Monday 30 April 2012

The Delvers do it Differently

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The Dagenham Delvers met last night for a different sort of roleplaying game. The Evil GM pleaded overwork and lack of preparation so we didn't play our regular DandD 4E campaign game. Instead another member of the group, Dave, stepped up and introduced us to another game system suited to short one or two session games. So on Friday night we donned Lycra (metaphorically) and became Superhero's for an evening.

The Marvel Heroic Roleplaying game has a fairly simple but nuanced game system (known as Cortex Plus) at its heart. Roleplaying and combat are based on a simple set of attributes unique to the character of choice. Characters are pre-generated but can come from any part of the Marvel universe. Some basic knowledge of these comic book characters is useful but not essential as descriptions and histories are provided with each Superhero sheet.

Our stand-in GM is something of a Comic Book Geek so there was no shortage of background information when we needed it. This was useful as most of the rest of the group have a very patchy knowledge of the Marvel Universe and some members of the Delvers haven't even seen the Hollywood movies based on the characters. Despite this lack of background knowledge the game still worked well as pretty much all the information you need is on the character sheets.

I played Iron Man, the Evil GM took on the role of Spider-man and Derek became Wolverine for the evening. Even Andy - living in Lincoln 140 miles away - dialled in using Skype and played Captain America. The game was a relatively simple two act 'beat up the bad guys' scenario. Combat mechanics favour cooperative play, imaginative problem solving and story driven roleplaying. The result was a surprisingly fun and creative session without a miniature in sight.

Its been a while since we played an exclusively roleplaying game without miniatures and it was an enjoyable experience. Combat for instance involved building a dice pool utilising the various attributes on the character sheet. Because combat isn't restricted by simple "I hit with my sword" or "I shoot my pistol" the player is encouraged to be creative and much more theatrical in his/her actions.

For instance Iron Man makes a Solo Attack (Add d10 to the dice pool), and utilises his Cutting Edge Tech, ie his suit (add d8) and Superhuman Strength (add d10) to flip a chunk of broken concrete in the air before hitting it with his Repulsors (add d8) to create a concrete shrapnel blast (area attack add d6 for each additional target) to hit the Bad Guy and his minions. They then use their attributes to build a defence and we compare results to see who wins and how much damage is done. Its a little more complex than this description but its still a simple system that allows for an infinite variety of actions.

We played out the two 'acts' of this scenario which has set up a follow up game for another session. Hopefully next time we can get a little more done as we have a better understanding of the rule mechanics and have fewer technical difficulties (our Skype connection to Lincoln kept crashing). Overall it was fun and challenging which is all you need in an RPG. For more info about the game check out this great review on RPG.Net.

Apparently there is also a fan produced Fantasy RPG conversion utilising the same mechanics and we might give this a try in future.

Sunday 29 April 2012

Big Picture - Back from France

This weeks Big Picture is another one from the archive of the Newlyn Collection. There is little by way of identifying markings on this print other than a typed note on the back that says "Back From France - 19.6.40 - Members of the B.E.F.still smiling on their return to London from France".

Back From France 

Following their encirclement and defeat by the Germans what was left of the BEF and other Allied troops were trapped at the port of Dunkirk. The War Office decided to evacuate British forces on 25 May and over nine days from 27 May-4 June, 338,226 men escaped.

Friday 27 April 2012

Wembley - A rare non gaming post!

Regular readers won't find it unusual when I say that I'm not interested in Football. The Beautiful Game is a bit of a mystery to me, probably because there are no dice involved. So it may come as a surprise when I tell you that I went to Wembley Stadium yesterday and took part in a very interesting tour. This post has no wargaming connections of any kind - I just wanted to show off a few pictures - so if you're not interested don't feel obligated to read further!

Needless to say I wasn't at Wembley for the footballing heritage but as part of my job. I work in the Oil Industry and part of my role is as a Safety Representative for my site. Our main supplier of safety equipment was holding a 'Meet the Experts' day where we could talk to a range of manufacturers of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). The tour of the stadium was part of the event and as I've never been to Wembley since the rebuild I thought it would be interesting to take a look around.

Wembley Stadium is huge and when you are down pitch side it looks even bigger. Walking out of the players tunnel its easy to see why so many footballers are Divas: nobody could keep their feet on the ground with 90,000 fans all cheering for you!

