Friday, 14 February 2020

"Will All Passengers for....."

Not North West Frontier; Part One

As per the previous post: the train left Haserabad in the wee small hours (as the film) and proceeded across the plains, testing at every Waypoint on the map..

The Dice were kind (see Events Table on previous post) and the group arrived at the first Watering Stop, Bivanda-Pura just after Middday, without incident.


A test revealed that the preceding refugee train was in situ (again, as in the movie), and seems to have been ambushed, so Cpt. Scott took his sepoys to check out the station area before allowing the engine to proceed....




After some slow sneaking, going into Overwatch and testing (dice throw) every four moves for suspicious activity, the soldiers moved through the Station building; "checking out" (basically "kick in the door and look, with the safety off") each room and the train carriages. 




It is clear there has been a horrid massacre... Things are tense as the trio move into the station area...




Despite the grim sight - and a noisy whistle malfunction on "Victoria" (swiftly dealt with by ever-reliable Gupta) - nothing positively hostile reveals itself, so Cpt. Scott waves Gupta to bring the train forward to allow it to take on water.... 


















Once the train pulls up the soldiers stay on alert (there is still an Enemy Activity Test every four moves).

Despite orders to stay on the train Mrs. Whyatt and Mr. van Leyden get down from the carriage (there is a test mechanism for this) and, again, things seem to be following the movie script.



While Gupta and Sepoy Khamal water "Victoria", Mrs. Whyatt searches the train, while Mr.van Leyden watches from a distance (he failed his "search the train" test) and Cpt. Scott quietly has kittens....

Still no enemy appear (the dice do not even call for an Activity Type check) but Mrs. Whyatt discovers, hidden beneath the bodies, a wounded European, the "Loafer" Mister Random. He is helped out of the refugee carriage and escorted to our heroes' train. 




Mrs. W. searches the rest of the train, but finds no other survivors. Mr. van Leyden simply observes and makes notes for his next article. The watering operation is completed.



With relief, Captain Scott orders "All Aboard" - he wants out of here as soon as possible...





Everyone scurries onto the train and, after a final test (even a single sniper could upset things even at this stage) the train steams off towards the Hills - and its next encounter.....



The Watering Stop has had an effect on the Victory conditions (the point of the game being Captain Scott's reputation and future career prospects) in that Cpt. Scott gets some reflected glory (1VP) in the saving of Mister random (had he or his soldiers found the guy he would get more VPs). Nobody injured or lost, so no negatives..

There is also a "Romantic Sub-Plot" re. Cpt. Scott and Mrs. Whyatt; the final result of which can affect Cpt. Scotts personal VP score. As the train pulls out it is realised that nobody properly searched (as opposed to the cursory, if soldierly, "checking out") the Station Buildings for survivors. Cpt. Scott will not go back despite Mrs. Whyatt's complaint, so loses -4 on the Romance Tally. However, Mrs Whyatt found a survivor herself despite instructions, so there is an "I told you so" bonus (Cpt. Scott manfully accepts he was wrong) of +6 which makes up for the spat.

All in all this was a tense little encounter. No rebels appeared, but it was still exciting - at this point of the journey no firearms have been issued to the civilians (an oversight - the rifles are still locked up on the Service Area of the train) so that things could have turned very nasty very quickly...




The train will steam into the plain west of 
Bivanda-Pura, then up into the Nagil Uplands - where movement will be reduced and the train more vulnerable to attack.. More to follow.....



 

Wednesday, 12 February 2020

All Aboard.....

A Movie-led Project....


A few weeks ago I stumbled upon a film I hadn't seen for ages; a staple of Sunday Afternoon TV in my childhood, "North West Frontier" (aka "Flame Over India". For some reason...). A cracker of a film - and much more than the simple adventure it seems to be at first glance..

Anyhoo, as is the nature of things, it got me pondering on how to "recreate" certain aspects of the story in Solo Game Play.. Thus...



"Not North West Frontier";

Some action is map-based. Some "abstract" using an (oversized) RPG-type plan of the train itself. Some action (potentially) will be on-table skirmishes. Any late 19th/early 20thC skirmish rules can be used for the mechanics of on-table action (the shooting, fighting and moving and so on), so that in my "rules" I have just sketched out the "campaign" elements and some "personality chrome" to add some colour. Once playtested I'll put out a PDF.

First I sketched a rough sketch map of the route (as usual, click on the pics to make them bigger), drew up a rough, oversized "Train Plan" for on-board action, assembled the crew and models, and drafted some rules..... 



