  • Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth

We are looking for in-period heraldic for:
  • United Province (we cannot use the three banded flag, would look awful)
  • Russian? 
  • Moghul?

Working on the cards with Davide!

Since I'm barely able to use Paint I ask a friend, who recently got his Master in Computer Graphic and he's starting his business. If you ever need a graphic help, may contact him via LinkedIn.
(that is my way to thank him for the help, hope this small advertisement doesn't bother you)