Friday, October 17, 2014

Poldercon First Edition!

February 8th the first edition of Poldercon blasts off into the annals of history! The new format wargames event of the Low Countries!

Watch the trailer here: PolderCon 2015 trailer

Register here:

Be there! 

Monday, October 6, 2014

Jugula game review and first game

A long long time ago my wargaming life received one of its first powerful impulses through the game of Spacehulk, now in its third (and second limited, haha) reincarnation. It was one of those delightful crossovers between board- and miniature tabletop wargames that played fast and furious and still looked terrific. Every once in a while another such game comes along and this year it is Jugula by Studio Tomahawk.

Contrary to Spacehulk Jugula is not an out-of-the-box game. It is made up out of a rule set, a minimum of one card deck per player and a simple but pretty paper playing board suitable for playing  on with pieces like 28mm figures which you have to provide yourself. It is a game about gladiatorial combat, but it is more of a board game, not a war game in the strict sense of the word. It is played on a board of 64 squares (so a chess board would work just fine in a pinch) and played with a minimum of 4 different playing pieces per side. It can accommodate 2 to 4 players.

The 4 playing pieces per player represent 4 different Gladiators, taken straight from the heydays of the Roman Empire. You can assemble a team by choosing 4 Gladiator cards from a deck of 12 different types, divided in light or heavy gladiators. The well-known, like the Murmillo, the Retiarius, the Secutor and the Thraex are here, but also the more mysterious ones like the Scissor and the semi-mythical Crupellarius

I came upon an odd thing here; the Thraex (or Thracian), with his double greaves, leggings, arm guard, shield and helmet one of the heavier historical types, is a light gladiator in Jugula while the historically light Hoplomachus with his spear, small shield, arm guard and helmet is a heavy one. I am still wondering whether these two were not simply confused with one another ….

Each gladiator type has specific speed, attack and defense stats, which also depend on whether the opponent is a heavy or a light gladiator. Attack- and defense values are enhanced or penalized based on attacks from the front, rear or side and fighting multiple opponents. On top of that, some gladiators have specific traits, like the net-fighting Retiarius who can pin an opponent in place. When wounded, the gladiator’s card is flipped to reveal his (inferior) wounded stats. Finally, attacks have ranges. Swords can only attack adjacent squares, while whips, spears and bows range further.

The gaming cards is where the game’s tactical genius shows. Each player starts the game with a deck of basic cards with varying values that perform multiple functions. A card may be spent either to move or fight with one or more figures, to draw a variable number of new cards to your hand, to buy “Prima” bonus cards that offer enhanced values, to enhance your audience support (the “Vox Populi”) that gives you bonuses on attacks and a bigger hand of cards or they can double as dice throws in the combats. So managing your hand of cards requires you to balance a LOT of priorities and enables a wide range of tactics. Should you invest in increasing your vox populi and gain an Attack bonus? Or should you buy Prima cards to increase your chances in the long term? And of course you have to take into account the strengths and weaknesses of your Gladiators.

Combat is what wins the game in the end. Three points win a game, a wounded opponent being 1 point and a killed one 2 points. Gladiators attack opponents within range in their front when you spend a card on them with its attack function. Each player then draws a card from his hand with a die score, adds attack or defense values and bonuses to determine the winner, who must have the highest score. Doubling your opponents’ score means a wound, tripling it means a kill, simply topping it means pushing your opponent straight back. When it is impossible to move back, he gets a wound instead. So don’t let them gang up on you or get pushed against the wall!

Apart from stand-alone games you can also go completely Campaign and start a lanista, a gladiator school. You pick starting teams and play games with them, eventually developing new skills or traits and fighting your own gladiator stable to the top of the lists for fortune and eternal fame!

Jugula offers the suggestion to play with the paper board and 28mm figures. But of course you can always go completely overboard and build massive arenas with customized figures. I chose 1/32 figures and a big wooden board with a sand floor. In time I will build a circular gallery with Vox Populi counters to really make it look like an arena, but so far the big figures and the round arena board look spiffing, don't you agree? I thought you would. 

For our first game we both chose a team of two lights and two heavies. You start the game at your board edge and in order to avoid getting pinned to the wall you need to get into the arena ASAP. And we both did. I quickly invested in two expensive Prima cards and some Vox Populi points and tried to isolate one of my opponents' Gladiators. You spend quite some cards on maneuvring around, circling each other and looking to corner your opponent before you can strike and don't forget you only get to play one card per turn, so you can either move or fight or do something else. Early on I got lucky and wounded one opponent. Eventually I managed to sandwiched an enemy Provocator and killed him! Habet!

