Thursday, 13 November 2014

Back to the Back of Beyond

A human stole my baby!
Another Rip-snorting Adventure

It's been quite some time since the lads have done battle in the dark steamy jungles of Africa so, for my fortnightly game, I decided to put on a sequel to our previous epic 'Quest for the Emerald Orb' game. Much to the dismay of some of the more traditional gamers among our happy band.

The, somewhat convoluted, story goes that whilst searching for the 'Emerald Orb', in a previous adventure, The Royal British Geographical Society Expedition, headed by that intrepid explorer and stout-hearted son of empire, Sir Percival Frockmorton, stumbled upon startling evidence of Dinosaurs. To be precise his old friend, Professor Yeatman-Briggs, slipped in a giant steaming pile of kaki while packing his pipe! Fortunately he had the presence of mind to recognise that no animal known to man, other than a dinosaur, could produce such a prodigious pile of poo. Further investigation revealed, incredibly, the fossilized skeleton of a Brontosaurus half buried in a peat bog.
The site was carefully mapped for future reference and the party single-mindedly continued on their quest for the orb knowing they would be back.....
A year later and Sir Percival has been entrusted by non other than the Queen herself to lead a top secret Expedition to return to the site and extract a dinosaur egg for incubation and hatching back in England...preposterous but true! One needs a vivid imagination and a complete disregard for reality when writing this stuff.

Sir Percival (Left) and Prof Yeatman-Briggs

It is at this point that I should inform you that every move the Expedition makes is being carefully followed by that arch fiend and bitter rival of Sir Percival,  Baron Otto Von Schlessinger and his gang of thugs. It transpires that through his nefarious network of spies and the, unspeakably horrible, torture of a member of the Royal Geographical Society, who stupidly allowed himself to be lured into the Barons clutches by one of the Baron's most alluring female agents the Baron has detailed knowledge of the expedition's plans and is intent on thwarting them and stealing the Schweinhund Britischer thunder by snaffling the egg for the glory and honour of a grateful Kaiser and an adoring Fatherland.

The Forces

The Royal British Geographical Society Expedition 
Sir Percival and Lady Veronica Frockmorton
Lady Veronica's travelling companion, Dorothea Miggins
Professor CedricYeatman-Briggs
A team of pack mules and some hangers on from the Royal Society.
A military escort  of soldiers from the East Surrey Regt under the command of Captain Rupert Anstruthers

The steam Aeroneff HMA Goshawk 
Commanded by Captain Fenton Makepiece and a company of Marines
Ordered to rendezvous and effect an extraction of the expedition and render any assistance

HMA's Corsair Class Aeroneff, Goshawk

The Opposition.
Baron Otto Von Schlessinger
His trusted side-kicks, the Ribbentropp brothers, Max and Gunther
A gang of hired mercenary Boers and big game hunters.

Baron Freyr Von Schlessinger and the Ribbentropp Brothers

The Zeppelinette Mephisto, The Baron's preferred means of transportation and ticket out of danger.

The Zeppelinette Mephisto

In addition the Baron has at his disposal:
A ground force of specialist jungle-trained Jager of the 21st Jungle Jager Regt
Commanded by Oberst Felix Von Fleihoffen and under orders of the Kaiser himself to render any assistance to the Baron  and answerable directly to the Baron
A Himmel-Krankenwerken portable aether telegraph machine and operator to maintain communication between the Baron and the Major.

The lay of the land

The table consists of a steamy jungle interspersed with swamps, quicksand, elephant grass and crocodile infested waterways. Usual movement impediments apply to the terrain and a number of cunning and devilish hazards await the unwary, of which later...
A river wends its way lengthways through the jungle. In the North west corner lies the Village of the  Snoozenuluzem tribe of head hunters. The river is crossable along its entire length. Somewhere near the middle lies a treacherous area of mosquito ridden swampland. Two large rocky outcrops rise majestically above the jungle canopy.
A narrow track wends its way through the jungle.

The Snoozenuluzem's village

The British Expedition sets off.

We take up our story as the British Expedition is within a short hike of the dinosaur fossil site. They begin their trek from their camp-site at the Southern baseline.

Sir Percival insists on a brisk pace as the track affords good going and the river doesn't appear too deep so crossing should be simple enough.
Safely across the river they press on, following the track till they spy, just around the bend in the track, the bleached bones of a dinosaur skeleton. By Jingo!, were on to something here exclaims Sir Percival in hushed tones. "I say Sir Percival, best we slow the pace a bit and keep our eyes peeled" replies Captain Anstruthers, "no sense in blundering into something nasty". Bloody civilian types he secretly mutters under his breath.

