Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Bread and Circuses - The Hare and the Tortoise

Just before Christmas we ran the last playtest of the year for the wee chariot game I've been working on, Bread and Circuses. I would suggest that with the feedback received from playtesters (a big 'heads up' to Tim for the most comprehensive reporting), the game is nearing completion.

This game was a simple twice-round-the-basic-track race with six competitors. There are a number of fixed 'classes' that players assign to their chariots, allowing the game to be used in any race setting they like. With the exception of the standard class (which is ... well ... standard), each class has a unique bonus and a corresponding penalty.

The starting line up. From the right/closest the camera: an Egyptian (archer), Roman (fast), Mycenaean (standard), Seleukid (scythed), Sumerian (heavy), and Indian (archer). The only extant chariot class that was not represented in this race was the 'agile'.

Player order each bound is card-driven meaning that you never know when it's your time to shine. The fast Roman chariot was the first to move away from the starting line. Using his swift propero (second movement), it seemed he was off with a flying lead.

However, other players can be a distracting influence. Before the end of the first bound (you can see here the Mycenaean chariot still hasn't moved away from the starting line), all was turmoil. The Sumerian plodder was now out in front. The Roman chariot has been overturned in a collision with the Seleukid who has spun out. The Indian archer has also spun out after colliding with the edge of the track. Hanging out towards the back of the pack, you may just be able to make out the cheeky grin on the Egyptian archer's face as he puts his bow back in its case.

The first chariot to round the turning post was, rather surprisingly, the heavy Sumerian. Heavy chariots have a slower propero move than other competitors, but this race was looking to be a bit of an allegory for the 'Hare and the Tortoise'.

Meanwhile, a number of bad/disastrous dice rolls over several turns saw the Indian archer unable to complete a simple u-turn. You can also see the wreckage of the Egyptian archer in the background who got his comeuppance after the destruction he had caused in turn one. 

At the other end of the track, the Roman chariot, having swiftly recovered from his crash, was able to take a remarkably sharp turn and is fast catching up on the Sumerian (still out in front but on the outside of the track). The Mycenaean is just in third position while the Seleukid scythed chariot brings up the rear of the group.

As the chariots approached the end of the second straight, some terrible driving incited the mob who started to run onto the track in disgust. The Roman, pursued closely by the Sumerian, used his speed to nip out in front...

Only to crash again on the turn, allowing the Sumerian to plod on by, being the first to complete lap one. Here you can see that the Egyptian chariot has managed to catch up with the main pack, while the Mycenaean has dropped back into fifth position. The Indian archer has finally completed their u-turn, but is now almost a full lap behind everyone else.

The Roman flipped his chariot again, but poor choices saw him collide with the Sumerian and ricochet into the centre wall. Meanwhile, the Indian advanced and started loosing arrows at the already distracted heavy Sumerian battle cart.

Coming up towards the turning post again, leading to the final stretch, the Roman fast chariot was once again in the lead, still slowly pursued by the heavy Sumerian and now also shadowed by the lapped Indian.  

More angry mobs spilled onto the track during this second lap as driver fatigue led to more inciting mistakes. Here you can see that the Roman chariot has crashed - again! - after plowing into one group of angry bystanders. The Seleukid scythed chariot and the Indian archer have also both spun out after similar collisions. Driving through a mob disperses it, but it is never going to be a good choice. Out of the carnage, the heavy Sumerian chariot pulls once more into the lead, followed closely by the Mycenaean in his 'standard' chariot.

... and then the Mycenaean was out there all alone. The Seleukid scythed chariot and the Sumerian heavy got all tangled up together. The Egyptian archer has emerged around the turning point in the background, but the Roman chariot and the Indian (now crashed) were both having trouble righting their vehicles at this point.
Although able to recover and swiftly catch up, the Roman was now fast enough to catch the Mycenaean who swung around the last turn, heading for the finish line. The Sumerian has managed to crash in a most inconvenient spot, and the mobs were closing in. The Egyptian has managed to get in on the inside of the less maneuverable Roman vehicle, while the Seleukid and Indian chariots are still hanging back.