I have to say it was an interesting tour, even for a bloke like me who has no interest in football of any kind. I was more interested in the architecture of the building than its significance to British football. While the others on my tour were probably fantasising about playing football on the pitch, I was quietly mulling over the list of jobs sitting on my painting desk back home!

Haynes Tiger Manual

I've just finished reading the Haynes Tiger Tank Owners Workshop Manual. I wanted to buy this earlier but I actually got it as part of my 'Goodie Bag' at the end of Tiger Day. Now that I've finished it I have to say it was a darn good read.

Unlike a traditional Haynes manuals these books are not exclusively given over to technical drawings and instructions on how to change the smallest washer. This is much more of a history book than its cover suggests but with lots (and I mean lots) of detailed drawings and photos which show this particular vehicle in greater detail in a published work than I have ever seen before.

Much of the information presented in this book was gathered during the two periods of restoration this tank has undergone but a significant portion was also derived from the technical reports prepared by the Tank Evaluation Centre at Chobham shortly after its capture. There are also more pictures of Tiger 131 on the battlefield where it was found abandoned that I have seen published anywhere else.

All the main systems of the Tiger are discussed and evaluated in this volume from the troublesome engine to the much feared 88mm gun. But some myths are also dispelled such as the idea that the tank wasn't as agile as other tanks or that it was slow compared to its rivals. However its clear from reading this book that the unreliability of the tiger was very much a feature of how it was driven and cared for by the crew. Under battlefield conditions and in the stress of battle the Tigers systems - pushed to the edge of material and technical  tolerances for the time - could be pushed too far resulting in breakdowns and increasing the need for maintenance.

I thought I knew a lot about tank systems but after reading this volume I can say that my understanding of the Tiger has undergone a step-change in comprehension. This book is a tread-heads dream in the level of detail and insight it reveals about this iconic vehicle. It would be great if the Tank Museum could collaborate to produce similar manuals on other classic tanks in their collection (my vote would go for the Sherman or T34). Simply put if you love tanks you'll love this book and should go and buy it without delay!

Thursday 26 April 2012

The Battle of Salutesville - ACW 15mm

After a great but exhausting day at Salute on Saturday the Rejects gathered on the Sunday for an American Civil War game using the Fire and Fury Rules. We invited three guests along, all fellow wargaming Bloggers that we have got to know online and met for the first time at the show; Curt from Analogue Hobbies; Tamsin the Wargaming Girl and Sebastion of Back to the Minis.

The order of each players Division along the deployment zone was fixed to specific areas before the game although individual Brigades could be deployed as the players saw fit. Each player then rolled a dice to see how far onto the table they could deploy their forces. The confederates were fortunate as they were able to deploy almost half way across the table, suiting their aggressive battle-plan.

The disposition of the two armies was as follows:

Union Army - McClellan
1st Corps (Hooker)
    1st Division - Doubleday - Indiana
    2nd Division - Pickett - New York
5th Corps (Porter)
    1st Division - Morrell - Michigan
    2nd Division - Sykes - Maine
12th Corps (Mansfield)
    1st Division - Williams - Pennsylvania
    2nd Division - Greene - Ohio
Cavalry Division - Pleasanton (*Reserve*)
Artillery Corps - 4 Guns (*Reserve*) (Didn't arrive)

Confederate Army - Lee
1st Corps (Longstreet)
    1st Division - Anderson - Alabama
    2nd Division - Jones - Virginia
    3rd Division - McClaws - South Carolina
    4th Dvision - Hood - Texas (*Reserve*)
Cavalry Division - Stuart - Virgina/Georgia/S Carolina
Artillery Corp - 3 Guns (*Reserve*)

The confederate cavalry on the right flank were tasked with keeping the Union troops on that side of the river from crossing the bridge (and thereby flanking the 1st Division). The 1st and 2nd Divisions job was to push forward, make contact with the Union forces before them and keep pushing until one side of the other broke. Meanwhile the 3rd division would hold the left flank open so that the 4th Division reserves had room to deploy and enter the battle between the 2nd and 3rd Divisions.

Initial deployment. (Union Left, Confederates Right)

Similarly the Union plan was to make their weight of numbers count in the centre and feed in Brigades from their right flank (opposite the confederate cavalry) to strengthen the centre and overwhelm the Rebels. They also had a lot of Artillery but unlike the Confederates could not deploy and unlimber them immediately.

The Rebel cavalry screen took a battering but it did its job and held up the Union troops trying to take the bridge.