Jugula for two players plays in about an hour per game. With a few games under my belt, I can justly say it is a joy to play and I haven't even tried the Campaign game yet. And last but not least, you get the excuse to buy a few handfuls of Gladiators!

Released in 2014
Publisher: Studio Tomahawk
Price: 20 GBP for the rulebook, 7 GBP or 9 Euros per card deck, of which each player needs one.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Jugula Project in 1/32

After getting inspired for Jugula by enthusiastic tales from friends, I decided to do it in 1/32. Cheap as well as impressive. Here are the results so far:

I used the two 1/32 Pegasus sets for this project. These sets provide 8 different historical figures each, in suitably active poses. I also bought the Italeri set, which was a bit of a disappointment. It did contain 16 figures, but two of each and there was an unmistakable fantasy element added to the designs. Apart from that, only three of the figures actually seem to be fighting. The rest seems a bit too relaxed for a long life in the arena.....
It did contain however, a bear and a lion (two of each) 

The Retiarius (netfighter) and his tradditional opponent the Secutor, both by Pegasus.

A Pegasus Scissor and an Italeri Thraex ( I think, for he is missing his helmet). You can see that the Italeri sculpting is beautiful, but the details are more fanciful than historical. Given the strange greaves and mail leg- and arm coverings it seems modeled after a 19th century illustration rather than archaeological evidence. There are three historical figures in the Italeri set by the way which I have yet to paint. 

A Pegasus Thraex and Dimachaerus

A Murmillo and his victim (both Pegasus)

A Veles attacks a Murmillo (Pegasus)

Below some pictures of the board I am making. A 60cm MDF round arena. The board squares will be cut into it once everything is painted and dry. 

The rules have come in! And two card decks, one for each player. 

All figures are painted now! Ready for a game. Look here for a game review shortly! 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Escape from Amersfoort: Snake strikes again!

 Today I hosted another participation game at Ducosim in Amersfoort. Using my  Pijlie's Everyman's Wargames Protocol for Every War  (PEW PEW!) rules we played a game inspired by Escape from New York.

Commando Snake Plisskens landed by parachute in gang-infested Amersfoort to retrieve the diaries of the Prime Minister.

On the right the Gangsta gang, below Snake and his commandos.

To the right the local Cyborg club, below the Scraper Gang, who didn't get out much due to a slight shortage of players. Visitors were somewhat scarce today, perhaps due to a Fantasty fair on the same day.

On the right the Cannibals, below the Bikers

Here Snake's ride out of town hovers above the Amersfoort Red Zone, a gang-ridden radioactive hotzone crawling with zombies, radioactove monsters and debris.

Below some impressions of the games we played.

The event card calling forth the radioactive T-Rex didn't miss a single game. He ate quite a few gangers and even a Cyborg!

And when you leave a post-apoc helmet and goggles lying around, someone is bound to put it on....

By request here are the rules I use for demos like this: 

Pijlie's Everymans Wargaming Protocol for Every War! (PEW PEW!)

Figures walk the maximum distance between your thumb and little finger (small children get extra points for cover) or multitudes thereof for cars and fast monsters. You can evade 1 hit per turn by a succesful Stunta which gets you a free (re)action to seek cover or stage a counterattack. Most teams are made up of a main character, a second (these two have the best stats) and four Extras.
Weapons are either close combat wapens (various bonus on Fighta) and shooting weapons (Rifle 1D6, pistol 1 or 2 D6, MG 3D6 and -1 Shoota for every extra die). Shooting rangers are unlimited. Roll the Shoota number to hit. Cover means either -1 or -2 on the roll.
Activation is card-driven. Every team has two cards. Every team member may perform one action of choice on a card.
When rolling a 1 when shooting you draw a Trouble card. 3 out of 10 is no effect. The rest is assorted misery like shooting yourself, running out of ammo or a giant monster bursting from the nearest building, usually depending on the game theme.

Best used for action packed skirmish games with teams up to 6 figures. Every figure has six stats: Shoota (roll a D6), Fighta (roll a D6), Balls (roll a D6 to do something scary), Stunta (roll a D6 to do something hard, Hit points (2 for the main characters, 1 for Extras) and Oneliner (main characters only to save yourself out of a tight spot with some wisecrack oneliner to impress the GM or roll a D6 for the less confident).

