Monday, April 20, 2015

First Game of Dux Bellorum

I've been excited about playing Dux Bellorum for ages, but it took me until last Friday to finally get in a game. So was it worth the wait?

Dux Bellorum, by Dan Mersey, follows the usual format of Osprey's series of wargames rules, providing a self-contained set of rules in 64 pages, lavishly illustrated with Osprey art and photos of miniatures. They scope of the rules is unapologetically narrow, focusing on late- and post-Roman Britain from AD 367-793, evoking the early 'dark ages' world of Nennius and Gildas. The rules are well laid out, clearly explained and really quite straightforward, making this a great little game to give to someone who has had no experience with tabletop wargaming. I will be getting a copy for the school library.

Dux Bellorum also has a lot to offer more experienced gamers. Most of the rules are basically familiar to people who have played games like Impetus. What makes them special is the system Dan came up with of Leadership Points. These are basically a finite resource of command and control that each general allocates to different units under his or her command at the start of a turn. Unlike, say, SAGA, these aren't necessary to activate a unit, but they can be used to boost a unit's combat effectiveness, help it cancel hits, allow it to interrupt an enemy unit's move or make activating a unit possible if it fails the basic Bravery Test required by any unit to allow it to move.

Army lists are straightforward, with each army generally comprising 32 points. On Friday I fielded a Sub-Roman British force of five units of Ordinary Shieldwall, a unit each of bowmen and foot skirmishers, a unit of Ordinary Riders and a mounted general with his retinue. This left me 5 points, with which I purchased an additional Leadership Point (giving me 7 in total) and a 'Strategy' bonus that equipped my Shieldwall with hurled weapons, making them stronger in defenece. My opponent Lawrence fielded a Saxon force of foot warriors, come Ordinary and some Noble (although I can't remember the exact mix).

The British shield wall

Lawrence trying to look like a fierce Saxon

The game played really well, despite my tired Friday night inability to comprehend some simple rules and despite us getting a couple of things completely wrong. I rapidly realised what an interesting and subtle mechanic the Leadership Points are. Deciding when and how to use them is the core of this game, and I think Dan has done a great job of using them to evoke the role of strong leadership in these dark ages battles of limited manouevre and much shoving.

Vikings pretending to be Saxons

I also learned from defeat that lines of Ordinary Shieldwall are quite vulnerable, and need the leavening of some superior troops if they are going to pull their weight!

British cavalry and Saxon warriors locked in combat. The counters represent Leadership Points

All in all, I loved this game, and so did my opponent. I'm really looking forward to giving it another go, especially now that we've cleared up a couple of misunderstandings. Congratulations Mr Mersey!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Dux Bellorum with Dux Homunculorum

I can't believe it's taken me this long, but I FINALLY got to play a game of Dux Bellorum on Friday night. I'll write up my thoughts on the game properly, but for the moment suffice it to say that the game gets two enthusiastic thumbs up from me.

With the game coming up I had good reason to make a major push on finishing some more units for my Romano-British army. I've been trying as much as possible to make densely packed units with 14 figures in two rows on a 120mm frontage base. However, I also have a bunch of figures individually based on 20mm round bases for Dux Britanniarum and other skirmish games. A while back the good people at Warbases made me some custom movement trays, allowing me to get 10 individually based figures into a 120mm unit, with the slots for the figures being as irregularly spaced as possible. The problem is that on 20mm bases the figures are pretty top heavy, and kept falling out. So last night I set about mounting a rare earth magnet in each of the slots on the movement trays.

Don't forget the dust mask when drilling MDF. And note the awesome pink power drill I won in a raffle raising money for breast cancer

Each of the individual figures has magnetic strip stuck on the base, so this does help the figures resist some amount of wobbling, although certainly doesn't solve the problem entirely. With all the figures based, I now have a pretty reasonably sized force; more than enough for Dux Bellorum, especially when adding in the cavalry and skirmishers that aren't pictured here, and looking pretty good for Impetus and Sword and Spear as well.

