Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Longships – terrain and markers

Last game saw our first attempt at a Battle game; unfortunately, we didn’t finish but it did give us a good feel for the game requirements. If truth be told, we took too long to set the game up. This was mainly trying to find suitable terrain from the club shelves. For the campaign, we will need to make sure the terrain is at hand and ready to go. The armies should also be out of their boxes and in units before the start.

Vikings form up on the ridge line - Saxons move through woods 

First off, we need a gridded play area. This is in hand as ‘Harald the Barrel’ has done a fine job of renovating one of the older club mats and adding a seven inch grid. The mat is still a tad shiny but Harald has taken it way to give it another coat of matte varnish.

There are 3 possible linear terrain items: RoadRiver or Stream.
The River is optional and only used in the Raid game. If used, it is positioned on a long table edge, so we can simply use one of the blue mats for this.
A single Road is compulsory (unless the River is used in the Raid game). Club terrain should be fine for this.
Stream can be one of the terrain choices but only a maximum of one can be used. Again club terrain should suffice.

The remaining terrain items are all area terrain and all occupy two grid squares each.
Buildings. There are 6 compulsory Building areas (i.e. 12 squares) in the Raid game and a maximum of 2 Building areas in the Battle game. We found it necessary to move the buildings around to accommodate the figures, so a building template is really necessary to mark out the Building squares.
Woods. Up to 8 wooded areas may be used (i.e. 16 squares!). Again these would benefit from templates so that the trees can be moved.
Rough Ground (Marsh, bog or crops).  There may be up to 4 areas (8 squares) of marsh, bog or crops.
Rough hill. There may be up to four of these.
Gentle hill. There may be also up to four of these.
Palisade There may be only one of these and it is an option in the Raid game. The palisade surrounds one of the building areas. The club does possess a suitable palisade.

At first sight, the game requires a frightening number of markers - I counted almost twenty different types, described in the rules!  Thankfully, this turns out to be a belt and braces approach and you don't need many at all. I reckon that we can get away with the following:

Casualty bases
In common with most Peter Pig games, casualties are marked with casualty bases. These are not on the table for very long so any suitable marker / token would do, although a base containing a casualty figure is undoubtedly the best.

Units are either in Battle line or March formation. Variants of Battle line are Swinehead and Shieldwall. The former is denoted by a suitable arrangement of the units bases but Shieldwall requires some sort of marker. As it happens I have a number of spare shields mounted on small round bases (from a different game) which will suffice.

Hacking Through or Gaining Ground
The winner of an ongoing melee will be either 'Gaining Ground' or 'Hacking Through'. Both of these can be denoted by an appropriate arrangement of the unit's bases. For 'Hacking Through' position one of the winner's bases so that it is piercing the enemy line. For 'Gaining Ground' advance both flanks of the winning unit as if it were pushing the loser back. This may be tricky with reduced units but any configuration that suggests one side is pushing the other back will be OK as an aide memoire.

Morale Results
Morale affects the number of action dice available to that unit – either lose 2D6 OR lose 4D6. These morale states are mutually exclusive. In our test games we have used the appropriate number of red micro dice.

Fighting Fatigue
At the end of a melee surviving units are fatigued and lose 3 action dice. We have used 3 yellow micro dice (as distinct from the red morale results).

Search Markers and Plunder
 These are only applicable to the Raid game. Each building square (all 12 of them) potentially contains loot. The rules suggest using 12 potential loot markers that are removed after a building square is searched. It actually makes more sense to add a marker after searching, reducing the likely number of required markers.
Plunder markers will be required to designate units that have successfully searched. Theoretically there could be up to 12 of these (one per building square). However, the rules suggest that only about 8 will be necessary. Plunder markers can be locals (i.e. slaves), livestock or loot. I'm sure several of us have civilians and livestock in our collections and I have some chests that will do as loot. 
A single plunder marker may be termed a 'Gift from God'. The rules suggest a princess, holy person or a chap with a big treasure chest. I have a Bishop miniature which may do the job.

Saxons in shieldwall are gaining ground. Vikings have 3D6 fatigue and a 4D6 morale result

Vikings (with 3D6 fatigue) are Hacking Through the Saxon Shieldwall (which has a 2D6 morale result)

Saturday, 9 March 2019

Longships Campaign - Spring Update

We now have all the pledged units in with the addition of the final Viking army (MS).

