Friday, January 28, 2011

A Trouncing in Isengard

Wow! Has it really been that long since I last did a blog entry? I guess so. It’s not like nothing interesting happened in the intervening time. There’s been a few SCA events, at least one or two games with Mark (including a nifty WWI air combat game), a really nice Christmas with my mom visiting, and my sister in law had her lovely baby girl. I guess I just haven’t been in the mood. My long painting commission is drawing to a close so I guess I’m feeling more like writing.

So, back to the point of this blog entry. I got a call from Mark early on Thursday morning saying he had the day free and would I like to play some War of the Ring. After some rapid mental gear shifting, I agreed. It’s one of my favourite games, and I was a bit surprised because Mark said he was a mite tired of the game. But who am I to look a gift miniatures game in the mouth.

Mark brought his usual awesome collection of miniatures. The battle would be Isengard, lead by Saruman against a force from Gondor, lead by Faramir. Mark had added another unit of crossbow Uruk-hai to his Isengard force as well as some really nice banners to all his forces. He had also made up new spell cards and a bunch of chits for marking various heroic and epic actions. It increased the visual appeal of a game that was already quite appealing looking. In addition there were some nice new terrain pieces for the table top.

Lead by Saruman the forces of Isengard included a three company formation of Uruk-hai crossbows, a four company formation of uruk-hai warriors with shields, and a four company formation of Warg riders. I also had a troll. Unfortunately, Saruman was the only hero I had. In order to give them greater mobility I place Saruman with the crossbows.

Mark Gondor force consisted of two, two company formations of Warriors of Minas Tirith with weapons and shields; a two company formation of Citadel Guard with longbows; a two company formation of Warriors with bows, a three company formation of Rangers and a four company formation of Knights of Gondor lead by Faramir. He also had two or three other captains.

It was a fairly cluttered battlefield, with several clumps of forest and a ruined building. I set up to avoid the large hill on the one end of the board, placing my Uruk-hai shield unit on my far left flank, the troll beside them, the crossbows in the centre and the Warg riders on my right flank. Marks Knights were across from my warriors w/shields, with his Citadel Guard next, followed by the two units of Warriors, and the Rangers on the far flank. Thankfully the rangers were out of position and would have to move a bit to bring there bows to bear.

I at the doubled my crossbows on the first turn, hoping to bring them in range of his units and then call a heroic shoot. This actually worked well and my shooting at one of his units of warriors resulted in five casualties. Is return fire took out a couple of Uruk-hai crossbows and the lead warg riders. It was a pretty fair exchange, but I was dreading the amount of bow fire I was going to take. The rangers were manoeuvring to my flank and I would be nicely enfiladed by Marks forces. Marks knights were charging towards my Uruk warriors and Saruman did his first useful thing, casting Enfeeble on them, reducing their strength by one. I was dreading the incoming charge, and I expected the formation to get hurt big time. I wasn’t far off. Faramir declared an Epic Strike, increasing his Fight to 10, giving him a bunch of extra attacks. He also rolled an Unstoppable Charge on his Charge roll, giving him further dice. Cavalry strike first meaning any casualties they do take effect before a foot unit can strike back. After the dust had cleared I had lost a full company and a half of Uruk- hai. This was not a devastating as I had thought my lads struck back with a vengeance, reducing the knights down to three units, which turned tail and were not really a factor for the rest of the game. Faramir would transfer to one of the Citadel Guard unit. The troll had been moving to hit the knights in the flank but that threat had evaporated so he had to figure out who else to hit.

The units of crossbows were being whittled down by archery fire but Saruman was laying about him with some good spell successes, the brunt of which were taken by the formation of rangers moving up on my flank. Despite their taking cover I managed to kill two full companies. We had decided that the spells of Dismay made more sense for Saruman than Command and he was able to use a combination of Sunder Spirit and Visions of Woe. He even managed to get a six for the spell effect, forcing Mark to make a courage check at minus 2 on a single dice. Visions of woe made it a minus 3, but he managed to roll a six on his courage check which limited the damage. He lost models equal to the amount he failed the courage check by. His courage was 3 with the reduction, he rolled a six for the courage check (9 total) which means he only lost a single figure. Saruman was also using Epic Ruination to boost the effects of other spells and using might to call heroic shoots. His three might went pretty quickly.

The Warg riders were being nailed by bow fire and tried to get into position for a charge. I should have pulled them back and gone after the rangers but instead tried a suicidal charge against a unit of archers. They were mown down without mercy.

The Uruk warriors were desperately trying to get back across the field to support Saruman, but his formation went down to mass bow fire despite taking cover in some woods. The game ended with a last gasp charge by the Uruk-hai and the troll against a formation of Warriors of Minas Tirith in a ruined building. They managed to take out quite a few, winning the fight, but losing the troll (who had been wounded by bow fire). We forgot that by winning the fight I had forced them out of cover and could occupy it myself. This meant the Uruk-hai may have been able to hold out another turn or two, but we called the game at that point.

I think the main lesson I can take away from the game is to use terrain better to reduce the effectiveness of enemy bow fire. The Citadel, with their range 36 longbows where very effective and there was littlie I could do about them. I also need to be a lot more cagey with my mounted forces and use them more effectively. Despite having lost it was a fun game. The Uruks effectively weathered the cavalry storm and Saruman got off a lot of spells. It was fun to see. I don’t know when we’ll next be playing but I suspect it will involve some gorgeous Starblazers ships that Mark is working on.

Until next time.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

World War II, The Early Years

Yes, it’s been quite awhile since I last blogged. I’ve been busy with other projects, one of which will be the subject of my next blog, and I just haven’t had the time or the proper frame of mind to blog.