On the sketch map above waypoints are marked roughly (and I mean roughly) at hourly intervals along the rail track (more in hilly ground, less on the flat). The train is travelling from the Right to the Left (Let's say North to South. I'm not sure if the film actually makes this clear, but the train IS going from right to left across the screen most of the time, and East to West seems unlikely, so good enough for me..).

There is likely to be enemy action and other problems while travelling and there are also two watering points. At least an hour must be spent at each Watering Point to replenish water (and fuel?), stretch the legs and possibly search the environs.


There will be three "Action Arenas" for the game;
1) The Map where the Mission progress is tracked and Events may be triggered
2) The Train (the RPG type plan)
3)The Wargame Table, for skirmishes and other activity.

Most action will take place on the Map and the Train, transferring to the table only when the the train is stopped AND potentially under attack or when the passengers get off to carry out an action (e.g. watering, carrying our repairs, removing blockages to the line etc. etc.).
There is also potential action by the "villain" of the piece, passenger Mr. van Leyden....


The passengers (above). From Left to Right; Mr. van Leyden the journalist, Mr. Peters the Armaments Salesman, Engineer Gupta (behind), Mrs. Whyatt the governess (OK, on the train she is in all white, but this looked too dull, so I coloured her dress as in the first couple of scenes in the movie), Prince Kishan (the maguffin - in fancy dress), Lady Windham the pukka memsahib (I "purpled her up", as the grey dress in the film looked dull on a small figure), Mr. Bridie the secretary (behind), Cpt Scott and his doughty soldiers Havildar Dhatka and Seypoy Khamal.

At each Way Point a simple 1x6d check is made as the train progresses. On a throw of 6 there is a possible "Event". Two dice are thrown and the table below consulted....


A supporting "Rebel Activity" table allows for a card-driven "choice" of Heliograph Signals to be seen, snipers (of variable number) shooting at the train, volleys ditto and pursuing horsemen..

The train has to get from Haserabad to Kalapore with its precious cargo of Prince Kishan, as per the movie.  The Main Player is Captain Scott. He has a set of Victory Conditions, one of which - the safe transporting of Prince Kishan - is obligatory.
Mr. van Leyden, the "villain" (anti-hero?) can also accrue Victory points which could "outshine" Mr. Scott' endeavours on even a successful transit IF Prince Kishan arrives injured and Cpt. Scott can be shown to have abused his authority. 

Thus the train potters along on it's eventful (or uneventful) way...

As well as line problems and rebels there are potential issues at the Watering Stops and the possibility of encountering
(or not) yesterday's "Last train out of Haserabad".


The "rules" are a Work In Progress (being tested) but "Victory" (for Captain Scott - the C.O. Train) will depend on points accrued (or lost) due to Events and his actions. 

Mr. van Leyden will have his own struggle with his conscience to put a spoke in Cpt. Scott's wheel (or not), the various personalities, including the feisty Mrs. Whyatt, can also add to the burden of command.

There will also be a "romance" element to add (or otherwise) to Captain Scott's victory....


We are looking at a typical Denyer "chrome-laden" exercise tinkering with introducing imponderables, using dice, tables and cards to make solo play hair-pullingly good fun.... Well, MY kind of fun....

I have already played through the first half of the First Journey - tweaking rules as I go. Feeling good thus far... All aboard who're coming aboard..



Tuesday, 28 January 2020

Game Report with "Adjutant Introuvable"

On the Plain....

OK, as mentioned in the last post I launched my first game played with the Solo System "Adjutant Introuvable". I found it interesting, and can certainly see its uses for folk less experienced in "going alone" or who do not work with game narratives.

For those not familiar with the system it provides a way of calculating the "best" - or, at least, justifiable - "Strategy" options (I'd have used the term "Battle Plan", but partly because for me "strategy" means mapwork, rather than on-the-table stuff and partly because I am a bear of little brain and easily confused) for the "AI" player is solo games, based on terrain factors, plus a "programmed" tactical decisions process for the AI, which responds to changing circumstances on the battlefield. Basically it gives a sensible range of actions for an AI "player" when playing solo. One could also use it to hamper oneself as the Active Player or to affect the actions of sub-commanders in the Active Player army.


Basically the board is divided up into nine Zones (spoiler: I don't like this concept since my battle mats don't reflect this and because of sheer, unjustifiable prejudice. However, I see why this is done, so for the trial I dug out my old game tiles) and the AI army into three (as a part-time medievalist I like to think of these as "Battles", rather than Zones; see unjustifiable prejudice above).