Pledged units:
General Egil the Grumpy
Unit 1 Bjorn Raven Head with 1 Berserker, 3 armoured, 3 unarmoured
Unit 2 Einar the Grey Wolf with 1 Berserker, 3 armoured, 3 unarmoured
Unit 3 Hakon the Mental with 1 armoured, 4 unarmoured, 2 Levy
Unit 4 Ulf the Mad with 1 Berserker, 1 armoured, 3 unarmoured
Unit 5 Svein the Perplexed with 2 armoured, 3 unarmoured, 1 Levy

In other news the start date for the campaign is officially July.

We have had one playtest of the raid game so far and hope to try out the battle game next week. After that we will have a better appreciation of the terrain requirements and how many markers will be needed.

The armies are still gathering but I can report that the Saxons are complete and I have finished painting my first Viking boat crew. I believe Harald the Barrel's Vikings are pretty much finished as well. (How about some photos Harald?)

So without further ado, let's meet the Saxons.

Ealdorman Odda's Saxon Army

As per the initial brief these are mainly vintage 25mm figures; largely Viking Miniatures plus Minifigs with the odd sprinkling of other makes such as Corvus, Essex, Irregular and the odd Dixon. As a nod to their vintage (and Uriah's static grass allergy) I've also used a slightly retro basing. OK I've used a slightly more sophisticated basing technique than back in the day but I've essentially gone for green flock.

Each army consists of five main units plus a general. The Saxons are under the command of Ealdorman Odda - who I believe is an Essex figure on a Prince August homecast horse.

Ealdorman Odda
Each unit has one base designated as the leader. Here I have deviated slightly from the brief and used newer 28mm figures; I had some Tanatus Miniatures (my favourite Saxon figures) left over from another project. These figures are very nicely proportioned and essentially just look like tall people. As leaders they work fine - the 'Big Man' principle in action.
Each base consists of a leader, a hornblower and a standard bearer.

A leader base
The Saxon army is allowed a small number of Champion bases; these are equivalent to the Viking Berserkers but are armoured. Again I have gone for a single 28mm figure on the base in addition to two 25mm figures. I think the figures are Gripping Beast and hence quite hefty; seems appropriate for a Champion.

A champion base
Now to the main fighting bases. The best of these are classed as armoured. I have gone for 3 figures per base, one of which is an axeman. The double handed axe is possibly something of an anachronism for the 9th century, particularly for the Saxons,but I had rather a lot of these in the lead pile.

An Armoured base 
The standard fighting base is classed as unarmoured. Again I have gone for 3 figures per base and tried to use figures either without armour or non metallic armour.

An Unarmoured base
Lastly, the worst troops are classed as levy. There is little visible difference between these and the unarmoured bases but I have gone for four figures per base to distinguish them. 

A Levy base
 The best unit in the army is a fully armoured unit. The Saxons are allowed 5 armoured bases and nothing else other than the leader in this unit. As the unit contains 3 or more armoured bases it counts as a superior unit. The unit is led by Thegn Osric and represents the Ealdorman's household troops.

The Ealdorman's Household

Next up we have two unit's from the Shire fyrd. Unit 2 is commanded by the Shire Reeve Hrothgar (or Sheriff Roger!). The unit contains a champion (Steapa) and 3 armoured bases; hence superior.

Shire Reeve Hrothgar
Unit 3 is another from the shire fyrd but this time with only 2 armoured bases and a champion (Clapa). This unit also contains some levy. The Reeve Stuf commands here.

Stuf's Fyrd
 Next we have unit four commanded by Aethelhere Spear Chucker. He's spear chucker as no matter how many times I glued it the spear would just drop off! These are local troops from the nearest burgh. They contain a high proportion of unarmoured and levy.

Aethelhere Spear Chucker
 For the last unit we have the Bishop's men. These are drawn from the Bishop's estates and contain 3 levy bases; hence an inferior unit.

Bishop Dunn

Dunn is something of an in joke, although it is actually a real Saxon name. Many years ago, when we were mere teenagers, we played mainly WRG rules. As an IGOUGO system, at the end of every move we would ask the active player, 'Are you done?'. To which the invariable reply was to point at a random figure and announce, 'No, he's done.' What can I say? We were young, silly and easily amused.