Mark has been over for two game sessions recently. Both times we played the Axis & Allies Collectible Miniatures Game, which has been featured in previous blog posts. This time we were going even earlier in WWII than the Western Desert. This time the battles would be fought in France, with the German’s blitzkrieging their way into Western Europe. It was a very interesting, and frequently terrifying, period in warfare. There was a doctrinal clash between the Allies and the Germans. The Allies were prepared to fight a static positional war, like the one they had fought in WWI. The German’s were using a relatively new set of tactics, the above mentioned Blitzkrieg, or lightning war. German tactics relied on movement with infantry and armoured units working in concert, the infantry being transported in trucks and half-tracks so they could keep up with the armour. Enemy forces could be encircled and cut off, often being forced to surrender or be mopped by slower moving follow on forces. They also employed their air forces tactically in support of their ground forces. In the Battle for France, the Germans were forced to use pretty much everything they had, even older tanks like the Panzer I which had been relegated to training duty and were only equipped with machine guns. It was an era of war.

It was an era of warfare where tanks were not the juggernauts seen later in the war. Their armour protection was relatively thin, the cannon they mounted were quite weak, and there were often questionable choices made in their design. The Briitish employed two kinds of tanks, the fast moving but lightly armed and armoured Cruiser tanks and the slower, better armoured Infantry tanks. As can be seen from the name, the Infantry tanks were designed to support infantry, and were designed to move at speeds not much faster than walking infantry and armed with guns for taking on infantry targets with High Explosive rounds. The cruiser tanks were supposed to dash around the battle field taking on enemy armour, using their speed for safety, much like the lightly armoured fast battlecruisers of WWI. Perhaps Allied tank designers should have paid attention to things like the seabourne Battle of Jutland to see how well that tactical doctrine worked. Most tanks had thin armour relative to later tanks, and were vulnerable in some cases even to machine gun fire. Anti-tank weapons were also relatively weak, but then again they were facing the aforementioned weak armour and even anti-tank rifles could be effective.

Mark and I played four games of A&A over two sessions. In each session we got to play both the German and Allied side. The scenario was a German assault on a village held by British and French forces. No Allied forces were in the village at the start of the game, but they had a screen of forces across the approach to it. The objective of the Germans was to occupy the village buildings by the end of the game. The board was arranged so that there was a single road leading down the right side of the map to the village, passing through a gap in some wooded hills that were part of the Allied deployment zone. I can’t remember the exact composition of the forces but the Germans had a several trucks carrying infantry including machine gun and mortar squads, a couple of early StuG’s, some Panzer I, Panzer II and Panzer III, two SIG assault guns and some recon armoured cars. The Allies had a least sixl early cruiser tanks, three French light tanks, some Panhard armoured cars, some Universal Carriers, several 6 pounder anti-tank guns, and a whack of infantry including mortars and Vickers machine guns.

I can’t really give a blow by blow of the games as I simply left writing this blog too long and I don’t remember much beyond some of the highlights and interesting tactical situations that arose. I didn’t do particularly well in any of the games, but the fourth game, with me as the Allies was still in the balance when we had to call it. We will hopefully be able to resume it at a later date.

In the first game I was playing the Germans. I spread out my forces across the board, with a lot of my heavier armour near the road, the trucks safely in some woods, and my left flank covered by the lighter armoured forces. I lead with my scout armoured cars, as they would be able to spot the hidden anti-tank guns Mark had deployed and give something for the long range firepower of the SIG assault guns to target. The game went fairly well initially and I was able to destroy several AT guns, but I bogged down trying to dig forces out of the wooded hills that formed the backbone of Mark's defence and I lost sufficient forces to make it impossible for me to take the village. When we switched sides, Mark tried something a little different. When I played the Germans, I held my infantry back in some woods, hoping to rush them forward when sufficient Allied forces had been destroyed to make it relatively safe for them to move up to the village. This didn’t work but they did survive the game. Mark tried an infantry assault, rapidly moving the truck mounted infantry forward. Unfortunately, the dismounted infantry got caught out in the open and were largely destroyed. My mortar team was awarded the Military Medal as, despite the puny nature of their weapon, they managed to do serious damage to the exposed infantry. He still had some infantry remaining and his StuG’s were closing on the village and there was not a lot I could do about them.

The second session, which was a couple of weeks later, saw the same scenario with roughly the same forces. We had both given the scenario some thought in the intervening days and planned some new tactics. Again, I was playing the Germans and placed the bulk of my forces for a mass attack down the road and through the gap. I was spearheading the attack with the StuG’s and Panzer III and hoping the lighter armour could cover my flanks as I charged down the road. Much to my chagrin, Mark countered by blitzkrieging me, charging his Cruiser tanks forward in order to try and take out the SIG assault guns that had been the bane of his AT guns during the previous session. He managed to take them out and heavily disrupt my forward movement. He also managed to pick off some of trucks that were vital for moving the infantry up to take the village. Most of his armour died in the attempt, but it took a lot of mine with it and I was left with a much reduced force facing his line of entrenched AT guns and infantry. My infantry, which had survived the destruction of their transport intact, would have to try and foot slog it to the village and they simply wouldn’t be able to get there in time. I tried a similar tactic when I played the Allies and lost much of my armour without getting the SIG’s. One tank was still holding out, despite being damaged, not going down despite multiple shots at it. I think he gets a VC. My death ride did slow him down a bit and forced the SIG’s out of position. My armoured cars were racing forward for a shot of them, and had a chance of keeping them tied down. He would still have to get through my AT guns and infantry to get at the village. How this one would end, well, we’ll hopefully get a chance to finish it some day.