With unexpected alacrity, the Mycenaean  chariot crosses the finish line to win the race, getting the prize (and the ladies). To the victor goes the spoils! Considering he was the last chariot away from the starting blocks, and was in the middle to the back of the pack for most of the race, it was a pleasant surprise to see him negotiate his way through the wreckage to win.

Second place went to the Egyptian archer, followed by the not-as-fast-as-he-could-have-been Roman chariot in third. The Indian chariot got the wooden spoon for this race. Not only was he the last to cross the line, but he was lapped by every other chariot in the race.

It was a fun and nail-bitingly-exciting way to end the year's chariot playtesting. We played more Galleys & Galleons after that, but by that stage of the evening my ability to focus my camera had gone the way of my dice rolls.....

Monday, 28 December 2015

Saturnalia at Pattayavium - Song of Shadows and Dust

For your festive reading this week, I have been sent another great After Action Report from gaming raconteur Mark in Thailand. This time the game is Song of Shadows and Dust, and the setting is Pattayavium, an apocryphal Greco-Roman trading post in Southeast Asia. 

Mark writes:

BackgroundThe Graeco Roman trading post of Pattayavium celebrates the Saturnalian festival every year, with gladiatorial games. The games are very popular, even with the many non-Roman, indeed non-Mediterranean, ethnic groups that comprise the majority of the people. The Roman and Greek expats go to watch the spectacle and think about home. The Asians place wagers on every aspect of the games. Large numbers of visitors come from upcountry and the neighbouring regions, to enjoy the festival and spend money. Everybody's a winner! Especially the Prefect who collects a skim off the bookies.

I have been constructing buildings and accessories for SSD since April 2015, and this game uses everything I have done so far, plus a few items roped in from my Middle Eastern terrain collection. The square arena for gladiators has been around for several years. I have now added entry steps.

The photos below show views of Pattayavium, early on the morning of the games. The actual sports will not begin for several hours. Plenty of time for an SSD diversion!

This view is from the NW, looking to the SE. At bottom is one of the poorer districts with rough huts built around a swamp. Keep an eye on the hut at R, closest to the tree, it will play a big role in the SSD goings-on. In the Prefect's private arena a pair of gladiators are practicing. Just beyond it is the coach of Servilius Crony, returning from his country estates with a retinue of bearers carrying ivory and other produce.

The next view is from the SW looking to the NE. In the main arena more gladiators are practicing. Notice secutor Cleon who is rehearsing his "taking a dive" move against retiarius Hanno, while his lanista discusses the weather with Pattayavium's main bookie. Other points of interest in this view include the municipal baths (with gold ball on the roof) and the Temple of Buddha Optimus Maximus, behind the obelisk. No one knows how the obelisk got there.

This third view is from the SE looking to the NW. In the bottom corner is the old tannery, now abandoned. In the centre is the market square, with shops, street traders, and customers. There are also townsfolk and slaves going on errands, carrying water and so on.

This last shot is from the NE looking to the SW. To the immediate L of the obelisk is the little Temple of Europa, the first Pattayavium building I completed. The tree-lined via Umbris leads from the Buddha Temple to the obelisk.

The ScenarioThe shopkeepers and traders of Pattayavium do good business from the annual influx of tourists for the Saturnalia, but it would be even better if not for the noxious efforts of pickpockets and snatch-purses, who try to acquire a share in the takings. Every year these miscreants appear, then vanish into thin air with their loot. They are bad for business.

This year the merchants have decided to take preemptive action. They have hired some muscle to patrol the main market areas to deter and if possible apprehend the criminals.

The Market Protection Squad (total 230 points) has five members:
Brasidas: 94 points, Q3 C3 Personality
determined, leader, street fighter

Luke & Solon: 32 points each, Q4 C3
bludgeon, grey

Evander & Alketas: 36 points each, Q4 C3
armed, bellicose

The main gang of pickpockets (total 262 points) is:
Sulpicius: 85 points, Q2 C2 Personality
free disengage, grey, leader, quick

Abdullah, Balyan & Tharg: 35 points each, Q2 C1
free disengage, grey, quick
Tharg is cleverly disguised as a street-sweeper slave, enhancing his chances of avoiding detection.