Three randomly drawn Strategy/Battle Plan cards are then drawn (or in my case, since my printer hates me, diced for) and the final "best" Battle Plan/Strategy chosen for the AI calculated from three cards (this is calculated based on factors affected by type of Strategy/Battle Plan, cross-referenced with the terrain in each Zones). Thus the "best" plan is adopted by the AI....


Once the Battle Plan/Strategy for the AI has been calculated/chosen (and the Active Player has laid HIS/HER plans - done before the AI decision, by the way, to stop cheating) the game can begin.



"Tactical Options" for each AI Battle Plan then affect how individual "Battles"/divisions of the AI army progress and react, based on happenings on the table. 

The system does not provide "how you move and shoot" rules", which is fine; that's not the intention. It is basically an "all period" system for giving a semi-programmed AI decision process.

Personally, I found the initial "Strategy" calculating time consuming, not least because I got a bit lost to start with (My bad - and why I had to use the term "Battle Plan", rather than "Strategy" in my head) when I wanted to get on and play - and given that I already have a (somewhat ad hoc at times, but practical) House System (based on game narrative, type and tactical doctrine of forces and IMP) for this process, a tad redundant. But that's just me and based on first time of use. No doubt speed will come with familiarity, and younger/less experienced (or slapdash) hands may find this system extremely useful..

The Tactical aspects make sense, but seem limited and there was little variation for troop types, but then, it's intended as a generic system so that says more about me than the rules. One could build details like that in oneself.

 

I wasn't sure about units crossing Zones and "Targets of Opportunity" (but again; it was my first time out with the system and I no doubt missed some details). That was no biggie. I simply applied IMP, C&C restrictions and dice decisions as I would were the zones not there.


The system's notes suggest armies of 10 units or more and I would say the concept is more suited to large, brigade level/divisional scale, 18th-21st century actions (esp. given the terrain aspects - most of my Ancient battles are fought on nice open areas, for C&C reasons if nothing else, or are small skirmishes) rather than the game fought. The Test Game set-up was, perhaps then not really the best way to use the system. It may prove more suitable for use with my 5mm ACW/AWI bods, and I am willing to give the system a better try with them IF I manage to get them out this.... 

It's an interesting system and is to be applauded. It has sparked some thoughts re. tweaks to my House rules, plus it has the advantage of being cheap (a downloadable PDF). Worth looking into.

The Battle..

And so to the Battle itself. I set out the armies (see previous post). I would play Madame's side - and so sketched out orders for my bods (blue & yellow on the plan); my horse bow and javelin horse to probe and provoke the enemy centre (and Rustam), drawing them in and into range of my foot bows, smash the enemy centre with my heavy cavalry and cutting out Rustam himself by means of a flank charge by my mercenaries (on my right). Job done..

Yeah. Right...



Move One. The enemy reserve vanish (the two rear infantry units; you set out the bods before testing for the AI "Strategy/Battle Plan" - which came out as Oblique Left, with a possible ambush from the reserve . I now know there is a possible off-table threat; so bang goes my plan - but I'm tied into that for at least two moves...

The enemy Right tests.  "Adjutant Introuvable" says Engage for each Zone and the enemy army advances, does Rustam in the lead in the centre,with the foot following-on. Already my plan is falling to pieces - as MY heavy cataphracts activate and spontaneously charge Rustam and HIS heavy cavalry in the middle of the field (basically my noble Iranian knights seem to behave like noble knights pretty much anywhere.. They just WON'T listen..).





There are exchanges of arrows from both sides, and for the next four moves or so things are pretty static (not due to "Adjutant Introuvable", but because, typical me, I am using an AI/SP mash-up"Adjutant Introuvable" providing the Game Plan, SP type tokens the detail)- except my mercenary commander (by design - can I really trust him - or idiocy) advances  - into more arrow incoming than strictly necessary... 


In the centre the tinned-up heavy cavalry bash each other in a near casualty-less melee, occasionally pausing for breath while the Shock and Disruption build up. Eventually Rustam pulls his cataphracts back to regroup (unit Morale decision).



On my Left neither side's mounted archers will advance to contact, and with a narrow field all they can do is whoop around and pepper each other. On my right the Mercenaries stall - only to get peppered by the enemy horse archers (my mounted skirmishers - sent to harry the enemy horse on my Right do NOT impress them at all, and pull back with losses).



Move five-six. The enemy heavy cavalry have pulled right back to regroup (an IMP decision) amalgumate both their (smaller than mine) cavalry units into one formation (IMP decision) and sit there (token draw decision).  Suddenly the enemy Reserve hoves into view on my Left  flank (
"Adjutant Introuvable" test, prompted by token draw) - causing my Left to recoil in shock; but not before the enemy Right horse archers have themselves to pull back due to mounting casualties (IMP/morale test).