As always, they were fun games. Mark’s use of the counter-blitzkrieg was especially memorable and very effective. I always look forward to when Mark comes over for a game as he puts a lot of thought into each scenario and brings everything required to play. I’m looking forward to our future battles, regardless of genre.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Hard Crossing in Osgiliath

Last Thursday was another great War of the Ring game with my friend Mark. I haven't blogged about it until now because of other stuff which I will talk about in my next blog.

Mark had recently acquired the new Osgiliath ruin set from Games Workshop. He combined this with some Warhammer terrain and put together a wonderful board with ruined buildings on both sides of the river Anduin representing the mostly destroyed Gondorian city of Osgiliath. I had a force of Orcs lead by Gothmog, including some Morannon Orcs as well as a Troll. My objective was to exit a formation of the opposite edge of the map from where I started. I was facing a number of formations of Warriors of Minas Tirith including some Osgiliath Veterans. The force was lead by Faramir and there were a couple of other heroes as well.

I had one of two ways to cross the river, either to use boats to cross, or a central bridge. If a company made it to the rivers edge it could start to cross the river. It could do this even if it were part of a larger formation, as we were allowed to break up formations for the crossing and reform them on the other side if they made it. A unit in a “boat” rolled a D6. On a one it was spotted from the other shore and could be targeted by bow fire. On a 2 or 3, it drifted down the river one base length. On a 4, 5 or 6 it could begin to move across the river about one base width. The bridge was about as wide as a single company base.

Mark had a large number of archers in his force most of whom deployed in buildings along the river’s edge. A two company formations of WoMT held the bridge edge and he had an Avenger bolt thrower near the centre of his line. Like my other battle reports, this is more of gloss than a blow by blow account.

My forces started about half way up the board on my side of the river. I quickly moved my archers up to occupy the buildings along my edge of the river, two companies on the far left, two companies in the centre and one company on the far right. The buildings mostly masked my assault forces for the first turn, but I did take some bow fire which caused a few casualties. I focused most of my fire on his formation in the open holding the far side of the bridge. It would have been very difficult to get hits on the guys in the buildings. I would have to roll a 6 on a D6 followed by another roll of at least 5. The city ruins made it difficult to set up cohesive formations but I kept two strong formations of Morannon Orcs on either flank and the regular orcs less one company in the centre. Mark had priority for the first few turns and steadily whittled down some of my units as they tried to get to the river. My archers in turn pounded his centre, slowly reducing the troops holding the bridge. I had a lot of difficulty crossing the river, with several boats rolling ones, which meant they drifted and could be targeted by missile weapons. As they crossed they were only single companies, which meant they only had to lose four casualties to be destroyed completely. Mark later changed this so you had to kill at least 6 before the company broke and ran. I couldn’t coordinate the landing as I had a lot of bad drift rolls and individual companies tended to get destroyed soon after they landed. The Avenger took a heavy toll, with its fire plus bow fire taking out the force trying to get a across the bridge and then killing the troll that was using the first wave as a screen. I haven’t been having much luck with trolls. Sometimes they do very well while other times they act as shooting magnets and die quickly. I think there should have been a rule that the troll could have forded the river and have a less chance of being hit because he was mostly underwater, but that’s just me. I did have some luck, calling out one of his captains in a heroic duel which I one and messed up one of his formations despite some abysmal rolls. After a few turns, most of my regular assault force was destroyed and I had to start pulling archers out of the buildings and forming a second wave. Gothmog and two companies of Morannon had managed to make it across and link up, forcing their way into a building and wiping out the Men that were there. Unfortunatley, the low defence of the Orc archers made them easy meat for missile fire, but they did manage to take out the Avenger after a couple of charges. Mark still had sufficient forces to contain Gothmog’s formation and he went down after a heroic effort to break through the men who almost surrounded him, eliminating the last of my forces.

I know now what I would do differently, but I don’t want to broadcast it as I know mark reads this blog. I hope we get another chance to try the scenario as the board was magnificent and it’s a fun game to play. I’ve posted some of the pictures we took of the game at the beginning of this blog.

My next blog will be on events that happened last weekend. Until then, keep watching the skies, or don’t. It’s really up to you.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

War of the Trilliums VI

Last weekend was held one of the truly special events in the Ealdormerian calendar, an event called War of the Trilliums. I have been attending this event from my earliest days in the SCA. It originally was called Septentrian War Practice and later became known as Ealdormere War Practice. Six years ago it gained the rather impressive moniker of War of the Trilliums. For those of you who don't know, one of the heraldic charges of the Kingdom of Ealdormere is the trillium, which works as the Kingdom covers a large part of the Province of Ontario which also uses the trillium as one of its symbols. The event is also referred to as Trilliums or often “Trillies” (not a name I am a fan of).