Malik: (& Presha on same base) (younger children): 38 points, Q3 C1
agile, free disengage, grey, nimble, quick

Mahlia: (older child) 34 points, Q3 C1
free disengage, grey, nimble, quick

Here you can see the cast assembled on their stat cards. I have marked the Protection Squad members with blue pom-poms, and the pickpockets with yellow, so they can be better identified when in the field. The points totals are just how they came out. I was not trying to get a "balance" as such. Balance in games is much over-rated IMO. The gold dice near the pickpockets are to record their successful thefts. They start on zero.

The pickpockets must attempt to steal small items of value from civilians at a cost of one action. Success or failure is determined by a dice roll. If successful, another roll determines if the crime has been spotted. If it has, further rolls for other civilians within M distance determines who joins a hue and cry. The logic is for a thief to make an attempt as his/her first action, so as to begin an escape before any reaction starts.

The Market Protection Squad members are known to the pickpockets, but the pickpockets are not known to the Squad. Squad members have an enhanced ability to spot a crime within S distance, and they always have the option to give chase. This should give them a deterrent effect.

At the end of every pair of moves (i.e. after both sides have moved) I will try to remember to move the positions of civilians (maybe except for thieves marks) a bit to imitate folk going about their business and forcing the protagonists to plan and react accordingly.

If a fleeing thief can move out of line-of-sight of all pursuers, or invoke Grey after putting at least L distance between themselves and the nearest pursuer, they can roll to see if they have evaded pursuit. The pursuers can ask any bystanders for information about where the thief went (the responses could be misleading).

The pickpockets can pass stolen property to each other if they are not being pursued. They cannot stash it except at the safe house. There is no limit to the value of stolen goods one pickpocket can carry.

The value of each successful theft is determined by a dice roll, but obviously wealthy civilians (wearing togas etc) are more likely to give a better yield. Values are expressed as 1, 2, or 3 gold.

The thieves win if (a) they can steal at least 10 gold and (b) get it to their "safe house" (the hut near the swamp, see Part 1), (c) without the safe house being discovered (by a thief being pursued there for example). They lose if their leader Sulpicious is captured or killed, or if they have failed to steal and stash enough gold by the time I get bored and decide to move on to the gladiators.

The Market Protection Squad win if they can deny a win to the thieves, or if they capture/kill Sulpicious.

Sulpicious takes a stroll.
Brasidas deployed his Market Protection Squad police men to cover the main market areas. Solon patrolled the Old Blue Gate market, Alketas the cattle and slave market, and Brasidas himself, with Luke and Evander, covered the main market square. Of necessity, his plan was to make it as risky as possible for the pickpockets and wait to pounce when one of them got impatient and made a rash move.

Sulpicious similarly divided his team of pickpockets between these targets. Abdullah checked out the Blue Gate market, Tharg the cattle and slave market, and Balyan, with Malik/Presha looked for opportunities in the main market square. Mahlia loitered outside the municipal baths to see what might turn up. His plan was to avoid any actual theft attempts himself, and act as a cut-out to get stolen gold back to the safe house without being traced.

Both plans only partially survived initial contact with reality ...

First to pounce was Tharg, who snatched 2 gold from a wealthy woman ogling the male slaves on sale (see the photo below). The victim is marked with a red pompon. The only bystander who successfully rolled to give chase has a green pom-pom. The blue pompon indicates Alketas who was close enough to automatically pursue, hence he has a green pom-pom too. At L, Sulpicious strolls along innocently, his yellow thieves pompon invisible except to us. Tharg is making his escape, at bottom of the picture, by ducking around the back of the private arena. He was able to shake off the pursuers, although Alketas, making three activations in his turn, just missed collaring him by a hair's breadth. Lucky for Tharg he had enhanced evasive ability, otherwise he would have been caught.

Note the group of pigs at the side of the toilet block. Several small herds of these comprise Pattayavium's public sanitation crews, and are so useful for this the townsfolk leave them alone. They are tricky terrain.

While this was going on Mahlia pulled off the most audacious theft of the morning, stealing 2 gold from Servilius Crony in his coach while it was stuck in traffic, and getting clean away. No doubt the lack of pursuit was because no locals, and certainly not his retinue of slaves, would feel inclined to come to the help of this toady and lickspittle. She then linked up with Sulpicious, doing his flâneur impression around town, and offloaded her loot to him.

