Sunday, January 16, 2022

The Silver Bayonet: A Wargame of Napoleonic Gothic Horror review

I never would have thought it possible that I would ever wargame Napoleonics. EVERYBODY and his dog already did that. 

And then Joseph McCullough wrote The Silver Bayonet and I was done for. So I scavenged some 28mm Napoleonics leftovers from mates here and there (I already had monsters and terrain) painted them and played my first game. 

What kinda game is this anyway?
The Silver Bayonet is a skirmish wargame. Units are small, at most an officer and 7 figures, moving individually. It's setting is Gothic Horror, which means it happens somewhere between the 16th and the 19th century and is about ghosts, vampires and other classical monsters lurking in deep forests or crumbling ruins. It's Napoleonic, so very colourful. But in the dark…

So French Chasseurs and British Britse Riflemen chasing each other all and all kinds of monsters over Europe. The many long wars attracted all kinds of supernatural vermin and every European nation which wanted to be in the Big League raised a specialist unit to combat that. So far the fluff.

Looks ain't everything
The book is a decent hardback of 160 pages. It could have been more if it had been up to me, because the font is a bit small. Then again, not everyone is over 50…

The book looks like an 18th century journal (complete with atmospheric bloodstains) and this has been extended into the book's interior with a lot of text and some black-and-white illustrations. There are no colour pictures or explanatory diagrams, although I must say I haven't missed them. 

To me, the book looks a bit dull. But it does what it is supposed to do, which is laying out and explaining the rules in a clear and accessible way. The book has a clear and good index, which is a big plus for me. I advise to download some aids from the official Facebook page, like a QRS and a Bestiary which lists all the monsters and to put some bookmarks in the book. There is an Excel unit builder in the Files section as well. This will help you find things without leafing through the book too much. 

Besides the rules the book includes 10 scenario’s, 4 solo scenario’s (as well as solo rules, obviously) a Campaign system and tips to write your own scenario's. Very handy. And of course lists for troops to include in your unit and a list for monsters. 

A scenario is usually won by driving off your opponent and/or investigating clues on the table, killing monsters as you go along. Or running for your life from them.... 

The clues are revealed with the help of playing cards. Simple numbered counters would have worked equally well, but wouldn't have that 18th century feel, would they? 
Scenarios are won on points, gained by killing opponent's, investigating clues and killing monsters. 

Rules and novelties
One or more players each command a unit to battle an enemy unit and/or monsters. The monsters are controlled by the game and react "programmed". Like automatons. They appear on double Initiative rolls in our games. Officially only on a double 1, but we thought the more the better and used any double. So far we haven't rolled any double 1's for Initiative btw, so the official rulings leave you largely devoid of monsters. And that can't be right. Double 20's for Initiative trigger Special Events. 

Turn sequence is a kind of IGO-UGO where the Initiative winner of that turn moves half his unit first, then monsters Activate, then the entire enemy unit and then the remaining part of the Initiative winner's unit. So losing Initiative means the monsters may Activate before you do. Which is bad. 

Activating a figure means the figure may Move and perform an Action, or may Load instead of Move and perform an Action. So you can shoot more. Which is good, right? 

Mr McCullough replaced his usual D20s by D10s, which leads to less random results, which is also good. 

Activated figures roll for Tests so succeed in things like hitting someone with a musket or melee weapon. They always roll two dice; a blue Skill Die and a red Power Die plus a Skill value. The added total is the result and in case of a hit the Power Die determines damage. Elegantly simple. 

I struggle with the Fate Pool, however. At the start of the game you get 2 blue Skill Dice, 2 red Power dice and 1 black Monster die. You can use each to pick an option and then discard them. For example you reroll a Skill, Power or Monster roll result or cancel all damage from an attack. Using these options wisely can make a lot of difference in the game.

But. Instead of having piles of coloured dice lying around a simple check list works just as well. I thought using all kinds of specifically coloured dice a hassle and used a check list.   

My Japanese unit. We do not use different stats, but substitute bows for rifles and teppo for muskets. 

Another, so far underused by us but interesting item is the reaction to being attacked. If the target figure survives the attack, it can either respond in kind by shooting or meleeing back or can duck back into cover. This simple reaction mechanism prevents an entire enemy unit taking pot shots at your figure until it is dead. 


All in all this resulted in a very enjoyable, quick-playing and interesting game with a good mix of maneuvering, shooting, Melee and investigating clues. And battling or running from monsters. Those can really make or break your day. You might encounter a monster that you have no defence against and even if you do, they are dangerous. But they cause interesting problems and dilemmas and make the game a bigger challenge. 

This is a "shooty" game. Muskets and rifles cover the larger part of the square meter table we use, even if you have to reload after each shot. However, shots are rarely instantly lethal and the duck back reaction choice should prevent your figures from getting killed too quickly. Standing your ground and engaging in musketry is usually not a wise choice...

Use your Fate Pool dice wisely (and not just to hit someone) as it can save your life later in a game and make a big difference in the outcome.  

Rules as written do not produce a lot of monsters but that is easily fixed by introducing monsters on any double Initiative roll. 

Although the game is intended to be Napoleonic, any musket-wielding era or setting would do. I greatly enjoy playing it in mid-19th century Japan, for example. But the pike & shot era or a pirate background would work equally well. Personally I greatly enjoy my Japanese setting. 

The number of figures needed is larger than you might think. Besides a minimum of 8 figures for your unit you will need a few dozen monsters, bandits and cultists. Because any monster can turn up in any game, besides the ones requested by the scenario.  