Trilliums is traditionally held over the July 1st long weekend. July 1st this year fell on a Thursday. My wife, like many others, arranged to have the Friday off work so we could enjoy the whole event. Over the week before the event we had steadily gotten our stuff for the weekend together. Eve pulled our camping gear out of the storage closet under the stairs in our apartment. I did a pile of laundry, including all the bedding we would need, and then I packed most of the clothes and other items we would need. Eve put together a great list for me to follow to make sure we had everything for the trip. It’s amazing how much stuff you need to take, especially when bringing both kids. We actually pack less stuff for Pennsic, a week long camping event in the states, than for Trilliums. That’s because the kids are home with grandma and we don’t do any cooking at Pennsic. For Trilliums we have to bring all the extra stuff for them plus the stove, camp kitchen, food, utensils, pots and pans etc. We also decided to make a change in our bedding. In previous years we had used air mattresses which always seemed to spring leaks leaving us with many an uncomfortable night. We’d also tried multiple camping pads but they also turned out to be less than comfortable. Eve was really sick and tired of being uncomfortable so she went out and bought an eight inch double futon. It was bulky but it was the closest thing we’ve had to a real bed. I was really beginning to wonder how we were going to get all of this stuff in the minivan. The new van, a Montana SV6 was very nice, but it seemed to have less room inside than the Transport. My wife however, was up to the challenge. Eve is a master packer, a true Tetris master, and she managed to get everything in, though I suspect extra-dimensional physics was involved at some point. She did most of the packing the night before which really helped the next morning.

The event takes place about 15 minutes outside the City of Ajax at the Heber Downs Conservation Area. It’s been held there, with a few exceptions, since it started. The site has seen better days. It is the conservation areas group camping site, but apparently the local Conservation Authority is essentially letting it go back to the wild. It once had its own potable water and electricity but neither now works. The outhouses on site have also not been emptied out in several years so are quite full. The powers that be also put restrictions on overflow parking, banning the use of the usual lot we’ve used in the past. In spite of all this, it is a very nice site but I don’t know how much longer the SCA will use it. The event is mostly run by people from the local SCA group, Ard Creag and they do a pretty good job. We headed out around 11 am as Eve had to be at a meeting at 2 pm. We stopped in Ajax for lunch and got to the site just after 1 pm. We set up our new shade fly and unpacked the van before Eve had to dash off to her meeting. I did what I could until she got back, including partly setting up the tent. The weather for the weekend was supposed to be great and it was. Thursday was in the mid twenties and a mix of sun and cloud, which was excellent. After Eve’s meeting we got the rest of the camp set up and changed into our SCA clothes. We were camped next to the Art & Sciences area beside Merchant’s Row. It was a good spot because a lot of the meetings and classes we were involved in were going to be at A&S.

There were a lot of different things happening at the event. This year was an Olympic theme and people could win medals for various events, including martial activities and the Arts and Sciences. There were a number of fencing tourneys, including the Galbraith Cup, a torchlight tourney, a populace tourney and part of the Triathlon. The decision had been made early on for me to skip most of the tourneys. The reasons for this were twofold. At the previous outdoor event Murder Melee Eve didn’t get a lot of opportunities to do her stuff as I was off fencing a bunch. This was completely unfair of me. I would be doing a lot of the kid watching during Trilliums so Eve could teach a class and participate in the A&S judging and things like this. I would also be taking Matthew to shoot archery and Eve was hoping to try thrown weapons. I was going to be doing one bit of fencing, which is the other reason I wasn’t playing in the other stuff. I was fighting my Prize for Provost in the Ealdormere Academy of Defence. I had tried once before and not made it so I really wanted to succeed this time. The Prize would be fought Saturday morning at 11. But more on that later.

Thursday was fairly laid back after set up. Eve made some delicious burgers that evening from scratch. They were really good, cooked using an iron frying pan over the camp stove. We have a camp kitchen set up from Woods which makes cooking a lot easier. The bed worked out wonderfully and we had a comfortable night, despite the cool temperature. Matthew had an air mattress and Elizabeth slept in her play yard. It took her awhile to get to bed but she eventually fell asleep on the foot of our bed.

Eve made some lovely chocolate pancakes for breakfast Friday morning using cake mix along with breakfast sausage. The pancakes turned out very well but would have been better if I hadn’t forgotten the maple syrup. She had two scrolls to deliver for Court on Saturday and she spent a lot of Friday working on them under the A&S shelter. There was also a meeting concerning how A&S contests are judged which she was able to attend. She also taught her class on how to cut and drape a Gothic era dress which went off very well. She now has another dress cut out of the nice fabric we picked up at Fabricland a couple of weeks ago. Educational and practical! The scrolls turned out wonderfully and I’ve included pictures of them at the top of this blog.

I spent a lot of the time following Elizabeth around as she really likes to wander around the camp. Matthew played with a bunch of his friends. I remember when there were few kids at SCA events but there now seem to be flocks of them. He did get into one spot of trouble when he tried to go into a camp were kids had to be accompanied by an adult and was rather rude when told to leave, to a Duchess no less. He spent some time sitting in camp because of that. I did manage to take him to the archery range with Elizabeth in tow. In the SCA a parent has to accompany anyone under 12 on the range line. I held Elizabeth while Matthew shot and let her run around between rounds. He has his own bow and arrows. I think he’ll be a great archer. He just needs to slow things down a bit. He likes to get the arrows down range as quickly as possible. Well, fire enough arrows, eventually you’ll take down a French knight. I also took the opportunity to wander by the fencing list a couple of times.

Friday evening I held a Fencer’s Moot in our camp and about 25 people showed up for it. There were some very helpful discussions and not much in the way of acrimony. It went a long way in helping me decide about some issues that have cropped up. We talked about changed to the gorget rules, how being legged worked, the recent ruling on incidental contact, and changes to the rule on the RMIT course.

After the Moot I cooked up a bunch of Piller’s Sausages for supper which were served on buns. They tasted great and there were lots of them. We were even able to give some to our friend Catlin and her daughter who had arrived late in the afternoon.