Meanwhile in the main market square, the heavy police presence is having an effect. You can see Malik&Presha at bottom R of the photo, sizing up a mark but reluctant to try until the cops move further away and their activation dice are good enough to help them to make a clean getaway.

I didn't move the civilians after every pair of turns as originally intended, too tedious. But I did move them from time to time. Ditto the police, I tended to move then 1 x S to represent their surveillance mode, rolling for the direction they moved.

In the photo above, the police are actually moving towards the green pom-poms, representing civilians who are chasing the thief Balyan, who has snatched a purse of 2 gold and bolted down the alley between the Temple of Europa and the carpet shop.

The kids took advantage of the distraction unintentionally provided by Balyan, and took 1 gold off their mark. They then used their agile and nimble abilities to scoot over the tricky terrain (baskets of market produce) and shin up a convenient ladder around the corner to lie low on the rooftop, shaking off a pursuit that was fortunately weak (no cops in range, most civilians failed their hue and cry rolls).

When things calmed down, the kids leaped across to the adjacent building (heart stopping moment when they almost fell) and thence back to ground level and away.

A short distance away Balyan was not so lucky. An unfortunate turnover, plus failing his "evade pursuit" roll, saw Brasidas and his sidekicks chase him around the temple and collar him next to the obelisk. This is shown in the next photo. Note the nearby presence of Abdullah, who has pulled off a 2 gold heist at the Blue Gate, evaded pursuit, slunk into town across the cloaca footbridge, handed off his loot to Sulpicious, and is now looking for another target.

Balyan was taken in charge by Market Protection Squad member Luke, who frogmarched him into the nearby Gardens of Mus and locked him in a secure cellar, then returned to his patrol in the main market square. 

Meanwhile, Sulpicious walked back to the safe house, stashed the 4 gold he was carrying, and headed back into town. So far his team had lifted 9 gold in total, but lost 2 when Balyan was arrested, so nett score 7.

This total rose to 8 when young Mahlia, audacious again, picked on a civilian who had no others nearby to assist, and took 1 gold off him, and faded to Grey. This girl has a great criminal future I think.

The pickpockets then finished their successful crime spree on a high as shown in the next and final photo. Tharg, having dropped off his original earnings at the safe house, returned to the scene of the crime and lifted 3 gold from the rice merchant Pompus Giganticus. Pompus was too fat to chase after Tharg, and his three friends, all in range to give chase, declined to get invoked (failed their hue and cry rolls). Alketas, seen in the distance, was too far away to intervene.

This haul took the thieves' gang to a net total of 11 gold, either stashed at the safe house or carried by pickpocket team members not being pursued and free to move innocently back to base with their loot. They can't waste any time though, they'll have be out of town asap in case Balyan peaches to try and save his skin. Fortunately a ship for Kandy is sailing on this afternoon's tide. 

Presumably the merchants and market stall traders who hired Brasidas are not totally happy with his success rate. Whether they will continue to hire protection in the future is not currently known. Brasidas doesn't care, he has already been paid for the ten men he was contracted to hire, so that's five dead pays to the good as far as he is concerned. Perhaps if he can somehow make contact with the thieves leader and cut a deal before the next Games ...?

Only unlucky Balyan does not share in the general happiness. Locked in a cellar, he will go before the Prefect later today, and doubtless has a cameo appearance with a hungry tiger as part of tomorrow's final day of the Saturnalian Games.


That's all folks! I hope you enjoyed the report. Lots left out to keep the length under control, including the "distract" features (a snake charmer at the Blue Market, and Indian Rope Trick at the main market). The thieves should have had "determined" (= ignore distract) but never mind, it all worked out, although Abdullah had a close shave when he was distracted by the snake charmer! And, I believe I'll add a "thief taker" (professional freelance detective) to my character roster, for use in future games to make it that little bit riskier for the thieves.

