Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Prufrock's Wargaming Blog

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

To Byzantium

I've had a strange wargame restlessness over the last week which manifested itself in a hobby room clean up and then the taking down of games from shelves, the opening of them, the furrowing of brows, and then the putting of games away because for one reason or another they weren't quite what I was looking for just at that moment.

After doing this over several nights with Sword of Rome, Sekigahara and Caesar XL, I finally hit upon Solitaire Caesar as the possible cure for the malaise.

Solitaire Caesar is one of those games that I wish I had designed myself. Simple map, simple rules, simple set up and engaging game. You start off controlling the city of Rome around 300 BC and, over the course of seventeen hundred-year turns, look to expand throughout the Mediterranean region and fend off attacks by the various game-controlled barbarians.

Each turn you get a different but set number of talents which are used to recruit armies or build cities. After you have done your turn (ie, turned fertile areas into deserts and called it peace) you roll to see which barbarians attack and in what strength. Once the barbarians have done their thing you tally up how many cities you control and note it down. At game's end you compare your total city score against a table to see how well you did.

I said that it was one of those games I wish I had designed myself, but the reality is that I couldn't have designed it, because the simplicity is the result of good research, extensive playtesting and clever design - all things which tend to be absent in my own rules-writing.

The great strength (or weakness, depending on how much of a control freak you are) of the game is that it relies heavily on the dice, and so the game is more about creating a story than plotting a foolproof path to Mediterranean conquest.

Anyway, after all that lead up, Rome Prufrock style was a bit of a disaster: I lost control of the eternal city somewhere around 150 AD and Byzantium a century later.

So, not so much a solitaire Caesar as a solitary one!

It was a nice little gaming interlude and just the thing I needed. The game has actually given me a couple of ideas for future projects, but these, knowing me, will likely never come to fruition!

Here are a couple of shots of the game (note that while my version is print and play, there is now a proper boxed edition available from White Dog Games):

Ouch; just lost Rome to some marauding Germans.

...and then Steppe types and Africans decided to join the party.
Inevitably, given the title of this post, we will finish with a little bit of William Butler Yeats from the poets.org website (about time we got some culture on this blog!).

Sailing to Byzantium

That is no country for old men. The young
In one another’s arms, birds in the trees
—Those dying generations—at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.

An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.

O sages standing in God’s holy fire
As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing-masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.

Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.



Friday, May 13, 2016

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Crossfire with the boy

I set up a table to relearn the Crossfire rules the other night and while doing so I had a visit from the boy wanting to join in.



He played through a few activations, killed four of my US squads, and then left!

Looking from my position.

The boy's nasty machine gunners.

Some kind of filter that the new camera mysteriously added to the GIs!
I think I've got back up to speed with the rules, anyway. I really need to scrape together some better terrain though, and to finish painting the 1/700 buildings.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

World War 1 action with 'Soldiers'

Friday was a public holiday and to make the most of getting a day off work I popped up to Kobe to see boardgame mate Pat for a game of the SPI World War I classic Soldiers and a taste of his sangria mix.

Soldiers was not a game I was familiar with, but I can see why it is so highly rated, despite it being more than forty years old.

The rules are clear and easy to grasp, and the scenario we played, Le Cateau, was a real wargamer's situation: British on defence, needing to find the best way to defend a wide front against a numerous and determined enemy; Germans on attack, needing to both exit companies from the opposite board edge and inflict a certain number of casualties to claim victory.

We got through two games, but only touched on the tactical possibilities available to both sides. It was an excellent choice of game for the day, and if the sangria led to some less than optimal decision making in the second game, it probably enhanced the simulation value of the exercise!

Here are a few of Pat's photos from the first game (during turn 1, and well prior to the sangria taking effect). I should note in passing that the photos do not do the map justice: it had a lovely antique look to it: there was nothing garish or overstated, and the whole effect was evocative but restful. It was a joy to play on.


Full board, from the German perspective

Germans snake forward on the right.

My British defending forward early, and getting battered for their troubles.

As it turned out, the British won both games, but the first one in particular was very close indeed. There were a number of crucial actions which could have won or lost the game for either side, and we were both left thinking about different strategies to employ, which is surely one mark of a successful wargame.

On that note, while it was only a game for us, the huge slaughter depicted did give one pause for thought about how appalling it must have been for the poor chaps actually involved in these actions and others like them.

It's certainly a game I would play again.

Many thanks to Pat for a fine day's convivial play, and some excellent beverages!

Monday, April 25, 2016

An Uncivil War

I set up the card-driven ECW game Unhappy King Charles the other night for a play through to refresh my memory of the rules and try out the new coloured chits I'd got for the particular purpose of using with it.

UKC is an interesting game: the focus is more on building areas of influence than on battles - these being costly and risky - so progress is incremental rather than dramatic. It's not ideal for solo play unless you're a real ECW buff (which I'm not - my interest is casual) but I was enjoying it nonetheless.

In the early war the biggest drama was in the South and the Midlands. Waller dumped the Royalists out of Cornwall while Rupert a bit further north took Nottingham by siege.

There was more to-ing and fro-ing, with Essex besieging Reading which brought Rupert haring down to sort things out. Rupert's efforts were spectacular, and by early 1843 (ahem, 1643 - Editor Ray) Essex and Manchester had been ousted, had had their armies dispersed, and had left Rupert in position to beseige London, with no one around able to do very much about it.

King Charles is in rather happier state at this point than the game title would allow...


Slightly agog at the pace of this action, a light suddenly went on in the dimness. A quick check of the rules showed that I'd stuffed up: Rupert was not allowed to command an army of quite this size just yet. Ouch.

Yes Rupert, it is too good to be true!

I may have got the hang of something, but it certainly wasn't the rules! Too far gone for a re-do, I've called it game over. Next time I'll have to abide by the rules more civilly...

Oh well :)


Sunday, April 3, 2016

Pharsalus Battle Day

We had our version of the Society of Ancients' battle day here in Japan today. The object of this year's study was of Pharsalus, and we used bespoke rules to try to explore the battle and some of the possible outcomes.

With six players and myself as umpire, it was an excellent turnout, and everyone got into the spirit of the event. The rules were simple: play a card (move, charge, hold, skirmish, fall back, etc) and act. Combat was by dice roll, with units needing different scores to hit against different opponents. Players had Tribune pieces which they could play to save hits or to add dice to an attack, and there was an appeal to fate option by which players could ask for a re-roll by screaming their side's watchword, with the re-roll option then passing to the other team and remaining with them until someone on their team had used it.

Each player had his own secret victory conditions, and was able to score 'dignitas' by hitting the enemy, surviving past a certain period, using his tribune effectively, and so on. The intention was to keep players interested and to give them an incentive to command their section in a historical fashion.

For me, the game was a great success, and it was wonderful to see people getting caught up in the moment and to watch the battle re-enacted in the way it was.

I'm not going to say too much as I intend to put the bulk of my reflections into an article for Slingshot, but here are a few shots of the deployment and some of the action.






Many thanks to all who participated in making this a great day.

Monday, March 28, 2016

So how did Caesar win that again??

A few shots of preparation for our Pharsalus Battle Day game on Sunday. At this stage I'm just lining up the troops and seeing how things look, but even with this it's hard to see how Pompey's 7000 cavalry and 2000 or so light infantry got so badly beaten up by 1000 cav and 2000-3000 legionaries!



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