We planned on a simple cereal breakfast for Saturday. I didn’t want to eat anything too heavy before I played my Prize. Matthew woke up and the left side of his face was swollen and it looked like he had numerous bites on it. He may have had a close encounter with a spider. We gave him Tylenol and put a cold compress on his face. The swelling went down over the day but he’s still a bit puffy around his eye. We’ve been giving him anti-reaction meds and they seem to be helping. At the A&S shelter a group of heralds and scribes were gathering for a meeting, which as a herald, I listened in on and claimed at duchy donut from. Donuts, breakfast of champions! My friend Gareth, who is also one of the Provosts I would be fighting in my Prize fight, came by and dropped off a bottle of Coke and a sprinkled donut he had promised he would bring. Yay for more donuts!

So, full of sugar and a bit of caffeine, I headed out to the rapier list. As mentioned, I was fighting my Prize for the rank of Provost in the EAOD. The Prize involves fighting 40 bouts against members of the Academy of the same or higher rank than you. We only have two Provosts so some other excellent fencers were brought in to help play the Prize, Baron Hoskuld and his Lady Wife Baroness Eyrny. The Prizor has to win 1/3 of their 40 bouts. After the first 40 bouts, each Prizor holds the field against all comers for 15 minutes. Also fighting their Prize was THL Wilhelm von Potruff, an excellent fencer and scholar of fencing from Caldrithig (Ottawa). We would fight 10 bouts and then have a break while the other fought 10 bouts. The two Provosts were THL Gareth Cambell, and His Excellency Baron Giovanni d’Enzinas of Skraeling Althing. The number to beat was 13 and I did not try to keep track while I was fencing as I had to focus on the fencing itself.

The day was very warm, in the upper twenties plus some humidity and the sky was clear and brilliantly blue. I hadn’t had nearly as much time to practice as I would have liked to, but I was determined to go through with the Prize. Before the Prizes there is traditionally a procession around the camp with heralds signing the praises of the Prizors. I asked my good friend Lord Gunthar if he would be my Herald and he agreed. Baron Brand was THL Wilhelm’s Herald. As we walked around the camp the two heralds began a duel, each raising the stakes in their praise of us. At one point Gunthar made the claim that I had killed more people with my sword than the Black Death and syphilis combined. That actually left Brand speechless, a state I have never seen him in before.

We arrived back at the list and the Prizes began. Lord DJ was of great help to me, handing me the weapons I needed during the bouts. I got off to a good start but grew concerned after a stretch without many wins. After a break during Wilhelm’s fight I managed to settle down and get back on track. Several of my opponents complimented me noting that I had my “A” game on that day. At some point someone whispered in my ear that I had passed the 13 win mark and I felt incredibly relieved. After that is was all fun, gruelling, exhausting fun.

In the end I managed to win 18 of my 40 bouts, a lot better then the 11 I managed last time. Gareth told me I seemed like I was having a lot more fun this time around. After a short rest was the 15 minute endurance round. For that part of the prize you face a constant stream of opponents. You don’t actually have to win any bouts, but you have to be standing at the end of 15 minutes and it can seem like an eternity. Lady Dubessa took over looking after my weapons and took some great pictures, for which I am very thankful. Lady Jocelyn, who was running the Prizes, announced five minutes at one point and I was disappointed to find out that it was only five minutes in not five minutes remaining. I’m not sure how many bouts I fought during the 15 minutes but it was a lot and I won a fair number of them. I fought the last 20 or so using my longsword which was a great fun. My last bout was a glorious double kill with Lord Yoshi after we had charged screaming at each other.

Eve had been watching after Matthew ran back to camp to get her and she gave me a big mug of water and a kiss. I slumped in my chair and stripped off bits and pieces of gear. I’m pretty certain steam rose out of my collar at one point. Wilhelm also succeeded in his Prize attempt and there was much general rejoicing. After being congratulated profusely by my fellow fencers, I staggered back to my tent.

I actually didn’t feel as terrible as I thought I would. I went into the tent and stripped off my fencing gear, and lay spread eagle on the bed enjoying the air on my skin. Eve offered to give me a foot bath. I slipped on my linen shirt and sat in one of the camp chairs while Eve filled our basin with cold water. I nearly went into shock when my feet went in but it was worth it after that. It felt awesome and did a lot to restore my energy. The A&S competition was being judged next store and I hope I didn’t offend anyone with my hairy legs. I actually felt good enough that Eve was able to go over and help out with the A&S judging while I watched the kids. I later took Matthew to the range for another round of archery and managed to do some shooting myself, including shooting a 9 in the Populace shoot (one red, one blue, two black). I also found out that I was the first to shoot for my Barony that day. After we got back from archery Eve made supper. She cooked up some very nice sirloin steaks over the camp stove along with some boiled potatoes. The steaks were absolutely delicious, lightly crusted with special salt and ground pepper. Each piece melted in my mouth. I had been looking forward to that meal all weekend and was in no way disappointed.

We finished just in time to head over to the Picnic Shelter for court. Eve wore her red brocade Gothic dress and looked great. She sat at court and I let the kids run around in the field behind the shelter. It was a bit of a struggle at times as I had to keep Elizabeth from running into court or playing on a siege weapon, a torsion powered mangonel, that had been set up near the battle field. Eve took over a couple of times, once when I got called into court to receive my Provost’s Scarf and another time when a new member was inducted into the Order of Thorbjorn’s Hammer. Eve’s two scrolls were given out and there were some good ooohs and ahhhs when they were displayed. One of the scrolls was for the new Hammer member. Eve’s scrolls are unique, being based on period items of jewellery. As can be seen from the examples above, they are quite stunning. At one point Matthew asked to go back to camp and I foolishly said yes. He wasn’t in camp when we got back and the next thing I knew a Lady came running into our camp saying Matthew had been hurt. I ran over to where Matthew was and found him being treated by a nurse for a bloody nose. Apparently another child was flinging about a heavy stick and it caught Matthew in the face. I thanked the people who helped out and took Matthew back to camp where he had a time out for some time. We did let him roast some marshmallows in a nearby camp later on. There was a kid’s party and an adult toga party that night but we decided to take it easy and get some rest. Sunday morning was going to be tear down of the camp in some pretty horrendous heat.