PS: I have been instructed by the Prefect to assure you that, should you hazard the journey to Pattayavium for a holiday, or on business, a warm welcome awaits you and your money. This message has been sponsored by the Collegia of Merchants, Seamstresses, Barkeepers and Thieves.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Constructing downtown Berytos - part 1

Bread and Circuses, the fast and furious chariot racing rules I am working on, allows for races to be run away from the circus/hippodrome. To that end, I've started to mock-up a very simple, stylised set of buildings to allow my 6mm chariots to complete in street races.

I just used a cheap box kiddies building blocks which a glued together, mostly in small 'L's of differing dimensions to create a random selection of buildings. I then used a little bit of spakfilla /wall putty to smooth over the joins. 

Next step will be to spray paint everything a dark brown, and then use a light coloured, textured paint lightly over the top. With a little skill and a pinch of luck, that will do nicely...

And as this is almost certainly to be the last post before Christmas, I'd like to wish everyone a happy holiday season!

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

It's a trap!

Wargaming mate Mark, now a solo gamer in Thailand, has sent through another of his cracking scenarios/battle reports for Galleys & Galleons. His last account can be found HERE.

The scenario:
The KhiNok islands, located in the Sondonesian archipelago, are a major source of the birds' nests so prized as delicacies by upwardly mobile members of the Chinese ruling class. No one knows how the birds feel about this. Every year local men risk life and limb in the caves on crazy bamboo scaffolds to harvest the sticky nests.

The islands are controlled by a syndicate of Chinese pirates, with shady backing from the Pearl River merchants, and the resource is jealously protected. An annual convoy, heavily escorted, carries the harvest back to China.

The Portuguese have long had their eyes on this prize, but lacked the means to grasp it. Now the new Viceroy of Malacca (none other than Don Marco da Pattaya, in an amazing comeback, maybe the story will be told one day) has brought reinforcements and plans to use them to seize the KhiNok monopoly.

If the Portuguese can take control, they will have an alternative commodity to trade into China, much more convenient than lugging bar silver all the way from Lisbon. The profits, potentially, are enormous.

Don Marco's plan is to strike while the convoy is loading this year's shipment, so as to capture both the islands and the latest harvest. However this bold initiative means attacking while the pirate escort is present at maximum strength. It's a high stakes gamble, typical of a commander who was probably shot by his own side in his last battle.

If the Portuguese can land drilled soldiers, and their fleet can command the surrounding water for now, it is understood they will take control, and build a fort that will enable them to repel Chinese attempts to recapture the KhiNoks.

The ships:Portuguese (total 193 points)
The galleon Santa Caterina da Goa
Q3 C4 (76 points)
chaser guns, drilled soldiers, galleon rigged, master gunner, trained gun crews

The fragata Santa Barbara
Q3 C3 (60 points)
chaser guns, galleon rigged, master gunner, trained gun crews

The carrack Santa Isabella das Indias
Q4 C5 (39 points)
drilled soldiers, high castles, merchantman, reinforced hull, sluggish, square rigged

The merchant brig Moscato (Nutmeg)
Q3 C2 (18 points)
lateen, merchant, master gunner

A note about the Portuguese ships: the Sa Isabella is carrying drilled soldiers on this mission; they are to be the garrison of the islands after they have been captured. I have given the other Portuguese ships strong gunnery factors, to represent their key strength in East Indian waters against 'native' enemies.

Chinese (total 248 points)
The escort: pirate junks Bok ChoyBamboo ShootBitter Melon and Bean Sprout
Q2 C2 (50 points each)
derring-do, intimidating, lateen rigged, reinforced hull, yare

The convoy: dhows ZanzibarSocotra and Djibouti
Q2 C2 (16 points)
lateen rigged, merchantman, shallow draft

Victory conditions:

The Portuguese must capture the islands by landing soldiers and driving off the enemy pirate ships, and if possible also capturing some or all of the convoy. But losses must be kept to a minimum as resources are scanty and cannot easily be replaced. The Chinese must prevent a Portuguese landing at all costs, and save the convoy if they can. Only convoy departures off the N edge of the table count as 'saves', because going in any other direction risks capture by other pirates, Dyaks etc. But pirate ship losses mean nothing as they are easily replaced.