The battle for the centre went back and forth throughout the game.

The battle quickly became a hard and bloody slogging match in the centre with huge melee's ebbing and flowing across the centre line. Despite being outnumbered the better quality veterans of the Confederacy eventually began to push back the poorer conscript troops of the Union.

The seemingly never ending supply of Union troops counted for little against determined Veteran rebels.

It didn't all go to plan for the Rebels but they were able to regroup battered Brigades and return them to the fight time and again while one by one Union Brigades began to be swept from the field.

The Union troops on their right flank beat back the Confederates time and again

Confederate reserves with General Lee arrive and bolster the Rebel line
By the end of the game it was clear that the confederates had the upper hand in the centre and that the Union troops there were at or beyond breaking point. Having said that the Union still had several uncommitted Divisions, albeit out on the flanks and several turns away from playing a significant role.

The Battle Flag of the Army of Northern Virginia, flies victorious over the battlefield of Salutesville.

When the points were totted up it was closer than expected but still a clear victory for the Southern States.

Union Points: 13
Confederate Points: 19

Wednesday 25 April 2012

Salute 2012 - Salute Loot!

I went to Salute with a very specific list of 'wants' and left with everything I was looking for. This year I was shopping right up to the end of the show and a bit beyond it. My last purchase of the day took place about 10 minutes after the show had officially closed. I had been unsuccessfully looking for a Flames of War US Parachute Mortar Platoon and found it quite by chance in a bargain box on the very last stall I went to!

~ German Panzergrenadier HQ from Marquee Miniatures*
~ German Panzergrenadier Platoon from Marquee Miniatures*
~ US Parachute Mortar Platoon*
~ FoW Objective Marker - US Command Tent from Battlefront
~ FoW Objective Marker - Fuel Dump from Wayland Games
~ FoW Barbed Wire Obstacles from Wayland Games
~ FoW Artillery Template*
~ Zvezda Stuka, free from Marquee Miniatures
~ T-Shirt from Help for Heroes
~ 3x Packs of Medium Gravel from Antenociti's Workshop*
~ Greenstuff (Lots of it!)
~ 3x Testors Dullcoat Spray from Antenociti's Workshop*
~ Painted Building (Destroyed Terrace) by Fieldworks.*
~ Painted Building (Destroyed House) by Fieldworks.*
~ Summer Tufts Short and Long from Antenociti's Workshop
~ Salute Torch/Laser Pen
~ 28mm Bromhead - Black Scorpion Miniatures*
~ 28mm Wayland and his Forge, free from Wayland Games.

All the items listed with a * at the end were on my pre-show shopping list, the rest were 'impulse buys'. I think you'll agree that was a successful shopping trip! It looked like all the retailers present were doing brisk trade, with plenty of money changing hands. The show also 'felt' busier than the last few years which I hope is a sign that the event is continuing to grow and that the industry is thriving, even in these tough economic times. I'd be interested to see any figures that might come out to support this view.

All in all Salute 2012 was a roaring success from my perspective. I had a great time, bought everything I wanted, met up with lots of interesting people and saw some truly amazing demo games. Not bad for a one day show.

Tuesday 24 April 2012

Salute 2012 - Slideshow

Let this be my penultimate post on Salute 2012  - one more on my show purchases will be up tomorrow. I've finally finished reordering, labelling, trimming and cutting the album to a petite 270 photo's, down from the 600 I took on the day! So if you have about 15 minutes spare, sit back and enjoy the slideshow. Alternatively click this Picasa Web Link to go straight to the album and flick through at your own speed.

Phew that was hard work! And the job isn't over either. I still have to post about my purchases from Salute (I got some great stuff, really happy) and I haven't even begun to sort through the photo's from the Rejects game - the Battle of Salutesville! - from the Sunday.

Salute 2012 - Show Review - Part 2

Here's the second part of my SALUTE 2012 pictures. I'm refraining from a long winded analysis of this excellent show simply because so many other bloggers have already covered this ground and done it well. However I do have a few observations I'd like to share.

There are still Demo games being put on with absolutely no identification of who they are, what they are playing or even just the table number. This makes identifying pictures after the event very difficult. I think I have been able to 'get' everyone I photographed but some of the games were difficult to identify. More importantly whats the point of running a demo game if nobody knows who you are? OK, I could have talked to more people running games but often there were only one or two people 'on duty' and they were already busy. A simple sign or label for the game would save a lot of messing about, and can even spark some conversation.