Next morning we cooked up a big mess of bacon and eggs which we shared with Caitlin and her daughter and then began cleaning up and tearing down our camp. We also chatted with friends who wandered by which slowed the process a bit but made it more pleasant. Eventually everything got packed up and through Eve’s magical skills, into the mini van. Fortunately most of the food and water had been used up so there was a bit more space. We waved our goodbyes from the car, dumped our garbage in the handy bin and headed into Ajax for a bit of lunch and then home. The drive was pretty easy and the traffic surprisingly light for a holiday weekend. I spent the evening unloading the car and then Eve went out for a load of groceries. All in all, it was a very good weekend. With all the fencing, kid chasing, packing and unpacking, my back and legs are pretty sore. I didn’t end up with too many bruises, despite the number of bouts I fought. I saw lots of good friends at Trilliums and despite some bug bites we did pretty well in the health department. We even managed to avoid sun burn, thanks to good hats and a new coif that we got for Elizabeth. Next weekend I’m going to a non-SCA Western Martial Arts event called Chivalric weekend with my friend Hoskuld. I’m hoping it will be fun and educational.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Drazi are Fight! Redux: It was the Best of Times, it was the Worst of Times

Today was another fun game with Mark. We played with the same forces as last time, the additional twist being that 30% of my force could enter on turn 3 from a long board edge. So, to recap, I had 1 Primus Battlecruiser, 2 Demos Heavy Warships, and 4 Vorchans plus 7 flights of Sentri fighters. Mark had a mix of Drazi ships including cruisers, carriers and 3 missile ships. He also had the potential for Earth Force reinforcements, which he rolled for each turn to see if they arrived, consisting of two Hyperion-Alphas. I kept the two Demos warships off board and set up my forces, shading slightly to the right. Mark set up his forces in the centre of the far edge, with his missile ships well back. Again, this will be more of a synopsis of what happened, not a blow by blow account. As mentioned in the previous blog, ships are activated when their cards are drawn from a deck which can make for some tense situations. A ship can get destroyed before it gets a chance to shoot, but Mark does allow ships a last shot but the damage it can do is limited.

I needed to get the Primus off the far board edge and my plan was to try and keep it off to one side and screen it with the Vorchans and fighters. I sent the Vorchans ahead at their maximum speed without overthrusting and the Primus lumbered along behind them. My Vorchans closed quickly on the centre group of Drazi ships, destroying one of his escorts in the second turn and the Primus did some long range damage to a cruiser with two lasers, something like 17 points which was not bad. The retributive strike of the escort hurt one of the Vorchans, which was subsequently destroyed by the mass fire of the other Drazi ships. Mark's missile ships let loose a barrage of 18 missiles but they wouldn't hit until the next turn and hopefully my fighters and point defence would knock some of them out.

Turn Three went well for the Centauri, at least to start. Their cards came up early and often, including the two Demos heavy warships which were able to enter the fray. As a result, several Drazi ships were either destroyed or heavily damaged. The heavy warships moved in from from each flank, using there torpedo's and medium arrays to good effect with the Vorchans and the other Lasers from the Primus adding to the carnage. To get the lasers to bear I had to turn the Primus into the main area of combat, but the Drazi centre seemed to be crumbling quickly so I wasn't worried at that time. Mark was also maneuvering his remaining escort for a possible ramming run at the Primus. I damaged it with my medium arrays on the Primus and it was taken out by a Vorchan on the next turn. One of the Demos took heavy damage from Drazi fire and decided it was time to bug out.My fighters had moved up to screen against incoming missile attacks from the missile ships in Mark's backfield. He lost 5 missiles from one group as they failed to make their endurance test and dropped out. His fighters tied some of my squadrons but I was able to assign some to each missile strike. Unfortunately they were not at their best that day and failed to shoot down a single missile. I also failed to shoot any down with my point defence. 5 missiles got through on one of the Vorchans, hitting on a 5+ on a D6, all of which hit! That reduced the Vorchan to an expanding mass of gas and shrapnel. Another Vorchan had been damaged previously was also destroyed by missiles.

I managed to mop up his centre, but then made a major mistake. I was in range of his missile ships, but the Primus used it's point defence to take out a squadron of fighters, leaving it open to a full strike of 18 missiles, which did something like 22 points of damage. Earth Force, in the form of two Hyperion cruisers entered. Though they weren't able to do anything right away, they managed to get their lasers to bear on the next turn, destroying the Primus, and thus I could not win the game. I had a Demos and a Vorchan remaining and decided to fight on, with my goal being to destroy the last of the Drazi ships. I managed to get one of the missile ships, but then the Earthers had a remarkable string of luck. They both managed to get their rear facing medium lasers to bear, one on the Vorchan and one on the Demos. The Vorchan was heavily damaged, taking two critical hits. Mark rolled 15 on a d20 twice, which was +4 damage twice. This destroyed the Vorchan. The Demos was hit by a laser, and Mark rolled max damage (8 points), which also meant he got to roll again for damage as the laser was sustained. This second set of damaged blew the Demos out of the sky.