The photo above (taken by an Portuguese albatross drone) shows the main island of the KhiNok group with the assembled convoy of three dhows, and the escort of four pirate junks. Little do they know Don Marco's squadron is just over the horizon.

And here it is, sailing in what passes for good order in the mid C16 Portuguese service. The far column has Sa Caterina leading Sa Isabella. The near column has Sa Barbara leading Moscato.


How it really happened:Don Marco's attack seemed to have achieved tactical surprise, as the Portuguese squadron closed on the islands from the WNW, running as close to the wind as they could to hold the weather gauge. Don Marco's plan was for the weather column (Santa Isabella and Moscado) to keep a steady course to the N of the islands and then turn S into the harbour to land the troops. With a bit of luck they might capture some of the convoy on the way. The lee column (Santa Caterina and Santa Barbara) with the strong ships was to carry the fight to the pirates and destroy them using superior gunnery.

The Portuguese were spotted by a lockout on top of the KhiNok mountain, and the Chinese reaction was swift. The dhows exited the islands through the narrow eastern passage and began to tack to the north to make their escape. Eventually all got away, but one of them was crippled by gunfire before it crossed the board edge. In retrospect I let them start their moves too soon, there should have been some delays before they were allowed to sail. It was too easy for them to get away and the junks did not have to face the problem of defending them.

The pirate junks headed NW to take on the Portuguese, aiming to force boarding actions, if possible ganging up on one or more enemies.

This photo shows the opening moves of the battle, from the Chinese perspective. The dhows are escaping at R. The pirate junks are closing the approaching Portuguese squadron to L of the islands

Initially Don Marco's plan seemed to be proceeding as he had foreseen. The initial broadside from the Portuguese galleon sank the Bean Sprout outright (magazine explosion) and caused a fire on a neighbouring junk. But the pirates were not deterred and stuck to their plan of closing as fast as possible. Don Marco then made what in hindsight might not have been the smartest move - he reversed course with the galleon and frigate. It seemed like a good idea at the time, as the lumbering carrack Santa Isabella, falling behind the rest of the squadron, was beginning to look isolated and vulnerable to a pirate onslaught.

Portuguese gunfire initially was very effective, but Don Marco's tactical handling left something to be desired. Here the galleon Sa Caterina blasts a pirate junk out of the water with a single broadside. But the small frigate Sa Barbara is sailing into dangerous proximity to the bloodthirsty boarding pirates.

But the manoeuvre allowed the pirates to close and board the Santa Barbara frigate. She was captured by two junks, who however did not put a prize crew aboard (not wanting to weaken their remaining fighting strength). The two junks then cast off and attacked the galleon Santa Caterina, and the third surviving junk joined in.

The crew of the galleon fought heroically - led by Don Marco himself naturally - and held off the attackers for several turns, causing serious damage to two of the attackers. In the end the Sa Caterina was captured, but only briefly because help was at hand! The ships of the weather column had been "sailing to the sound of the cutlasses" and arrived just in time to capture two of the three remaining pirate junks, and recapture both the Sa Barbara and Sa Caterina

In the above photo, the frigate Sa Barbara is attacked and captured by two pirate junks. The big galleon cannot fire support into an active boarding action, and Don Marco failed to order close quarters support (it is said he was below in his staterooms at the time, trying on his armour). In the background, the dhows make their getaway, but not before one of them is raked by the Moscado.

Mark writes, "I improvised rules for captured ships abandoned by their captors (basically it takes time to get them up and running again). And I am pleased to report the final action of this game was a true "San Josef" moment. The crew of the little merchant brig Moscado, the smallest ship on either side, crossed the decks of an intervening enemy junk to counterattack the pirates who had taken the Santa Caterina.
So, the nearest damn-run thing you ever saw in your life (as someone is going to say in the future) but Don Marco and Portugal have got all their ships back, wiped out three of the four pirates, and taken possession of the prized KhiNok islands! All those birds nests! 

Monday, 14 December 2015

Grey-eyed Athene, goddess of wisdom, protector of heroes

Having greatly enjoyed OGAM, I decided that what I really needed (truly), was an Athene/Athena model to serve as an alternative patroness for my Greco-Macedonians.

