Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Never mind the birds - look, D-Day barges!

I spotted these concrete barges last Saturday while walking with Sue to the RSPB reserve at Rainham Marsh. They were used in the D-Day landings, apparently, and are now gently mouldering in the sunshine on the bank of the Thames estuary.

Have I finally lost my mind?

So after about a year trying to order a counter-clipping jig from a guy in the US, I decided to make my own. It was surprisingly easy - a redundant CD case, a hacksaw, some fine-grade sandpaper, and about 15 minutes careful work were all that was needed. The critical bit was filing away the corner until the amount of counter-corner showing was just right.

It certainly makes the clipping job quicker and far more accurate. As you can see I've been going through my ASL Starter Kit counters re-clipping them for absolutely uniform corners.

But the question remains - why would any sane person want to do this?

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Tottenham MiniCon

I baptized my new home last weekend by inviting Dave (centre) and Nick (right) over for 3 days of wargaming mayhem. Simon (left) joined us too on the Saturday. On the menu were Nexus Ops, Sword of Rome, and Up Front!. Nick has sent me this excellent after-action-report, so here goes:

It’s always nice to go back to London – and especially so when there’s a bit of gaming in the offing. So despite a long and stuffy journey to a bit of London I wasn’t particularly familiar with it was great to finally arrive at Pete and Sue’s bijou little set up. I was immediately greeted with a plate of risotto and joined Dave and a friend of Sues at the dining table.....very nice.....very civilised. Well it was until the game we were playing that evening was described to me; it went something along the lines of (I think it was Dave who told me) “a game with funny monsters which move around a board fighting and occasionally picking up other monsters”. Oh yes, and some sort of mining was mentioned – but by that time all I was thinking was OH NO – IT’S BLOODY TITAN!!!!

Half a bottle of wine later I’d calmed down. The game’s actually called ‘Nexus Corps’ (I think) and it’s actually really good – not just because it’s nothing like Titan! Anyway Pete won, with me and Dave a very close 2nd=. By midnight we’d gone to bed with me and Dave leafing through the rules for the next day’s game - ‘Sword of Rome’ - and plotting......plotting!

Simon arrived at 11ish and we got started pronto with me as the Greeks, Pete as the Romans, Dave as the Etruscans/Samnites and Simon as the Gauls – and boy did they suit him! Initially, though, the Gauls were under the cosh big-time with Dave pushing hard and doing well. I was having less success trying to duff up the Carthaginians – but on the bright side everyone was leaving me alone. It took the rise of Pete’s Romans to give us all a collective slap in the face – in the first turn he chomped up the Volsci and bit by bit he built a very firm recruiting base with Rome as the centre of this spider’s web. By the 3rd turn it was clear that if differences weren’t made up Pete would pull away – so we did what every upstanding, honest and noble gamer would do.....we ganged up on him!

It worked too, but it took a bit longer than we thought. I was convinced I had him when I attacked from Neapolis – especially with a Solar Eclipse card (meant I could re-roll the combat roll and choose which one I wanted). I didn’t roll particularly well with either, but I still beat him – until he played the Quincunx card which meant he could re-roll his dice.......getting a 6, 5 and 5. OUCH. Still he was under pressure from Dave too so fortunately it wasn’t too much of a problem and in the following round I captured Capua from him. It put me ahead on VPs in the 4th turn but only by one.

In the meantime Dave and Simon were having an interesting relationship. The best way for the Gauls to get VPs is for them to raid – and of course the obvious target for them is the Etruscans. Naturally therefore Simon raided......and Dave reacted, denying Simon the VPs (by forcing him to use Gallic Solidarity to convert VP and recruiting areas he’d made Etruscan). As such they were both going nowhere and getting a little tetchy to boot. As an answer to the rise of Peter, Simon came up with a novel solution – he offered to Dave that he would only raid non VP areas, meaning that Dave would not need to waste time and troops converting them back (he didn’t want to use the Etruscan Bribe ability) and could concentrate on defending against and attacking Pete.

Dave accepted and in a very short time the board was dotted with raided areas (independent markers) and Simon was 2 VPs better off. Not bad going – except that he was now raiding Greek areas! Dave, though, had managed to push the Romans back pretty emphatically and things were settling down to the usual in-fighting between all players. Certainly Dave and I were thinking about duffing up a Gallic army – though I suspect Simon was considering having a go at me with his army in the south (with Brennus).

Unfortunately we stopped towards the end of the 4th turn (7pm!) – it was my idea but I thought that it would be nice to play and finish some other games before we dropped – and we weren’t going to finish ‘Sword of Rome’! We agreed a draw and I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed it. I think everyone played their country brilliantly (well perhaps not me as all I managed to do was take Capua and get trounced by the Carthaginians a few times) – although I didn’t agree with Simon’s Gallic strategy it worked well and was entertaining – though not perhaps for Dave! We MUST play again and we’ve got to try and convince Dave to like the game again (yes....it’s joined his long list of games never to play again).