Talking of conversation I have to say that my home made flash diffuser started more conversations than I care to remember. If I had made a load and sold them at Salute I would have made a fortune! I would have loved to bring my SLR but to get the best from this I would have needed to bring two lenses, my tripod and other gear which would have weighed me down. As it was my Olympus digital compact performed excellently with minimal weight and space taken up meaning that my bag could be entirely dedicated to shopping (more on my show Loot in another post).

I struggled to get round the whole show this year. IMHO it has reached the point where I think it either has to stop growing, or become a two day show. I spoke about this with a lot of traders and show attendees and many people seemed to agree with me. But some of the traders were clearly uncertain if a two day event was financially viable for them because it is so expensive to have a stand at this show. That's not a criticism of The Warlords, merely an observation of the cost of hosting a show at Excel. (Talking of costs, the food/drink vendors were bordering on criminal with their prices this year!). I would love to take part in some of the Participation games but in it's current format there just isn't enough time.

I thought the standard of the display games this year went from "Impossibly Good" to "Awesome!". The Demo game eye candy is always one of the things I most like about Salute. But I have to say the Corunna table by the Essex Gamesters was amazing and a very worthy winner of this years Salute Challenge Shield. Well done guys.

Here are some more pictures from the show.

The 'Meet the Rejects' session went very well with lots of people coming to say hello. Here The Angry Lurker collects his prize from The Wargaming Girl, Tasmin. 

Uxbridge Gamers - Border Incursion

Newbury & Reading - The Battle for Homs 1620 BC

Skirmish Wargames - Falklands Skirmish

South East Essex Military Society - Kingdoms in the Dust

Les Marie Louise Des Flandres - La Der des Der

Taylor's Crew - Beyond the Tannhausser Gate

A very happy (but knackered) BigLee near the end of the show. 

The Salute Challenge Shield - won by the Essex Gamesters - Corunna 1809

Essex Gamesters - Corunna 1809

Essex Gamesters - Corunna 1809

Essex Gamesters - Corunna 1809

Essex Gamesters - Corunna 1809

Essex Gamesters - Corunna 1809

Essex Gamesters - Corunna 1809

Essex Gamesters - Corunna 1809
Star Wars 'Reenactor's'

I'm still editing the mass of photo's from Salute but everything is labelled and tagged, I just need to cut out those pictures that don't make the grade. I will make the whole album - including many pictures not already seen - available as a slideshow later today.

Monday 23 April 2012

Salute 2012 - Show Review - Part 1

Although I was able to knock together a Video of Salute 2012 pretty quickly (thanks to some new software I purchased specifically for the job) the pictures have proved a much tougher ordeal. I shot about 600 photo's on Saturday and I have been steadily editing away at these in an attempt to bring this down to a reasonable number. When I have finished culling my pictures I'll post them as a slideshow but in the meantime here's a few of my favourite photo's of the many outstanding games on display at Salute 2012. There are more to come, but this is the first instalment.

Deal Wargames - Invasion of Denmark

Lance and Longbow Society - Battle of Grandson

GLC Games - Battle of Sagrajas

Oshiro Model Terrain - Assault on New Victoria

Oshiro Model Terrain - Battle of Komagane

Herne Bay & Whitstable - Crush The Kaiser

Phoenix Game Club - Jason & the Argonauts

Ilford Wargamers - HMS Aeronautica-REX

Greek Phalanx by Ancient & Modern

Donnington 'New Era' - Agincourt

Maidstone Wargames Society - Operation Deadstick

Wargames Illustrated - Siege of Sevastopol

Victrix - Battle for La Vajol

Loughton Strike Force - Aspern Essling 1809

Loughton Strike Force - Aspern Essling 1809

Chemins de Feu - Slowing the Tide - Baltic War

Bob Cordery's Portable Wargame -Seven Weeks War 1866

Continental Wars Society - Swiss Civil War – Battle of Gislikon

Newbury & Reading Wargames Society - Into the Hornet's Nest

South London Warlords - Scarlet Thunder

The quality of the games this year was exceptional. I love eye candy events like this because it inspires me for the rest of the year. There are plenty of more pictures to post so keep an eye open for Part 2 of this Photo review tomorrow. Hopefully by then I will also be in a position to post a slideshow of the finished and fully edited album!