Friday, 17 February 2017

A close run thing...

No guessing what this little ramble is about then... A quite uninspiring box holding a game which is well worth a look at, promise.

Napoleonics, Naps or whatever you may wish to call it, an intriguing time in history, possibly seeing the first real 'world war' with battles on most continents. Overly large characters and perhaps the last real effective 'sweeping armies' - fast firing weapons was to put an end to the 'effective' nomincular, although obviously didn't stop Commanders trying it. Naps - my first real wargaming love...

I was in mid to late primary school when I got friendly with one of our teacher's sons (who didn't go to our school). His older brother (at Uni doing history) was a wargamer and his bedroom and attic was a treasure trove of 30mm Hinton/Hunt figures all painted in the time honoured dip in red, dry, turn, dip in white technique - but to us they were masterpieces, lead figures in lead paint, but we survived. One holidays he showed us how to play, I presume they were wargames research rules but no real idea. But I was hooked. Couple this with Airfix bringing out their plastics range, a wargame book found in the library (along side 'A hundred days which shook the world') and a mate with a massive bare attic room to play on and we were away. Plastic figures on bar mat bases and books and blankets for hills... what more could we want?

Over the years the fantasy of the Scots Greys' charge and the march of the Old Guard have never been far away, numerous rules, scales etc have been and gone, including my own sets (most notable of which were a FoW derivative called 'Balls of Iron' which apparently had a big following with the Kiwi staff  of Battlefront and was close to being used for something exciting - that never came). But nothing ever really satiated the itch. Probably not helped by my insistence that the Peninsular War was basically 'Early War' and as Shaun, my long suffering mate, says I see May 44 in Italy as 'Early War' - anyway you get the idea. Naps to me is the Hundred Days with the Peninsular as Wellington's pre season warm up.

So, being easy to please (the game has to feature squares which have an outside chance of breaking in some circumstances - bring up the horse arty boys! -  cav charges, fierce close quarter shooting and melee and over exaggerated national characteristics) rams head to head with a want for it to 'feel right' - and for me that feel is basically the feel you get in the epic film 'Waterloo'. I am not bothered in the wheeling rate of xx troops in xxx campaign on xxxx weather affected ground - I want to be cheering and hollering as my Scots Greys ride to glory or doom !

And after alienating myself to a majority of Napoleonic wargamers over the last two paragraphs those unfortunate souls who have persevered must be wondering what this has to do with Command & Colours Naps...

C&C is a popular hex based system which has been used for a variety of games, probably the most widely known one being the 'Memoir '44' game concentrating on D-Day onwards in WWII. Over the years I have played this quite a bit, the ACW version for a while and other non C&C derivatives such as Battle Lore and the Games of Thrones Westeros games. Apparently we did have the Naps version for a while until it got lent out never to be seen again but I can't really remember it.

Naps was out of print by the time the Meeples crew got me interested again a few years back - but that has now changed and version 3 is available and I got one...

I'm not going to labour on the STICKER sticking saga - to be honest it was a pain for an afternoon but a bit like a smack on the thumb with an errant hammer it is now forgotten about, never to be bought up in conversation, ever again!

Here is what the game looks like, in fact this is Waterloo from the Brit perspective. People do swap the bricks out for models but I actually quite like them, it gives a kind of weird 1800s feel. Besides I spent 4 hours sticking the freekin stickers on .... oops wasn't going to mention that was I?

Plenty of other places on the web can tell you about the game play etc etc so I will not labour on it. However, this are some of the aspects I really like:

Fog of War - prevalent in any account of warfare of the age you read, limited visibility, messengers getting killed or lost, erratic generals - you name it, things were not going to go as planned. C&C models this with the card activation/reaction system, and it does it damn well.

Squares - form square boys - yep it works, yes they are hard, if not impossible, to break without combining arty or infantry with your cav charge and yes you can arrange the blocks to look like the chequered squares in the film!