So we then played 2 games of Euphrat & Tigris......and we learnt something. Pete had been practising......a lot! He absolutely stuffed us the first time while winning the second by a point. Fortunately Pete tired, sparing us more humiliation, scooting of to bed and Simon left for his part of London.

But it wasn’t the end for me....Oh No! Dave suddenly materialised out of no-where brandishing a box of ‘Hammer of the Scots’ suggesting a game and – like the stupid muppet I am (and maybe due to the fact that I was pretty pissed) – I said yes. We started at 1am – by 2 he’d wiped me off the board. Ah well – no different to any other time I’d played him then! As I trudged upstairs I pondered why I was so shit at ‘Hammer of the Scots’ – you see I’ve never won a game, Dave beating me at least 5 times in a row. It’s not the usual reason; I do like it. Then an idea hit me – every time we’d played it was either very early or late in the day i.e. I wasn’t awake yet or I was too pissed to think straight! I shall console myself with that (spurious) reasoning until Dave beats at midday one day.

On the final day Dave played Pete at Up Front – the return of an old favourite – with me moderating (as I know the rules pretty well). They played the City Fight scenario; Germans (Dave) against Americans (Pete) and it was a classic with the game being won (by Dave) outright only in the last play of cards, although he was ahead on VPs anyway. Dave left to go back to Salisbury (must be the ‘Hammer of the Scots’ that took it out of him!) leaving me and Pete to play a 501 City Fight game.

This is a satisfying Up Front version where you play the City Fight scenario, but each of you has 501 points to build up their own squad. As reinforcements coming on after later decks are incrementally cheaper you too can have that King Tiger tank (653pnts initially to 131pnts when it arrives on the 4th deck) – though realistically only for the final deck. Pete and Dave like to qualify this mentioning a game when I did just that; brought on a King Tiger only to have it blow up immediately when Pete fired his bazooka at it. I tell them to shut up......anyway it was a long time ago!

Anyway we played and I (the Germans) quite easily beat his Russians mainly down to Pete’s almost complete lack of rally and move cards.......and no.......I didn’t bring a King Tiger on! As a finale we played the Outpost Line scenario with Pete’s Germans stuffing my Brits – well what can you do with a bloody Bren-carrier? With that I thought I’d better leave – Pete had won so much he was looking peaky! My bag was twice as heavy as when I arrived after a visit to Finchley Games on Saturday and I fancied crawling into some quiet pub to look at my new purchase – ‘Command & Colours’! Mmmhhhh!

An absolutely brilliant weekend – many thanks to Pete and Sue. Hopefully we’ll do something like it again soon. If not there’s always MidCon.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

A heritage project

I finally got around to painting the second squad of space marines in my vintage copy of Space Hulk. I bought this game - it must be 15 years ago - from the son of a colleague at work. Got it for £15 - the little sucker didn't know what he was parting with. Heh.

Anyway, it was pretty battered, with a split box, and various bits missing. Expansion sets included (in various states of disrepair). I've been lovingly, but slowly, restoring it ever since. I bought more genestealers to replace missing figures. I painted them and the first squad of marines. I sorted and catalogued the tiles, counters and doors. I bought new dice and a 3-minute timer. I patched split corners on the box.

All the while the game was being played from time to time. Amazing game - intense, tactical, atmospheric. Scary even.

And now the second squad is done. They look pretty good I think, despite the missing antennae. Time to get this baby on the table again.....

Friday, August 03, 2007

It happened again

So GMT sent me another deluxe map for Empire of the Sun - must have been some administrative error. It arrived this morning. Once again it had crossed the Atlantic without damage. Once again the postman folded it in half and stuffed it through the door. Once again I heard it happening (I was downstairs this time) but reacted too slowly.

Why is this happening to me?

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Hey there just a minute mister postman!

So a while ago I preordered the deluxe map for Empire of the Sun from GMT Games. Not sure why, as I have not even read the rules or punched out the counters yet, let alone play it. But with the dollar as weak as it is, it's almost thriftless not to.

So my deluxe cardstock map and version 2 rulebook got all the way across the Atlantic Ocean without incident, arrived pristine and uncreased in the Tottenham sorting office, slipped unscathed into the postman's bag, survived all the way to my front door, where he carefully folded the envelope in two in order to stuff it through my letter-box. I heard the deed being done, I heard him fumbling at the door, but by the time I had realized what was happening and rushed pellmell down the stairs, it was too late. Sigh. So now my deluxe map is languishing under a pile of heavy games - maybe some day it will be straight again....