Athene, daughter of Zeus and Metis (personification of forethought) was the virgin goddess of wisdom and just war - as in, the good sort of war. As such she was often thought of as the protector of cities, and the helper of heroes. In Macedon she was worshiped specifically as Athena Alkedemos, the defender of the people. Many useful inventions and knowledge came to man through the patronage of Athena - olive growing, the plow, the rake, horse taming, chariots, weaving, the flute, and even the production of fire.

Although the patroness of most female arts and crafts, Athene walked the line between male and female attributes and is most commonly shown wearing a helmet, carrying a shield and armed with either a spear of one of papa Zeus' thunder bolts.

She could also be shown in the company of, or be represented by, an owl, specifically the Little Owl (Athene noctua). In popular culture, thanks entirely to Ray Harryhausen's classic 1981 Clash of the Titans, her owl sometimes appears as a little automaton. As I have stated previously, this little chap, known as Bubo, was the best thing about the 2010 Clash... remake.

As a backer of the Wargods of Olympus Kickstarter back in 2013, I received a little mechanised Bubo as a reward and he's been kicking about by bits box ever since. I thought it was time to make use of him, and so a few days ago I ordered myself a Northstar Figures 28mm 'Amazon'. 

Now, although she's called an Amazon, she is really just a modestly dressed Greek female with helmet, spear and shield. How could I not try to convert her into Grey-eyed Athene? So a little cutting filing later, plus the simple raising of Athene's left arm resulted in this.

But what to so with the shield? Athena often borrowed the aegis, a goatskin shield from Zeus, and this is sometimes shown (as in the archaic black-figure vase above) as the mount for the gorgoneion, the head of Medusa. As such, it could be carried like a shield or worn (as above) as body armour. 

However, in other depictions, the gorgoneion was shown directly incorporated into Athene's own shield. I thought I would hazard a go and try to paint Medusa's ugly face free hand on the shield, but I knew I wouldn't be able to handle anything too complex.

The earlier depictions (like the classical red-figure tondo of a cup above) tend to show a very stylised, monsterous face, and its that sort of image that I hoped to be able to mimic.

Here, Athene is handed Medusa's head by Perseus. Interestingly, it also already appears on her shield. Internal chronology was never a strong suit in Greek mythology!

This Macedonian coin from the late 4th-early 3rd century BC interregnum shows a gorgoneion on a Macedonian shield.

On this late 2nd century BC coin of the Seleukid king Antiochos Sidetes, the shield can be seen resting in profile at Athene's side. The profile of the grogoneion can also be made out, jutting out from the shield.

And so here she is. My Athene, much more understated than the Wargods of Olympus deities, but appropriate I think for a more modest and controlled god. I'm never hugely comfortable painting white clothing, but I think she turned out well. Looking forward to getting her on the table and seeing how she handles.

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Galleys & Galleons: Foul Winds - Flight of the Gryphons

Gryphons – Composite creature combining the head, wings and talons of a great eagle, with the back end of a lion. Famed for their avaricious love of gold, gryphons are never-the-less intelligent and possess the ability to drop small boulders on their foes.

Q3 C2

Special Rules: Bombs, Creature, Flying, Intimidating

Friday, 11 December 2015

Bread and Circuses playtesting review

If ypu haven't already seen it, head on over to Tim's Battleshed Diaries blog for his thoughts on Bread and Circuses, my forthcoming chariot racing rules. Tim is one of the playtesters for the rules, and has been a great help in tightening up any loose ends.

I think he's been enjoying himself; Tim writes:
"In fact, it soon became apparent from my first play test with the Teenager that having an Archer loosing off arrows at my teams before they'd even started is quite expected by the Mob. By the time my first chariot had finally reached the first bend (chariots are activated randomly), the Teenager already had a team trundling slowly ahead with one of the crew, with a mischievous grin, pointing a spear in my chariots direction.

"There are no points for sporting conduct, the Mob expects entertainment. And that's what you get in spades with Bread and Circuses!"

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

"By the pleasant calves of Artemis!" An OGAM AAR.