One of the nice things about making a sub-Roman army is how well the figures from different ranges match, allowing units with loads of variety. Mine include Westwind, Black Tree Design, Artizan, Gripping Beast metal and plastic and Crusader miniatures.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

What's next for 2015?

As my RSI from the Painting Challenge recedes, it's time to take a moment, drink a mug of tea, and think about what's next. Like most of us, there are about 50 projects I'd like to be working on, and I don't feel bad about flitting around between them, but it is a good thing to have some general aspirational hobby goals. In no particular order, here are my top ten projects for the rest of the year.

1. Victorian Zombie Apocalypse

This is one of those projects entirely driven by a desire to paint some shiny miniatures. I really like the look of the fictional c.1900 female Hussars made by Hinterland Miniatures. Most miniatures of female characters in our hobby have traditionally reflected a rather sad adolescent male fantasy. You know, 'I'm a lusty barbarian wench with a massive sword, so big in fact that I don't need any armour apart from this chain mail G-String.' That kind of thing. The thing I like about Hinterland is that they have made a range of plausible female warriors that actually look like real women. I'd be happy to give them to my daughter to play with.

And they do make a pack of zombiefied Hussars.... Which got me thinking. 'Cos Westwind also have a pack of Victorian zombies.... And Northstar's 'Society of Thule' box contains some zombiefied Prussian Jaegers..... So I wrote to Nick Eyre at Northstar, and he was more than happy to just sell me 15 or so of the zombies.

People seem to like 'In Her Majesty's Name'. And there are rules for zombies on the IHMN website. But terrain.... hmmm. Well, I visited Wargames Vault, and checked out the 'Historic Olde Towne' from Stoezel's Structures. It's cheap, it'll be fun to make, and basically will give me a nice big Victorian city layout, with interior detail.

It seems the planets have aligned. I've got some cool minis on the way to paint, a nice terrain layout to build, and some rules to drive it. I reckon this will be fun.

2. Finish my Romano-British Army/b>

I'm looking forward to seeing this army finished. They are mainly destined for Dux Bellorum, but will also work for Impetus and Sword and Spear.

3. 6mm ECW Armies

Paul of the Man Cave will be back around the end of the year, and by the time he returns I must have two large ECW armies painted.... Large in numbers, that is.

4. Late War Germans, Soviets and Brits

I already have some armies painted for Battle Group Fall of the Reich, but I aim to add to them every now and then during the year. I particularly enjoyed making some urban warfare bases for some Germans during the Painting Challenge, and plan to do more of these.

5. Urban Terrain

For my Fall of the Reich games, I really want some urban terrain. It will be expensive to try to do something sizeable in MDF, so I'm thinking about making a board with lots of rubble and partial buildings, with occasional more intact structures, and maybe even adapting paper models to bulk out the cityscape.

6. Retreat from Moscow 1812

Another project driven by stunning figures, I plan to keep chipping away at painting the stunning range made by the Perrys for Napoleon's retreat from Moscow. No idea what rules they might be suitable for, but even if I never game with them, they are a privilege to paint.

7. Curse Agema Miniatures and their lovely Republican Romans! Curse War and Peace Games for that time they sold them for less than half price!! Curse my Lack of will power!!!

Nothing to add to that really....

8. Early War Germans

Add a few bits and bobs to my Battle Group Barbarossa army.

9. Western Desert

I reckon this will mainly be a 2016 project, but I'll be waiting eagerly for the new Battle Group supplements for the desert. I'm now pretty much like one of Pavlov's dogs, conditioned to buy whatever Plastic Soldier Company put out, so I'll pick up whatever desert armour they put out that I can afford. If they put out a box of Crusaders and I can't afford them, I'll rob a bank.

10. Something Shiny that I Haven't Anticipated But will end up dominating several months of my life

So there we have it: Some aspirations for the year. Should keep me out of mischief.