Friday, 13 February 2015

February update

It's been a little quiet on this blog of late, so I thought I'd simply publish a quick update on what I've been up to on the gaming front in recent weeks.

First off, we finally managed to complete our D&D 5e campaign arc, taking our little party of hardened adventurers to 4th level. DM Kelvin moved the adventure from the Forgotten Realms to Allansia, the venerable setting of the Fighting Fantasy game books, which was a welcome trip down memory lane. I think it is fair to say we all enjoyed 5e, although I'm not sure whether it would be my choice of game to run fantasy adventures with these days.

I'm Spartacus!

More recently, we played the excellent Spartacus board game from Gale Force Nine. This is a superb gladiator game that has been inspired by the TV series Spartacus, which sadly I've not watched yet. It is easy to play and frankly enormous fun. Each player is the manager of a domus, effectively a training camp for gladiators, competing against each other to acquire the most Influence in Rome. It is a long time since I have literally cried with laughter while playing a board game, but Spartacus does that for me somehow. Maybe I'm a little warped.

I am a Kickstarter backer of 13th Age Glorantha, by Rob Heinsoo, and a play test pack for this has bee released recently. I'm obliged not to discuss it publicly, but with any luck we'll get a chance to play this in the near future, and provide Rob with some feedback. I've never run a game in Glorantha before and have been keen to do so for some time. I've always imagined RuneQuest would be the chosen system for this, as it is the rules system historically most closely associated with Glorantha, but I did enjoy playing vanilla 13th Age last year, and you know what, I think it could work quite well in Glorantha.

The return of Conan

I was also very excited to hear that Conan will be returning as an RPG, hopefully before the end of this year, with the announcement from Modiphius that they  have the license. I have run Conan games before using d20 / OGL, and quite enjoyed the richness of the Hyborian setting. I wrote my own adventure for starting characters that drew some of its inspiration from Robert E. Howard's story The Frost Giant's Daughter. The PCs met as members of an Aesir warband on a raid into Hyperborea in mid winter. It featured an excellent battle when their camp was attacked by Hyperboreans, including a war mammoth. At 2nd level they then ventured south to Zamora for one of the published Mongoose adventures. Awesome fun.

Sikh Wars

I am currently trying to paint some Sikh troops to oppose my 28mm East India Company army. I'm still dithering as to which rules to use. I'm currently painting a couple of units of irregulars, which could just as easily turn up in an Afghan army, and a big unit of Sikh regular infantry.

The Sikh khalsa began its military life in the early 18th century when the Sikhs took up arms against the Mughal emperor Jehangir, and while it began life constituted along the lines of many other Indian principality armies, the Sikhs realised that they needed a European style army if they were going to stand a chance of protecting themselves from the interloping British. Hence, European military advisors, many of them veterans of the Napoleonic wars, were brought in to train the khalsa into a formidable military machine that enjoyed significant victories against the neighbouring Afghans.

I traveled to Pakistan in 1998 and was able to visit the tomb of Jehangir Khan, then in a sadly derelict state, which was used by the Sikhs as a stable for their cavalry. I don't think the Sikhs and Jehangir had got on when he was alive.

I'm painting a mix of Wargames Foundry and Studio figures and it is noticeable that the Studio Sikhs are much better proportioned although perhaps not as dynamic or characterful as the Foundry models. I have a lot of figures to paint, and will be experimenting, as ever, with different techniques to see what looks best. The tricky point will be the flags, as I've never done flags before myself, and the Sikh and Afghan armies of this period boasted some very ornate and detailed banners. I'm using octagonal bases from Warbases for the irregular troops, and they do look excellent. More on this as I make progress.

Vietnam: Charlie Company

 I'm also painting some 28mm Vietnam War US troops from The Assault Group. I got these as a deal one year at Colours in Newbury with a view to building a platoon for games of Charlie Company by RAFM as well as for the Tour of Darkness RPG. I'm approaching these from two different process routes: some have been primed in black, and some in green. The green ones are very easy to paint, as you only need to worry about flesh, webbing and equipment, and then can focus on inking and highlights. With any luck I'll get to actually use them at some point. This is a project I'm dipping in and out of when time allows.

I've recently taken delivery of a 6' x 4' battle mat from Cigar Box Battles. They produce battlefields printed on fleece, including roads, fields, steams and woodland. Up until now I've been using large sheets of vinyl of appropriate colour and texture for my larger games which you can view elsewhere on this blog. The new mat looks absolutely superb. I have opted for a generic European battlefield, although I note they have also started producing some specific American Civil War battlefields. I'd like to use this for a couple of skirmish games, perhaps some WW2 and some Lord of the Rings, and see what it looks like in action. But I've already got my eye on their grassland and desert mats as well. They are washable in a washing machine (wet dry) and fold up very neatly indeed. I think this is a great product and one that will become ubiquitous in the wargaming fraternity in very short order. Hopefully they will find a UK distributor soon. More on this once I actually manage to get a game set up.

King of Dragon Pass

I've just started playing King of Dragon Pass on the iOS, which will help with filling in some gaps for me in Gloranthan mythology. Glorantha has a very deep and sophisticated cultural background which has been in constant development over the past 30+ years. KODP is a very handy little strategy game for the iPhone and great for the train. It is reminiscent of a PBM game I used to play way back in the late 1980s, called Explorers of Orion. It is a tribal management game where you play the role of the chief, directing the activities of your tribe over the course of the seasons.

Dead Space

I've also delved into Dead Space on the PS3. It has been a while since I played anything on the PS3. Having watched Prometheus recently, I thought I'd dust off Dead Space. This is a great survival horror game inside a derelict mining ship in deep space. There are echoes of the original Resident Evil and Silent Hill here, but now you're in space. It was released by EA Redwood Shores in 2008, so is a more venerable game, but I'm not noticing that. My character has already been eviscerated three times, as I have a tendency to panic when an alien beastie assails me, but then perhaps that's the point. I'm currently only equipped with some laser bolt cutters, and as with Resident Evil, you need to manage your resources carefully in case you hit a dry spot.

At some point I'm also going back to Steam to download my beta edition of Shadowrun Online, which I backed on Kickstarter, IIRC.

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