The Road to Stalingrad – Turn 6

The next game was to be a truly monumental battle that spanned two games nights.

Turn  6 (Map 4, afternoon 19th August 1942)

For the second attack we were expecting the Germans to try to push on our left flank. Hence we began the patrol phase more to our left than previously. At the end the German had the expected jump off point on our left table edge but we had countered this with a line of jump off points on our left flank – including the all-important anti-tank gun position.

Both sides rolled low Force Morale, for this game, both starting on eight. The Chain of Command dice were going to be important to negate morale tests in this battle.

All in all we were happy with our starting position but the bad news, for us, was that the Germans had instigated a pregame barrage which would make it difficult for us to deploy when we wanted. So on to our first command roll…….

Three sixes! More importantly the Turn end and the end of the barrage – phew!

Over to the Germans and once more they established a base of fire in the farmyard.

This was followed up by the appearance of a Panzer IV on the road.

As before, our anti-tank gun crew put in a heroic effort and after several phases of firing forced the tank to retreat off board.

After this set back the Germans changed tactics and advanced a recon half-track through the ploughed field. We deployed our anti-tank rifle team behind the hedge and took pot shots at the speeding half-track.  This was decidedly ineffective but it did encourage the Germans to move flat out – with the inevitable consequence i.e. one bogged down half-track. Unfortunately, the anti-tank gun team were not to survive the onslaught of return fire from the Panzergrenadiers in the farm but we had forced the recon team to debus.

The unfortunate recon team were now in the open and broke under the weight of fire from the Russian defence.

With yet another attack stymied, the German brought on another half-track only to fall victim to our ant-tank gun – first killing the driver and then blowing up the vehicle. Fortunately for the Germans, the crew escaped and took shelter behind the farm.

In a last ditch effort the Germans brought on yet another half-track and advanced across the ploughed field. This time they had learnt their lesson and advanced at a cautious pace to avoid bogging.

There was little that we could do to prevent its advance and remained hidden behind the hedge. We did consider waiting until close range and attempting to drive it off with LMG fire. However, the Germans had built up a truly awesome base of fire in the farm opposite. This now contained the original garrison, the Panzergrenadier squad from the destroyed half-track, a light mortar team and the rallied recon team. With five LMGs and a light mortar, all on overwatch, sticking a head over the hedge was not an appealing prospect. Instead we let the half-track advance as close as we dared and lobbed grenades at it. They all missed but it was a tense moment for the Germans - their commander was even seen to loosen his tie!

Although, the grenade attack had failed the Germans were encouraged to debus and advanced to the hedgeline. Faced by the massive amount of firepower amassed in the farm there was no way we were going to engage in a fire fight. I reckoned the best thing to do was withdraw into the woods and make them come to us. I also reasoned that an apparent withdrawal on our behalf would encourage the German to do something rash.

Sure enough the Germans began a general advance across the field. We then ordered our left most squad back to the hedgeline and with a combination of LMG fire, grenade attacks, a fortunate double phase and extra shooting, gained by spending an interrupt dice; we broke several of the opposing teams.

 At this point the Germans once again conceded defeat. So another win for the Russians. We took some casualties this time but are still in fairly good shape. Will that be enough to throw back a third attack on the same ground though?

Friday, 8 March 2019

The Road to Stalingrad - Turns 3 to 5

Having held up the German advance, on map 1, we decided not to contest the next two maps. However, we did leave the Germans a little surprise in the form of a couple of  'super-mines' prepared by our divisional artillery.

Turn 3 (Map 2, morning 18th August 1942)


An explosion has been seen and heard from the collective farm on Map 2. The Fascists have halted their advance while they clear the road and what looks to be the wreckage of a vehicle.

Death to the fascists vipers,

Comrade Deti

Turn  4 (Map 3, afternoon 18th August 1942)


Another explosion has been seen and heard but this time from the bridge on Map 3. Once more the Fascists have halted their advance while they re-bridge the river. A report has been heard that a vehicle was on the bridge at the time of the explosion.