The game had looked so good around the mid point of turn 3, but it rapidly went downhill. Failing to deal with the big missile strike on the Primus was a critical error on my part. It must be said that it was a bit of a Phyrric victory for the Drazi, who had only two ships out of 9 remaining at the end of the battle. Mark also had some amazingly good die rolls. At least things went better than in the first game.

Next time we will be playing War of the Ring and I will be facing Elves, possibly with an Isengard force.


Monday, June 7, 2010

Pikeman's Pleasure

Last weekend there was an SCA event known as Pikeman's Pleasure which took place in the Canton of Petrea Thule, near Peterborough, Ontario. PP was one of the first events I remember attending in the SCA and it's still held at the same site, a community centre in Millbrook, Ontario. It's an event we hadn't been to in awhile, especially since we moved from Toronto to Guelph, which made it a 2 1/2 hour drive to get there. This year we decided to make the trek as there sounded like there would be some fun fencing and Matthew would get a chance to shoot his new bow. Eve had also promised a scroll and I could deliver my latest miniatures painting commission to my friend Dave and pick up the check.

The forecast for the Peterborough area for Saturday called for rain and possibly thunderstorms for the day, but we weren't worried as the site had access to a hockey arena so there was plenty of indoor space. We packed accordingly, which was sort of unfortunate as it turned out to be a beautiful summer day. We hadn't brought things like blankets and chairs or adequate hats. We were able to make do though as I did remember to pack the sun block and Eve bought a lovely red linen cap for herself. Elizabeth had an oatmeal coloured linen cap so she was covered as well. I had my flat cap which doesn't cover as well as my felt hat, but it was ok. We did have one blanket, a large Strawberry Shortcake throw in red and pink. Not exactly period looking but it would do.

The drive to the event was uneventful. We didn't get out of the house until 9:30 so we arrived at the site just after noon. The fencing was well underway by that point and it took us awhile to get set up in the shade of some trees. The first two tournaments were over by the time I got there, but I got to play lots of pick up bouts with folks, especially THL Gareth Cambell. He was a student of mine who has become one of the best fencers in our Kingdom, though I'm not sure how much my teaching had to do with it. He's one of the people who advanced to Provost at the same time I made my attempt. I'm planning on trying again at War of the Trilliums but fencing with him did not leave me brimming with confidence. He did have some very good suggestions though and I'm going to have to relax and think a bit more when I fence. I tend to be aggressive and it can get me into trouble. Baron Alyce was also there and she was about to armour down when I whined that I hadn't got a chance to play with her, so she very kindly offered to fence with me for a few passes. I was also able to beg Her Majesty to play with me and it was a fun series of bouts. I did manage to commit regicide a few times. The last tourney ended up not happening as there was a lack of fencers, but Eve did make me a wonderful baloney sandwich on crusty French bread which made up for a lot.

A fencer from Ottawa named Lars, an old friend who has returned to playing fairly recently, showed up even later than we did. He had brought all his stuff but most of the fencers had armoured down or were doing other things. I still had my stuff on so I offered to fence him which he thought was great. For somebody who was out of things for awhile he certainly is good, It was a tonne of fun crossing blades with him and he even let me play around with my two handed sword.

While I was off fencing Eve was looking after the kids. She was able to take Matthew out to the archery range so he could use his new bow, and he had a lot of fun. Someone offered to watch Elizabeth so Eve got shoot as well, something she hadn't done before. Apparently she did quite well and the archery marshal said she had excellent natural talent. We've always wanted to get an adult bow for the household so we may want to look into this a bit more now.

I watched Elizabeth while Eve attended Court to see the scroll she did get given out. It was an Award of the Maiden's Heart for another old friend of ours named Thorolfr inn smithr. On the scroll was the image of a Viking ship and the text of scroll was written in tiny runes on the planks that made up the sides of the ship. The badge of the Maiden's Heart was on the sail, along with a place for the Kingdom seal. The whole thing was highlighted in silver. I thought it looked awesome and was very appropriate for Thorolf as I know he would love to build a Norse ship some day. I saw him shortly afterwards and he seemed to really like the scroll, especially the runes.

We weren't staying for feast so we started packing up to go. One plan had been to try to visit some friends in Orono but we weren't able to get in touch with them. I asked Dave and Susan if they'd like to meet up for supper and they said sure. We would meet them at their new place in Ajax and go from there. We finished our packing and loaded up the car.

We pulled out of the site but quickly noticed an odd noise from the right rear quarter of our van. We stopped and the tire back there was quite flat! We could see an Esso station and garage just down the road from us so we pulled in there. Unfortunately the garage part was closed. We saw that there was a giant staple embeded in the tire. A couple of people there tried to help us out, but the spare tire, which is stored under the car, was badly rusted in place and would not drop down. The pump in our car wasn't able to re inflate the tire but there was an air pump at the station. We filled up the tire and drove back to the site of the event. We hoped we could find someone to help us out and as luck would have it, we did. The first person Eve encountered at the site was a Lady whose husband, Lord Varenko happened to be rather good with cars and after an epic struggle was able to get the spare down and installed. We haven't had the car for long and were kind of clueless about how to change the tire. Varenko and his Lady, Gypsy were of immense help to us and we are very grateful to them for there help. Varenk suggested that we get the tire patched at some place like Canadian Tire and it would be as good as new. The nearest Canadian Tire was in Peterborough and was probably closed by then.