Move seven: my left is in disarray my Right has stalled.. In the centre the "private fight" between the heavy cavalry has moved towards the enemy's side of the field while their Central infantry push ("Adjutant Introuvable" and token draw) towards my mercenaries. I move my foot archers up.

Three more short moves (ended by the "Tiffin token") result in both sides spending more time trying to kick their guys back into some kind of order (removing Shock and disruption) and (move end) shooting than actual action. The heavy cavalry of both sides take a breather. My foot mercenaries attempt a charge, with one unit being thrown back, the other chasing the enemy Left horse archers. NOT the wisest move, as all they get for their pains are "more arrers" as the horse evade...




Move eleven: as above - all units on both sides are getting tired/disrupted but (possibly the decider?) I get a chance to throw one of my fitter units (horse archers) behind the enemy centre... If I had one good, spare infantry unit I could probably break their centre now- but the mercenary foot are still recovering from their recoiling and their commander and horse still shocked from losses to arrows....



Move Twelve: disaster...  The enemy do some reorganising, then one of my mercenary units make a second charge at the enemy central foot, are repulsed, recoil into my horse-skirmishers and are then peppered with arrows, taking losses. They break. My horse-skirmishers, behind them and already unsettled by being shot at and advanced through/run though, panicked by this, break. The mercenary commander (who is already seriously wavering) breaks.... Only my foot archers stop the rot from spreading all the way down my line. My Right Wing has practically disintegrated. The move ends with desultory shooting... Should I call it a day....?




I decide not... The long-short range missile fighting continues. 
"Adjutant Introuvable" is telling the enemy to Probe or React depending on Zone and dice throw. My mounted archers continue to pepper anything in range, as do my foot bows. My heavy cavalry pound into the enemy's infantry reserve from the flank/rear.. But the foot hold (my men are too tired from the day's exertions to smash home properly). My HC are forced to Step Back from the inconclusive melee - only to then come under arrow fire from the enemy Right - and my cataphracts  break !!!!




There is some general too-ing and fro-ing on the field, but the decisive blow comes when the Rustam gets a positive moral and IMP check for a "Target of Opportunity", when activated, and hurls himself and the enemy heavy cavalry into my broken cataphracts, cutting them to pieces then riding down one of my horse archer units that fails to evade.



Suddenly my Centre is on the run as the enemy central horse archers join the pursuit (
"Adjutant Introuvable"). Casualties mount. An enemy foot unit panics on the enemy Left, whittled away by my foot lads' arrows, but the rest of the enemy army is either stabilising, advancing to take advantage of my discomfort or charging/following-up my broken boys....  Things are looking VERY bad indeed...


Move seventeen: My foot bows begin an orderly withdrawal - the day is clearly lost - as do my light horse and horse archers on my right, but this is a short move; suddenly Rustam and the enemy heavies get a chance (SP token & IMP test), and rush up to capture our feisty heroin before she gets a chance to skedaddle. 
End game....  Our queen is captured..  Shāhbānū māt....



Summary:

A fun little game - even if I was screaming at my men to behave at times..

More a big skirmish, perhaps, than the large scale divisional plus battle 
"Adjutant Introuvable" was designed for - so not, perhaps, a fair test.
Some of the concepts in "Adjutant Introuvable" certainly held up, but I need to read it through again to get my head round some things I think I possibly missed.
It was also subject to some typical Denyer tweaking: to cut out an automatic "Adjutant Introuvable" test every move I created three AI tokens (Left, Centre, Right) to add to the SP token mix to prompt same.
As I've suggested above, for the person without a lot of "solo experience" the"Adjutant Introuvable" gives a simple logical enemy opponent as an alternative to simply playing both sides. Some of the ideas will likely be absorbed into my ever-changing House Rules and I would be prepared to give it another go at the Army Level and a period it seems to be designed for..

Well, my Parthians have been Blooded and with my Play Room all but sorted I am back in a situation where some playing can take place... Lots of plots and plans in the pipeline. Watch this space. 

As always, comments & critiques welcome. 

Friday, 24 January 2020

Back In The Saddle......

Ride 'Em - Um - Horseperson....


It's been a looong gap, paid work, works to the house, a major overhaul of my Play Room, minor illnesses, Life, yada yada have got in the way of serious play n' painting but......

1) The Room in the Roof is now tidy(ish), systematised and set up with two mobile shelving units at Denyer waist height (to suit my back) which provide a gaming table AND much needed shelving without the need for trestles etc.