Death to the fascists vipers,
Comrade Mladenets

Turn  5 (Map 4, morning 19th August 1942)

We chose map 4 as the location for our first real defensive line which would be defended by a Red Army platoon.

View from the Russian lines

Once again the Germans rolled high for their initial patrol moves gaining 6 moves before the Russians could respond. Surprisingly, they opted to take the same approach as that in game one; making a rapid advance straight up the central road. We countered this in the same way, immediately locking down their lead marker. By the end of the patrol phase we had jump off points in the wood and the German jump offs were clustered around the farm. We also deployed two minefields and two sections of wire.

This time the Germans led the attack with a Panzer III supported by a Panzergrenadier squad in a half track. A second squad deployed into the farm.

Luckily we had anticipated such a move and had ensured that we had a jump off point covering our left flank. From here we were able to deploy an anti-tank gun, supported by an infantry section.


After a duel lasting many phases, in which our shot bounced off the tank's frontal armour, we eventually scored a major hit knocking out the stubborn panzer.

In a desperate move the half track raced around the burning tank and sought shelter behind the hedge. From here they unloaded a full panzergrenadier squad. Meanwhile, the Germans seemed yet again fixated by the wire and brought on a pioneer squad to tackle it. They did succeed in removing a section but it would have been quicker to just move around its open flank!

Having now drawn the Germans in, we deployed the rest of the platoon into the wood and proceeded to gain fire superiority on the de-bussed panzergrenadiers. After several phases of intense fire, the grenadiers broke abandoning their half track.
The unfortunate pioneers, out in the open field, had also come under heavy short range fire and also broke.

At this point the German commander decided to call off the attack and retire from the field after heavy losses. And the Russian losses? Nothing. Not a single man. Much jubilation and vodkas all round in the Russian camp!

Saturday, 23 February 2019

Longships - mini update

Today witnessed the first practice game for our summer Longships campaign. The first Viking army is completed (bar the basing) and the Saxons are all finished except for the flags. As both armies were  in a good enough state to get them on the table we cracked on with the first test game.
The idea was to not only learn the rules but also get an idea of all the accessories we would need - i.e. terrain, markers and that sort of thing. As a consequence the table was a bit rough and ready as it just utilized whatever we could lay our hands on at the time.

The table laid out for a raid
We tried a couple of ways to mark out the grid. which was fine but in the end we concluded a bespoke gridded mat would be better. We also concluded that templates were needed to delineate the building squares.
We puzzled over a few aspects of the rules, as expected for a first game, but we think we got there in the end. We were caught out a few times by the odd mechanism that was similar but subtly different from the other Peter Pig rules of which we are more familiar. We also made one or two fundamental errors but I'm fairly confident that the game will crack on at a good pace once we have a few more games under our belts.
As for the game itself, my Saxons were sadly thrashed in their first ever game. We played out the raid pregame which determined that the Saxons would be the defenders.
The game begins with a single defending unit (plus general) on table and the remaining four off table. Although the initial unit is depicted on table it is actually hidden at this point. Unfortunately, I was only able to bring on one other unit all game!

Saxon 'hidden' unit
In contrast. the attackers begin with four units deployed on the table edge and one off table.

Vikings appear in 'march' formation
Whilst the Viking right advanced upon the 'hidden' Saxon unit, the remaining two units were free to plunder the outlying buildings. They never needed to bring on their fifth unit!
The Saxons did bring on another unit fairly early on but that was to be their only reinforcement all game.

Saxon reinforcements arrive by road.

Normally arriving units are subject to a random displacement but these arrived precisely where expected because of the road. The road also confers bonus movement.

Saxon reinforcement advancing into the jaws of defeat
Using the road bonus, the Saxon reinforcements  advanced to support the lone Saxon garrison unit. Unfortunately this left them in march formation within striking distance of the nasty Vikings. Sure enough the raiders pounced on the unfortunate Saxons.

Saxons receive a thrashing
After one round of melee the Vikings were 'hacking through' and the Saxons broke and fled.
As the winning Viking unit was left fatigued I threw my remaining Saxon unit into the fray.