"I say Sir Percival, best we slow the pace a bit and keep our eyes peeled"

Meanwhile in another part of the jungle the Baron approaches undetected in his silent dirigible.
Through his telescope he spies the British Expedition. "Mwa ha ha! now I have them" he laughs mirthlessly
Spotting a suitable landing site in a clearing he orders the craft to descend and sets out on foot with his cohorts to intercept the British party. Before heading off he orders, (via aether telegraph),  Oberst Fleihoffen, who has just come upon the British expedition's deserted camp-site, to follow the cursed British with all haste and combine forces with his to overwhelm them.
"Ja Ja! Dats bloody gut, while we've been marching for days through this verdamnt jungle up to our arses in sheiss he arrives like the bloody Walkyries without so much as getting his shiny boots dirty. Fancy a decorated war hero like me taking orders from a schwein like that!!" he curses.

Oberst Fleihoffen and the 21st Jungle Jagers

No sooner has the Oberst and his men disappeared from sight round a bend in the track than The Royal British Navy makes its appearance in the form of the Corsair Class Aeroneff Goshawk. As per his orders Captain Makepiece has located the British camp-site which is also the designated rendezvous point. His orders are to put his craft down on the rendezvous point leaving a skeleton crew to guard the ship and proceed on foot with a party of Marines to meet up with the Expedition and escort it and its priceless prize back to the ship.  He will then proceed at top speed to the nearest British port where an awaiting British Heavy Cruiser will transport  Sir Percival and his expedition back to Dear Old England.

At last all the key players are on the field.....

Follow next weeks thrilling installment of Rip-snorting Adventures dear readers to see how things transpire.
Will Sir Percival find his egg and evade the Baron to bring home the prize or are other nasties far worse than the Baron lurking in the jungle.... ???

Friday, 20 June 2014

Rivet Wars, Battle in a Box.

Despite howls of derision from some of the less open-minded individuals of our happy band of wargamers I have dabbled my toe in the board-gaming pond for the first time with a foray into the outstanding new WW1 / Steampunk themed game known as 'Rivet Wars'.

The above two images are official Rivet Wars images so hopefully I havent breached a zillion copyright laws and am about the be swooped upon in the middle of the night by sinister leather-coated copywright infringement agents...?? theres a great idea for an IHMN company.

This latest foray came about quite by accident in fact. Somewhat naively I popped into my local game supplies store with the intention of purchasing some pots of paint and the latest Wargames Illustrated, mysteriously I emerged many dollars lighter, minus paint and magazine but with the Board Game Rivet Wars grasped firmly in tow.

I was pleasantly surprised when I opened the box of goodies.
The two forces are styled on Circa WW1 British / American forces (The Allies) and suitably Prussian looking chaps (Blighten)
The plastic models are extremely well rendered and once you get past the somewhat comic look of the characters you really appreciate the thought that has gone into their design. The terrain tiles allow numerous layouts and scenarios and the rules are easy to understand. Dont, however, think for a minute that the rules are simplistic. This isnt snakes and ladders. I strongly recommend watching several of the demonstration game videos available for viewing on YouTube to better understand the mechanics and subtleties of the game.

A game winning strategy requires careful deployment of your troops and tactical use of the Action and Secret Mission cards.

The following images are from a game I oversaw between Dave 'Tex' Houston (Allied Forces) and Richard Draper (Blighten Forces)

The object of the game is to capture strongpoints or perform secret missions as described on the Secret Mission cards. The winner is the first to reach the required number of VP's as per the requirements of the scenario. In this game Richard adopted a dominant position in the centre backed up by infantry in strongpoints which prevented Dave from achieving enough VP's, even though he raced away to a good start and was leading for over half the game.

A word of warning...the game is extremely brutal so dont get too attached to a favourite bit of kit. Your hulking steam tank can be reduced to a smoking ruin in very short order if you're not careful and your infantry will be mown down in swathes if you bunch up and get stonked by out also for those damned wheelie bike things. Faint hearted types or people of a nervous or sensitive disposition should avoid this game at all have been warned!!

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Steampunk Festival, Oamaru. A celebration of silliness.

The well dressed gent and his lady.

It was my very great pleasure to attend the Annual Steampunk Festival, held in Oamaru in the sunny South Island of  New Zealand, last weekend.

The event kicked off on the Friday with 'Fire Night' which is held in the old Victorian Precinct of Oamaru. At night the old streets and buildings of the Victorian Precinct are transformed into a magical place filled with gas torches, street vendors, braziers, traction engines, craft markets and a particularly noisome artillery piece. The highlight of the evening's entertainment is the Fire Dancing and of course Scott's Brewery and the Whiskey Shop wherein it must be said I did partake of a tipple or two of their marvellous amber liquid refreshments. I thoroughly recommend Scott's Pale Ale and the Double Wood 10 year old.

Eliza Braun and Amelia Constance Paine

Her Majesties Ministry of Peculiar Occurances

Toffs out on the town for a tipple.