 
2) The Parthian Cavalry are FINALLY finished - six months too late (well, most of them. No sooner had I gasped "Phew. Done" I found a scatter of malingerers skulking in another box and the Arab mercenaries figures have COMPLETELY vanished; I could have bought another 10 boxes for the cost of the  time it took to - unsuccessfully - search for them..).


3) The Plastic and Board Game Mountains have grown apace...


4) Plotting and Planning... A scatter of excellent (and in a couple of cases new to me or long unwatched) movies rattling away as background on the PC while one was sorting the Play Room, but which were good enough to interrupt proceedings, have sparked some serious Solo project thoughts.  More of that later...... 


5) Meanwhile: 

Before the Parthians get put away; first game of the New Year - am trying to get to grips with "Adjutant Introuvable"...  Very basic set-up.

Backstory; The Lady Azardoht, widow of the late Governor of Ram Ardeshir, was supposed to drift off into obscurity once hubby popped his curly-toed slippers, but "Nah...".  With the aid of mercenaries from Mazoon, across the Gulf, the doughty madam has decided to stay put; hence the bold Rustam of Firuzabad has dragged his men over the mountains to challenge her on the plains of Khoshab....

As usual a Mash-up of rules... Watch this space....




Oh, and Happy New Year....

Tuesday, 5 November 2019

Quick Update...

Not a Lot - But still here...

Major works in the house, end of the season fighting, two weeks of Autumnal sickness/bugs, unpleasant shoulder pain/issues, paid work getting in the way of life, and a serious remodeling of my "Play Room" - inc. new shelving and a new cupboard to store my board games - apparently some sixty or so when I count them (oh dear... Mainly SPI, AH, West End Games, GDW etc. etc.  Partial pic.) - have left little time for figure activity..























Have been musing over/dipping into/preparing for/telling myself off over:

The (delayed) completion of the Parthians.

Gathering figure proxies for Buffy the Board game (Yes. I know..).

Working on using cards for campaign "exploration" systems (after playing "Bear Valley" - which comes with some useful, pretty cards. I may design some of my own, then Tally Ho for the printers).



Inspired by  a few games of "Comrade Korba" (all the fun of the inner circle of Stalinist Russia); thinking about adapting (aka stealing) the idea for card-driven "politics" to act as a background for Ancient/Medieval figure/map campaigns...

  


A few games of SPI's PRESTAGS (mainly "Chariot" and "Viking") have helped during the Scutari Hospital phase of the last few weeks, as have some jolly, old films (Pic.  Yes, that IS ian Carmichael in WW2 German kit. Movie included Richard Attenborough, Dennis price and Christopher Lee in same) and 1980s TV...



The gang will be having a "Colditz" games evening at the weekend..

Oh, and I had a birthday (shudder).. 




The final plan for the Play Room is to have a permanent "Campaign Table" which can be left set up while still leaving space for the "Fighting table". THEN the fun can restart....

Watch this space... I hope to be back in the solo saddle proper by the end of the month....

Saturday, 28 September 2019

Displacement Activity.....

Interim Post pending progress.....


Life, work, fighting, a school gig, boiler-man wrangling, painting and displacement activity have prevailed over game play the last few weeks I'm afraid...


Meanwhile:


SOME of my Parthians got completed.



The rest are getting there....


I have been mulling over a solo card-led "exploration" game for my next project (once Judea has been subdued) and sketching some campaign maps.


Have also been experimenting with the "Dettol paint removal system" (to strip some of my 40+yo Airfix Romans). Yep; it works....


Discovering the excellent 1970s London Weekend Television "Enemy At The Door" online (a drama about the WW2 German occupation of Guernsey - and yes, it is "that guy from Hi, Di Hi") has resulted in me sitting down in front of the PC and engaging in some simple "non-Parthian" painting and crafting activity (painting horses stresses me out - it's the tack) resulting in a whole slew of weird and "wonderful" (?) oddments....








What the actual...???  Somewhere my "maintenance of the aim" has gone seriously astray..

I DID write more above about each pic. - but Blogger is so utterly awful (I have just spent an hour vainly trying to get rid of the unwanted "text highlight" on blocks of text, following "online advice" - ho, ho, ho... retyping, retyping etc. etc. then re-spacing etc. etc. ) I've given up and deleted the lot.... I wish I'd chosen another "platform".. Ho hum....


The next couple of weeks will be more boiler-wrangling, work and Battle of Hastings, but will post again IF I can bring myself to use Blogger again.......  

"Will All Passengers for....."

Not North West Frontier; Part One As per the previous post: the train left Haserabad in the wee small hours (as the film) and proceeded ac...