These rules are heavily inspired by several other rulesets and inventions by others and myself over the years. The credit list should include people like Howard Whitehouse, Buck Surdu and Chris Palmer, Peter Schulein and Larry Brom.

On the left you see me throwing the paratroopers on the table. Plisskens men were equipped very well, but landed all over the place!

Many thanks for Sander for these last photos. As always I was too busy to take many pictures and missed some memorable moments.

We had a lovely day, some great games and a lot of response from passers-by, even if they didnt have the time to dive in and play. Thanks everyone for participating and making this a succesful day!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Wargames Website: the new kid in town

You might already be aware of it, but there is a new kid in town regarding wargames fora.

I say welcome to The Wargames Website!

May much traffic and content be generated!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Black Powder: Rebellion!

This week I received my pre-ordered copy of Black Powder: Rebellion! It has been a long wait but it was worth it! Ever since Black Powder came out I have used it to play the American Revolution. At the time no one was very enthusiastic about the period so I decided to collect and paint all sides myself and do it in nostalgic 20mm plastic. So now I have over 800 20mm figures and the rest of the world has in the meantime started collecting 28mm Perry and Warlord.... But that is another story; on with the review!

"Rebellion!" is a supplement for the Black Powder wargaming rules, aimed at playing the American War of Independence or American Revolutionary War, depending on which side of the pond you're from . It is a book like we have come to expect from Warlord Games: a hefty 149-page full colour softcover folio filled with (excusez le mot) "wargames porn". Every page spread shows illustrations and lovely photographs of someone's expertly painted (yes...28mm) collection. The editor of this book is apparently a follower of the "blurred bases" philosophy as almost all bases have been photoshopped away, but that is about the only gripe I have about the illustrations.

The book is meant both for players who are knowledgeable about the period and for the debutantes. It starts with a 16-page concise history of the American Revolutionary War. As one would suspect reading the title, the British authors have foregone the term War of Independence. While 16 pages cannot possibly deal with all the intricacies of this complicated conflict the book does succeed in presenting a consistent and comprehensive summary. If you know nothing about the American Revolution and want to learn the wider scope of the military side of it, you could do worse than reading this.

The book then describes in detail the British, Loyalist, German, Continental (American) and French armies. Lists of all participating regiments are given and the organisation is explained, which is no sinecure when it comes to the Continental troops as their organisation varied with the colonies from where the troops originated as well as in time, as Congress adopted different rulings on drafting and recruiting as the war progressed. The lists mention uniform colours, periods of service and the battles the units took part in. Very useful for writing scenarios!

Then weapons and tactics are briefly discussed, followed by portraits of the famous (or notorious) commanders of the conflict. Dashing Tarleton, treacherous Arnold and pompous Gates are all there, together with their opponents and compatriots.

Then, on page 62, the book arrives at its true treasure: the scenarios!

As you may or may not know, Black Powder is a generic ruleset aimed at playing the battles of a 200-year period starting around 1700 AD. With such a scope, the characteristics of any specific conflict are not likely to emerge and the rules risk being a rather bland mix of everything. The designers have cleverly countered that by designing a few dozen Special Rules which you can add to units. This way, for example, American Frontiersmen with rifled muskets may be Sharpshooters that reroll misses, making them deadlier shots than their smoothbore musket-armed opponents. One can even vary this Special Rules depending on the scenario. Regiments that are Unreliable in early battles, gain experience and exchange this Special Rule in time for Steady, as they become drilled veterans.

The authors describe all Special Rules in relation to their vision on the Revolution. Some, like Heavy Cavalry and Form Square, are permanently discarded . For the rest it is described what their function can be and how they can be used to influence the specific scenario, when one wants to get a particular balance between the opposing forces. While you may not agree with the authors' ideas, it does give a particular Revolutionary flavour to the rules.

The book then gives you a whopping 19 scenarios ranging from the massive battles of Monmouth and Brandywine to small skirmishes like Gloucester Point, the latter deftly defeating the prejudice that you need a million figures to play Black Powder with opposing forces of 12-14 figures in strength!

Not surprisingly the book also gives valuable suggestions for playing with smaller units, as battles of the period were often fought between small groups of soldiers. Using Company stands instead of Regimental lines will enable you to play the smaller scenarios a lot sooner than you will have painted the large forces that you will need for something like Guilford Courthouse. The book ends with a recommendation for further reading on the period.