We called Dave and Susan and asked them if we could stay over at their place and get the tire fixed on Sunday. They graciously agreed. The spare is a "doughnut" type, not a full sized tire. We did not want to try to get all the way back to Guelph on it, especially as we would have to travel on the 401. We took Hwy 115 to Hwy 2 and then across to Ajax, doing about 70 km per hour, which was all we dared to do with the emergency spare. Slow and steady wins the race.

We made it safely to Dave and Susan's new house and got the tour. It is a very nice house and they've added some lovely personal touches, especially some cool lighting based on designs by Frank Loyd Wright. The wall o' crossbows is also very nice, and they'll be quite well prepared for the Zombie Apocalypse. We ordered in pizza and watched the new Sherlock Holmes movie which was really quite good. We had the play yard so Elizabeth slept in that and the rest of slept on couches or air matresses. After the tire stress it was really nice to reach a safe haven. Thank God for good friends and friendly strangers.

Eve headed out the next morning to Canadian Tire and got the tire repaired. It didn't take much time and wasn't expensive. Eve showed me the staple, which was one of the huge ones used to hold down electrical cable. We hope someone didn't drive it into the tire on purpose as we were parked near the main drag and there were some bored looking kids around. After thanking our hosts again, to whom we are also immensely grateful, we made our way back to Guelph.

Despite the car troubles things turned out well, and we got to spend a pleasant evening with our very good friends. We got home safely and that is the most important thing of all.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Drazi are Fight!

Mark came over today for our monthly gaming session. As a break from War of the Ring he wanted to try out his set of starship combat rules that were set in the Babylon 5 universe. Actually, they're usable in multiple universes but today it was B5. Anyone unfamiliar with Babylon 5, the tv series, should check it out. There is some great storytelling there, especially the 2nd and 3rd seasons.

The matchup was Drazi vs. Centauri, with some Earthforce ships coming in as reinforcements for the Drazi. I was playing the Centauri, who were trying to break through a Drazi squadron to land troops on a planet. Their force was built around the impressive Primus Battlecruiser supported by two Demos Heavy Warships and four Vorchans. This also gave me 7 flights of Sentri fighters. The Primus was the main troop ship and the one that had to make it through. The Drazi had a mixed force of carriers and missile ships plus some small escorts/super heavy fighters. They have names like Sunhawk, Stirkehawk, Warbird, Sky Serpent etc. There were at least 4-5 missile ships, a couple of carriers and the super heavy fighters. At some point two Earth Hyperion Beta class cruisers with some fighters would enter from a random point along the board edge.

We set up our respective fleets within a few inches of the opposite ends of the board. I was coming in through two jump points, the Primus, two Demos and some fighters through one and the Vorchans and remaining fighters through the other. I decided to close as quickly as I could and try and take out as many Drazi ships before the Earthers arr rived. The game works on a card activation system, a ship being able to move and fire when it's card was drawn from a deck. I like this better than a lot of the IGUGO systems out there. During movement you are allowed to overthrust your ships but you risk loosing thrusters in the process. My Demos and Vorchans could move 10 without overthrusting and the Primus could move 6. One of the Vorchans moved ahead 15" but the second one to move lost two thrusters and was reduced to a total move of 9". Not good. I was a bit more cautious with the overthrusting after that. The Dranzi moved forward very aggressively and Earthforce didn't put in an appearance.

The second turn brought the Primus within range of several Drazi ships. I split my laser fire between two ships, which was probably a mistake. Concentrated fire would have destroyed a Drazi ship before it could get off a shot and it took three turns for my lasers to recycle. The Drazi ships fired off a barrage of 18 missiles, which would arrive on the next turn. I swept all my fighters forward to engage the missiles that were streaking towards me, and they knocked down a few of them.

On the third turn the two Demos got to fire their torpedoes, badly damaging a Drazi ship, but the Drazi got a retributive shot back, severely damaging the Vorchan tasked with finishing it off as it was destroyed. The Demos would also have their heavier weapons back on turn 5. I lost a Demos and a Vorchan to concentrated fire from the Drazi cruisers. My Sentris were tied up in dog fights with Drazi fighters. Only a couple of missiles struck home and a small amount of damage was done to a Vorchan. I was damaging ships with my medium arrays but not killing them. Turn four was disastrous for the proud Centauri fleet when the two Hyperions rolled in, in the possibly the worst place they could have. They arrived in the 7 o'clock of my fleet with their lasers being able to hit several of my ships. One Vorchan died almost instantly from laser fire from the 1st Hyperion and its pulse cannons killed the second one. Fire from the second Hyperion damaged the Primus and did some critical hits. The last Vorchan charged 3 Drazi cruisers, scoring a lucky critical which took out most of one ship's weapons. It was promptly blown out of the sky. The Primus was down to two thrust from a critical and this would go down to one on the next turn when one of its thrusters failed, giving it a total speed of 2.

Turn 5 saw weapons coming back on line, but I was down to two ships, both damaged, and about three flights of fighters. The initiative cards where against me and the Primus was finished off by a combination of missiles which it utterly failed to shoot down, a ramming attack, and fire from Drazi ships, meaning I had no way of winning. The fact that ir got to only fire it's lasers once was quite disapointing. The Demos also went down, from a rear laser shot from one of the Hyperions which Mark skillfully maneuvered into firing position. It managed to take a carrier with it with its dying shot.

All in all, not a good day for the Centauri. I did have some very bad luck, especially with the entry of the Earthers, and the last turn was bad as my ships could not be activated before they were destroyed. I think I know some of the things I'll do differently when we have a rematch, but I can't really discuss them here as I know Mark reads this blog. Hi Mark! Mark also lent me the new Battlehost book for WOTR, which looks really neat.