With minor adaptations, heartily enjoyed and recommended! 

The Silver Bayonet: A Wargame of Napoleonic Gothic Horror
Joseph McCullough, Osprey Games 2021



Sunday, January 9, 2022

The vehicle park for Vietnam and Modern so far

My 28mm vehicle park so far. I might have overshot my mark here...

US vehicles by Empress, UK vehicles by Airfix

Trucks by Rubicon, the rest by Empress

PIBR by Empress. The choppers are various kits

Happy New Year and a new game in town!

 The Silver Bayonet! Some first pictorial impressions of our first game and a review will follow soon! 

Saturday, December 11, 2021

Jungle terrain and jungle rules, now fully pictured!!!!!

 While working on my Vietnam project (and greatly enjoying that) I came to the realisation that my jungle terrain needed an upgrade. I made it about 10 years ago, at great speed as usual at that time to make a deadline for a project, and I simply didn't think it looked good enough. 

Empress Seal and SOG figures

I decided to re-purpose the materials I used then. And since it not only needed to look good but also needed to work well in games I tailored my terrain to some ruleset-agnostic jungle rules. Or the other way around. I don't really know. It kind of grew naturally, just like real jungle 😎


I had already developed a preference to jungle terrain placed on the table in small terrain pieces. That way figures could be moved around, terrain pieces could easily be removed to reach the miniatures and a table filled with them would still look sufficiently forested to resemble a jungle.  

Real jungle, of course, cannot be represented on a wargames table and still be practical. It is a dense and nearly impenetrable mass of vegetation rising up from the ground in multi-layered canopies, only sparsely criss-crossed by wildlife trails. 

So I aimed for something that would be playable and as good looking as possible. It is well known that an ugly figure on a beautiful base looks better than a beautiful figure on an ugly base. So I aimed for great looking bases to put my old palm trees and fishtank plants on. 

I started by making 30+ 6mm MDF bases in various sizes. I used pieces of tree bark (you can buy that in huge bags to use as ground cover in your garden) dried in the oven as rocks, glued to the bases. Admittedly, at this stage this had an uncanny resemblance with cat turds.....

Then the bases were covered in structure paint (a mix of paint and sand and tiny pebbles) and subsequently painted them in browns and greens, then highlighting them in sandy brown. The tree bark bits were painted dark grey and highlighted in light grey and white.   

I made a bright green flock mix and stuck that to the bases with PVA glue, tossing in some bright red bits to represent flowers. That finished the bases. 

I sorted out all the stuff I had left over from the old terrain as well as everything I had collected over the years "just in case". It seemed waaaay too much at the time, but as it turned out I used nearly all of it.

Then I distributed the trees I had and stuck them to the wooden bases using iron wire pins. I filled up the empty ground level with fishtank scrub and all kinds of cheap plastic plants and fishtank stuff to represent the undergrowth in a jungle.  

Then I finished it all by spraying browns and greens to subdue the bright plastic colours. 

Distributed on the table, it represented relatively well a wide stretch of vegetation covering the table in large and smaller clumps, interspersed with paths. I think it looks pretty good! 

Ruined Buddha temple by

Making rules

Game-wise, I think jungle should do a number of things it also does in reality: 

  • It should obscure sight, totally in some places, partly in other. 
  • It should hamper movement
  • It should offer plenty of soft cover in most places and hard cover in some
  • One should be able to place and move figures in and through the jungle
So the terrain should make clear in an easily visible way where and when it does all this. I used the terrain pieces to do this and will use the Spectre Operations rules as an example.  

  • A terrain piece represents dense jungle
  • Figures can move on a jungle base as through Difficult terrain (Move Agility inches in Spectre for example)
  • Figures can move all over a jungle terrain base but can only be placed where their base fits. Some bits of jungle are simply impenetrable. 
  • Figures can Hide anywhere on a jungle base. 
  • All views on a jungle base are obscured (All (additional) Range Intervals for ranged attacks into or out of jungle terrain pieces in Spectre are 1" for example)
  • Spotting rules on jungle terrain pieces use Night rules
  • Jungle terrain pieces offer 1 additional point of protection to all figures on it against all hits by ranged attacks (Wound roll -1) 
  • Off Table Assets cannot aim for targets under the jungle canopy i.o.w. on a jungle terrain piece. They can however target a point on the terrain piece as per normal rules. Every Hit still scatters D6" in a random direction.    
  • A "path" between the jungle terrain bases represents relatively thin forest. Perhaps a cleared path, empty waterways or a game track. 
  • Paths are clear terrain for all purposes. But mind that the jungle terrain pieces still add all their effects as soon as lines-of-sight of firing lines move into and through jungle terrain pieces. 

Slightly converted HobbyBoss Huey with Empress gunners

Senior Game Requisite Advisor Boom! comes for her customary inspection. Fortunately, she approves.

Saturday, November 20, 2021

Gotham City Bank Heist: a Spectre game

A pictorial report of a Spectre Ops game. The scenario was basically Bob's Bargain Bullets Raid but this time with a bank as a centerpiece. Made by Pats Lasercuttings, by the way.  

My honorable opponent pltting his strategy

The cityscape

One of the ambushing gangsters revealed. Way too early I might add...

The SWAT team moving in

The gang leader scoring a grenade launcher hit on a police car

but revealing himself that way, got gunned down 

Gangsters in the crowd were sniffed out and a furious firefight ensued

SWAT officers in the closing stages of the operation

The gangsters trying to flee the bank under cover of the hostages