This is all that the first read of the book allows me to write as a review. As you may gather from it, my first impression is very favorable. Whether you are already invested or merely interested in the period, Black Powder Rebellion! is a fine purchase.

As I am in the luxurious position to play most scenarios with the figures I already have, now is the time to go finish my winter table and play Princeton!

Rebellion!, a Black Powder supplement
by Stephen Jones
Published by Warlord Games 2014
Price 20 GBP

Thursday, August 14, 2014

No more Pijlie on TMP

After a public discussion on The Miniatures Page about moderating between the TMP Editor and myself he felt compelled, for reasons unknown to me, to lock my account. That means I can no longer post on TMP and am no longer able to contribute to the forum and post links there myself. It is unfortunate, but I can't change it.

All readers from TMP remain welcome here of course. I did not, after all, leave.

Monday, August 11, 2014

In memoriam: Aart and Hans

The past 15 months of my life have brought some particular highs and lows. Among the latter were, alas,  the deaths of two old and dear friends. 

Such events point things out to you. When you don't give them their due attention because you are busy with your  job and all kinds of practical and urgent matters these things tend to catch up on you eventually. And when they do this, you should make some room for them and take some time and space to do what you should have done in the first place: put it in perspective and give it a place.

On June 2nd 2013 my friend Aart died of heart failure. We had been friends for over 25 years. Peculiarly enough we met around 1986 over a wargame, a big Wooden Ships & Iron Men game representing the Raid on Chatham in 1667. He was a driven reporter and historian but only a lackluster gamer. His enthusiasm for the game stemmed from the history, not the other way around. For some reason, for we were very different, we stayed in contact for a few other games and  then, when his interest in games waned, just because of our mutual personal interest in each other.

This contact was not always very frequent. Sometimes we didn’t see each other for a year. He was passionate to a fault about his profession and sacrificed a lot for it, including a regular lifestyle. But we always kept running into each other one way or another. For example, sometime in the early 90ies I bought a few second hand books, only to discover at home that two of them had his Ex Libris in them. Too many pictures, not enough substance, so he sold them off for something better. Me, I like pictures.

Our mutual interest in history led to a trip along the West Front of the Great War in 2000. We travelled from Verdun to Ypres, visiting cities, graveyards, memorials and musea along the way. I wil never forget how he got us into an excellent hotel in Ypres (after our booked hotel had given our room to a group of British tourists) and managed to get the curator of Flanders Fields Museum to drive us around in the countryside for an impressive afternoon. At the graveyard at Warlencourt we read the visitors book and both got something in our eye at about the same time. The cold wind, you know…

Despite his often tumultuous lifestyle we never lost contact over the years. Our differences in outlook just seemed to reinforce our mutual interest. Eventually his life calmed down somewhat and somewhere in 2010 I managed to get him and his sons to play a war game at my home. His sons probably thought it an OK, if somewhat nerdy pastime but he must have been struck with a yearning for a hobby I never would have thought him capable of. In 2011 he invited me and a couple of friends to a game at his place (did he even have armies?) and completely flabbergasted all of us by presenting a fantastic Kursk table, completely, up to and including the tanks and vehicles, built with a talent for scratch building I never knew he had!

From then on we shared our hobby as well. He seemed to have arrived in a phase of his life where he was happy in his new marriage and nevertheless had room for trivial passtimes like wargaming. We made big plans, tried out rulesets, painted armies and, despite his declining health, played some great games together. Knowing his health was bad, his passing away still came as a shock. For some time after his death packages kept arriving, containing figures he had ordered. He had obviously hoped for more time. One of the last was, ironically enough, a pack of 17th century warships. Apparently he was contemplating Chatham again. Life had come full circle indeed.

The aftermath of his death took up much of my energy and attention but when I was doing something related to his death, it was usually to arrange something or dispensing some advice to someone. The emotional side somehow got parked somewhere in the back.  

Then, May 22nd of this year my friend Hans unexpectedly died from complicated pneumonia. We had known each other since 1992 and met to play Battletech, a new game then! In the 22 years that followed we became friends and, unlike Aart, we met very regularly. For years he would visit on a weekly basis, usually on a Tuesday, to have dinner at our place and play games afterwards. So regularly in fact, that even now, when I put out the trash bin on Tuesday night, which I usually did on game nights after he left, it still reminds me of the games we played.
We too, were very different. He, a long-time bachelor and freelance contractor living in the City and me, married with children and a steady job living in Suburbia still found plenty to amiably disagree about. 