Mine are different from yours - Yep national characteristics abound, love them or hate them, argue they didn't really exist, I don't care the game has them and makes the player play like the Commanders they are pretending to be - love it !

Easy and Quick - from a gamers perspective, will be interesting to see what non gamers think of the simple rules though. But quickish set up and quick play means no getting bored and more than one game a night. What's not to love. 

I could go on of course but no one is probably still reading. So all I have to say is that this avoided me for too long it seems. If you have similar Nap leanings as myself than it is a must to play. If you are interested in the period but don't want to fork out hundreds on figures and painting etc then this is a must. If you hate sticking things to blocks of wood - this is a must so long as you can palm the job off to a mate!

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

On the way home... Ambush, Gangs of Commorragh style...

GW's newest boxed game hit my senses shortly after I found out I loved Blood Bowl. True, I knew nothing about Dark Eldar, very little about 4oK as a whole and, if the truth be known, I was just thinking landspeeder through the forest. Also the Stand Up Paddleboard type skyboards sort of sealed the deal.

There was lots tingling about on the net about how good a deal the game was model wise. 30 odd quid for 16 'bikes' and 'skyboards' apparently worked out around 55% off the actual retail. So a quick visit to the local store and I returned with the game. An afternoon of plastic gluing and a quick spray and I was ready for when Shaun came round to give it a whirl.

Premise wise the game is set in the sky above the choking smog of Commorragh where rival gangs come across each other amongst the spires of the buildings poking through the smog. GW promised fast, furious action, great for single games but apparently with an excellent campaign system. We set off on an evenings action to see if they were right.

Mechanics and rules wise the game is very solid, players alternate activating characters and they move, after all characters have moved then you take it in turns to shoot. Vehicles have a built in turning allowance per move activation, skyboards up to 90 degrees and bikes up to 45 degrees - this has to be made at the start or end of movement. Also they have a minimum and maximum movement. However, each type of vehicle gets access to manoeuvres that can alter your speed, path or alignment (side slip, brake turn which is an extra in move turn, barrel roll etc). Also each type of vehicle has access to specialist maneuverers such as grabs and hook turns for the skyboard and the bikes being able to use the baneblades on their bikes to tear opponents vehicles down.  This leads to crazy action all at a hectic pace.

Combat is pretty easy - agility of the target vehicle is the number on 2d6 you need to equal or beat to give a hit marker, then a kill roll is made which is determined by the kill rating of the weapon used. Cover gives a saving throw to avoid hit, Jinking stops you attacking that round but adds your pilot skill to the hit target number. Lots of choices to be made all round long - and believe me the rounds are quick once you get the hang of it.

Set up is interesting as one side will always be ambushed - one gang starts in the middle, all pointing in the same direction, and the other on the table edge in a random direction from the center. Depending on how well the ambush was planned (ie how much difference between the rolls was) determines if the ambushed gang manage to get in a quick emergency turn before the game starts.

If this was all there was to the game then it would still be worth the money by a long way! But it isn't - the campaign system is elegant, quick and great fun. Starting with having a fight type (as in what you have to do to get extra income or victory points) each player then gets a 'side plot' which can help or hinder one or other player. These also add other terrain/play features to the game - toxid gas clouds, groups of scourgers and the bane of a players life - low battery life on your vehicles !

Another thing I like about the system is your gang is split pre-game into murder packs - the more packs you send out for the day doing 'jobs' the more income you get at the end. BUT the pack that ends up fighting is determined at random! So even before the game begins you have some important choices to make. Members have to be paid, income spent on new members or upgrades from 'deals' that may be offered. 'Killed' vehicles during the game are really just spiralling out of control out of the fight area. After the game they are rolled for - a 1 means they perished amongst the spires - other results may see them miss the next days jobs and fights etc.

All in all it is a great game... Can't praise it enough for a quick (anything up to 35 minutes when playing the campaign) miniature based, campaign driven game!

Well done GW - and that's something I rarely say!