This week I managed to get over to the Old Fogeys gaming den for a great introduction to Of Gods and Mortals, the mythology-based skirmish game by Andrea Sfiligoi. I pitted my Greco-Macedonians under the patronage of Artemis, goddess of the hunt, against Jim's Hiberno-Celts led by the shining god Lugh of the Long Hand.

We decided to play a simple 'come get some' fight. Jim, as the defender, placed a couple of hills, a Celtic village and a field of ripening grain. Then we deployed. The forces are outlined below - I'll only give gamey details where the profiles were not taken directly from the book.

The Beloved of Artemis
The Greeks were led by Artemis, supported by Herakles wearing the Nemean lion skin, a centauris (Q3 C3 Long move, Dashing, Shooter: Long, Good Shot), the Kalydoian Boar (Q3 C3 Armoured, Dashing, Forester), 4x satyr archers and 8x Macedonian Hypaspists (Q4 C2 Armoured, Steadfast).

The Followers of Lugh
The Celts were tyranised by Lugh, along with his cronies Cu Chullain, Maebh (using the Ferdiad profile), and a druid, oppressing 8x Celtic nobles, 6x Celtic warriors and 6x warhounds.

How the game played out...
In this shot you can just about make out the deployment. The Greek mortals massed on the hill with Artemis and the centaur in the rough, looking to snipe away at the Celtic warriors. The Celtic forces were much more spread out with Cu Chullain attempting an outflanking maneuver from behind the hill. Just as we were about to start, Jim's druid used his Illusionist skill to remove the field that Artemis was using for cover. That annoyed her just a little bit. The Celts were about to feel her arrow-y wrath!

Artemis' first move, buoyed up by invocating hypaspists, was to swing around to the wardogs placed behind her. Using her ability to shoot multiple times in one turn, she unleashed a hail of arrows at the dogs, killing four of the six.

The centaur then moved up in support and took down another, before the final pup was charged and forced to recoil by the Kalydonian Boar.

Up on the hill. Herakles and the satyrs moved into a position to be able to tackle Cu Chullain should he try anything tricksy.

For the Celtic first turn, the druid rolled a turn over. Back to the Greeks.

Artemis, still raging about her missing field, turned back on the cluster of Celtic god and legends, aimed well and true, and took down the druid in a single shot. That will teach him.

However... it also left more than her right buttock horribly exposed and she was then charged and pinned by Lugh, while Maebh delivered a well placed sword blade, promptly dispatching my leggy lovely.

However, praised be to the devotion of her followers, Artemis was almost immediately brought back into play, and at the other end of the table. Now it was her turn to pin Cu Chullain, before Herakles ambled down the hill... give the Ulster hero a damn good seeing to. The 6/1 split left the modified scores at 14:4 in favour of the big lad in the lion skin.

By this stage, Maebh and Lugh were glowereing in an unsavoury manner at the good lady centaur. The hypastists started making their way down the hill to provide some support, but were nowhere near fast enough.

The centauris was quickly killed, before Lugh turned his attention to the mortals. I think by this stage he was sick of their ability to invocate (turning Artemis into a one-goddess artillery battery) and thought he'd do something about it.

Foolishly (in retrospect), Maebh stayed behind to take on the boar.

The Celtic nobles finally remembered they were in the game and started up the hill, making it to just 
a few feet of the satyrs.

Meanwhile, the Celtic warriors continued to hurl their own invocations in the general direction of Lugh, but were otherwise quite happy on their own hill.

What followed, can only be called the massacre-that-broke-the-camels-back. The satyrs took down one of the Celtic nobles with a point blank arrow to the face. Artemis then unleased another small hail of fire to take down two more. down on the plain, the Kalydonian Boar and Maebh continued their struggle, until Maebh got tusked in an undignified manner and was removed from the table.

On seeing that, the remaining mortal units both backed away to their respective table edges and Lugh conceeded his infinite insignificance in the face of Fair-Rumped Artemis, the Lady of the Bow.

In memory of the only fallen Greek, the Celtic village was burned as the centaur's funerary pyre.

It was a cracking good game, and Jim can only be commended for his good grace and gamesmanship in the face of an inordinate number of sixes. I'm certain I have never rolled that many sixes in a game before, and I doubt that I will again, but what an introduction to the rules!