He watched our children grow up and became a member of our family in a fashion. It was not always an easy friendship, for he was not always an easy man, either for himself or for others. He always had to be at least as good as anyone else, while competitiveness for me is a professional trait, not a personal one. But there was enough to unite us, as we played our games, discussed movies and books, got drunk together and stepped in the wrong train together because we were distracted by that beautiful blonde that just got out…

Having always considered him a quite conventional man, he completely surprised us by meeting and marrying his wife and completely surprised us again by becoming a father. Especially the latter brought up new sides of him I never suspected were there. He might not have found it easy to be a father, but he evidently found love and joy in it. We had vague plans to restart a Necromunda campaign when he was admitted into hospital with a rather bad flue. We simply decided to postpone our date. As it turned out, he never left the hospital and we never got to play again.

I wasn’t able to attend his funeral. But despite this he left me a very special gift. By making me mourn  him, he made me realize I never really mourned that other friend. Mourning is a genuinely selfish thing to do and it does take up time. I am no altruist, but I do tend to get action-oriented when the need arises and this tends in turn to neglect the emotional side of things, always more complex then just doing stuff.

I will have to find my way around it, I learned. Writing this piece is one way to do that. Telling you, reader, that you should cherish your friends is also a way to do that. The things you share with your friends are too common to really appreciate while everybody is still around, but they are precious nonetheless and for the most part irreplaceable once either one of you is gone.

“Understand that friends come and go, but for the precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle because the older you get, the more you need the people you knew when you were young.” Mary Schmich wrote this and it is very, very true.

Guys, it was great to know you. I miss you. I thank the both of you for the times, joys and wisdoms we shared and wish friends like you on everyone. 

I am in no hurry to join you but save me a spot, wherever you are.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Reinforcements for Chain of Command: Black Gold Campaign

Shortly we will start the Chain of Command Black Gold Campaign from the Too Fat Lardies summer special and I am looking forward to it! Of course some stuff still needs to be painted for it and I am working hard t o get it all finished in time. This blog will get added to in time as more stuff becomes finished.

First of course are the Home Guard and their Elite opponents, the German Fallschirmjaeger. Home Guard are mostly Foundry figures with some Crusader thrown in for the support weapons. Lovely figures all around. 

The FSJ are from Black Tree Design and Warlord Games. While the BTD will not win any sculpting prizes, they are crisp and clean. The same cannot be said of Warlord Games. There was flash all over the place and I had to hack, cut and file for ages to get it all reasonably clean. Some displaced mold lines were beyond saving, but I hope the painting will mask it enough to pass for tabletop quality. 

The rolling materiel.  All vehicles are by Warlord Games except the British "APC" that is made by Lledo.

 The Warlord SdKfz 251. It is a plastic kit that buildis easily and fits perfectly/ Detail is a bit shallow in places (the rivets in the armor for example) but it comnes with a lot of extras like a MG42 firing crew member (that will do handily as a "Crewed" counter, jerrycans and blanket rolls.

Warlords Panzer IV was a bit of a disappointment. It came with Schurzen that were rather fiddly to assemble and didn't fit very well. There was a diminutive and very ugly tank commander with a loose and ill-fitting head that I simply ditched out of despair and the gun barrel was slightly bent. It's very rigid metal and I did not dare try and bend it so I chose not to attempt it.

If there was one tank that I had to have for my Home Guard it was the Matilda II. It's lovely archaic looking, endearingly badly equipped with its puny gun and it can survive for a while nonetheless because of its armour. Here too the fit was dodgy in places and I had to conjecture the assembly from historical photos and use a lot of green stuff to get it reasonably in shape. The fit between side armour and tracks is still off, but it was either that or destroy the rivet detail. Still I am happy with the end result .

The next is a British Churchill infantry tank. No regrets there. A nice model with crisp detail and good fit.

 I chose the Lledo butcher van for a British "APC". It was a must really. These trucks can be had for varying prices on Ebay. Mine was 6 GBP, so not too bad. At 1/48 it is a bit too big but not disturbingly so. I chose not to paint it as it looks just fine, straight from the box.

I had to scratch -built some of the more exotic Home Guard support weapons. Below are some historical photos of a Blacker Bombard (left) , a kind of anti-tank grenade lobber, and its smaller cousing the Northover Projector (right)

Added are pictures of the scratch-built Blacker Bombard (figures were a Boys ATR team by Crusader miniatures) and a Northover projector below.