The Saxons final fling

This time the fight went in the Saxon's favour and they were soon 'hacking through' the Viking lines. However, rolling for casualties they lost both the unit leader and the general (anything but a one - twice!). Inevitably they were in a very bad position when it came to the second round of melee. No surprises then that they routed.
This was turn five which signaled the potential end of game (turns beyond five are optional and our offset against victory points). With no units on the field I decided to allow the game to end there and then.
Calculating the victory points at the end gave a convincing win to the Vikings - hardly a surprise really!
In summary, a good game and we're keen to give it another go.

Tuesday, 19 February 2019

The Road to Stalingrad – Turns 1 & 2

Game One. (Map 1, morning 17th August 1942)

Germans advancing from the left map edge. Small circles show Jump Off Points.

The Russians decided to defend the first campaign map with a token force consisting of a Worker’s platoon. This comprised a mere 2 rifle sections plus a senior leader. As the objective was to simply slow down the German advance we allocated them minimal support in the form of a wire section and an anti-tank rifle team.
In the patrol phase, the Russians were on the back foot straight off as the Germans rolled high resulting in 6 moves before the Russians could move a single patrol marker. Taking advantage of this, the Germans aggressively thrust straight up the middle road, almost to the table centre line, and looked set to seize a good amount of ground. The Russians countered this by advancing a central marker to immediately lock down the lead German marker, thereby anchoring their chain of patrol markers and limiting a further advance. At the end of the patrol phase the Germans had a foothold in an outlying barn which looked like a potential good approach into the Russian position, which was based on a line across the rear of the village. In fact this was such an obvious approach route that the Russians laid down their single wire section to block such an advance.

The Table layout - Jump Off Points circled

The Germans began their deployment by bringing on a half-track from the rear table edge.

As expected they then deployed a Panzergrenadier section into the barn.

Seemingly fixated by the idea of an advance from the barn, the Germans advanced two sections up to the barbed wire. So far the Russians had remained hidden but the Germans seemed unsure of how to deal with the wire.

To limit any further advance, by the Germans, the Russians deployed a rifle section into the village.

The Germans attempted to move around the wire and deploy in to the fields - where they were hit by the fire from a single Russian LMG. Only one hit but it turned out to be a ‘kill’ and the Junior Leader dropped to the ground wounded. A roll on the ‘Bad Things Happen’ table and the Germans dropped two in Force Morale.

The Russians followed this by deploying their final rifle section into the village. Once again only a single LMG is able to get into position but they were laying down crossfire on to the advancing Germans.

At this point German morale collapsed (that's player morale not Force Morale) and they decided they were in a no win situation and retreated!

So an unexpected win for the Russians and the Germans must try again in game two.

Game Two. (Map 1, afternoon 17th August 1942)

This time around, the Germans only had a three move advantage at the start of the patrol phase. As a consequence the Russians were able to keep them out of the village and the German Jump Off Points were all on the table edge.

This time the German advance would be led by a tank. We let this advance until we could get a flank shot from our anti-tank rifle team, deploying from our leftmost Jump Off Point. A great shot from Ivan, on the anti-tank rifle, disabled the tank’s main gun. Good news for the Russians – if not for Ivan, as the Germans retaliated by deploying a whole panzergrenadier section to fire upon the unfortunate ATR team. No more Ivan (hence no photo!).

The Germans continued the previous game’s wire fixation by advancing the tank into the field with the wire. The Russians responded by deploying a rifle section into the farmhouse. Unfortunately, the rear of the house had no windows but we were able to position a LMG in the back doorway. There then commenced a duel, lasting multiple phases, in which the heroic LMG gunner attempted to scare off the tank which could only reply with its bow machine gun.

Eventually, the Germans brought up two panzergrenadier sections (one in a half track) to concentrate machine gun fire on poor Boris the LMG gunner.

Not surprisingly, the heroic Russian rifle section, now down to a junior leader and the LMG team, broke and fled to the rear of the village. With the Jump Off point under threat, the Russians used a Chain of Command dice to relocate it to the rear. However, with this flank now under threat we were forced to deploy our last section into the rightmost barn. 

This last section did sterling work holding up the German advance but ultimately was essentially surrounded. In desperation, the Russian senior leader led a charge against the nearest panzergrenadier squad but was shot down in the attempt. The remnants of the squad, namely the junior leader and the LMG gunner, also broke and fled to the rear.

With only for men left on the table, and all of those broken, the Russians conceded defeat.