Baroness Sonya Von Gaspankoff of Voltavia
Eliza Braun, Archivist, Field Operative, Ministry of Peculiar Occurances

I was accompanied on this excursion by my wife Kathryn, my daughter Courtney in top hat (otherwise known as Eliza Braun, Archivist at the Ministry of Peculiar Occurances) her friend Emma ( Amelia Constance Paine, wealthy American Socialite and Explorer) and my Sister, Sonia ( Baroness Sonya Von Gaspankoff of Voltavia)

We chose to pay a visit to Dunedin on the Saturday to inspect the disappearing gun emplacement at the Tairoa Heads. You simply cant begin to imagine how fascinated the ladies were by this marvel of Military Engineering (more of which in a another post) so were unable to view the Airship racing or the teapot racing.From all accounts this was a real hoot, although technical glitches did cause some rather errant behaviour with a couple of berserk teapots...obviously not a sport for the faint hearted.

Sunday morning was an opportunity to stroll around the Victorian precinct at leisure, take plenty of photos and visit the Steampunk HQ (this fantastic establishment will feature in another post as I cant do it justice in just a few lines).

Agents compare notes

Steampunk HQ

In the afternoon we were treated to a visual extravaganza at the Steampunk Fashion Parade compered by that likeable rogue 'Te Radar '. What an incredible display of pure genius. Sadly my miserable snapshots can in no way do justice to the brilliance of the costumes or the amazing narrative that accompanied them. I am in awe of people with such talent.

Te Radar, good bloke and all round thorough type.

Agent Dangerfield, Pericles Bickerstaff

Aeronef Commander Garnet Quigley

The Inquisitor

The Grand Finale to the weekend was the Gala ball.

You shall go to the Ball

I'm ashamed to say I didnt attent the Ball as I didnt bring my formal evening steampunk attire. Something I will most assuredly rectify next year.
I'm already planning......

Sir Percival Fortesque Cutler, Director, Ministry of Peculiar Occurances

To conclude, what a utterly delightful weekend. I cant recommend this event enough. If you've an ounce of fun in you put this on your must do list! Finally a big thank you to the incredibly talented and hardworking people, Steampunkers and otherwise, of Oamaru, Steampunk Capital of the World.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

The Gluckenstein Incident, a Steampunk Battle Narrative.

Having completed my Samurai figs for Ronin I've launched straight into my next project which has been bubbling away in the dark recesses of my addled brain for quite some time.
I've had an interest in Steampunk / Vic sci-fi ever since I participated in a small 'Gaslight' game many years ago. The fact that my daughter is an avid steam punk fan does help somewhat to fire the enthusiasm as well, in fact we are attending a steam punk festival next weekend in Oamaru, Steampunk HQ of New Zealand.

'Kreigbots' Mechanical Sturmtruppen

Professor Von Kleist and Krumm demonstrate his Lightning Arc Gloves.

Needless to say many hours have gone into assembling and painting my Teutonian Army, and fortunately I have managed to convince my good wargaming mate, Tex Houston, into the absolute neccessity of building an opposing Britannic Army.... fortunately he's a pushover for hair-brained ideas so, thankfully, I have an opponent whose almost as mad as me.

In fact, not only was he enthused, he bleeding well went ahead and knocked together an absolutely brillaint collection of Dystopian Legion and Warhammer 40K conversions that are a pleasure to shoot to pieces.

With our two forces assembled and chomping at the bit to be in action, it was only a matter of time before some minor incident would ignite a full scale confrontation between these two great Empires.

Teutonia annexes Voltavia,War Declared!
Such an incident was the Britannians intervention in the Teutonians affairs in the small Voltavian principality of Gluckenstein.

The diplomatic wrangling and argee bargeeing that preceeded this confrontation is a story in itself  so I wont bore you with any of that nonsense, suffice to say, the Teutonians, with a jealous eye on their neighbours coal reserves have annexed Voltavia and the nosy Brits have decided to come over all indignant and go to their aid. Henceforth a state of war now exists between Teutonia and Britainia.

The opening shots of this war have become known as 'The Gluckenstein Incident".

We used Gaslight (Big Battles) as the rules for this game.

 The game began with the Teutonians agressively advancing toward the village supported by their steam tanks and fearsomeTeutonic steam walkers.

Combined armour and infantry.

Teutonian Heavy Steam Panzer

Panzers Vorwarts!

Totenkopf Sturmtruppen and Jager on the outskirts of Gluckenstein.

The Brits, somewhat more cautiously sent their massive Levaithan walkers forward to get the lie of the land and threw forward a unit of Sky Hussars to assess the enemy dispositions. The Brit force was high in heavy ordnance but very low on infantry which was to create quite a problem for them as we shall see.

The first casualty was a Teutonic heavy steam tank which came under fire from the hulking Brit Leviathan walker. The searing hot shell tearing through the frontal armour and making short work of the poor crew with only one survivor.

Britannic Leviathan Class walker

First blood to the Brits, a Teutonain Steam Panzer takes a direct hit.

The Teutonains retaliated with everything they had and their combined fire managed to topple the monster.The Teutonian infantry also accounted for a sky hussar.

Her Majesties Royal Aetherial Service Sky Hussars

The teutonian scout panzers seemed to be encountering some mechanical problems and it took several attempts to fire up one of the tanks. Fortunately some fuse wire and a hit with a very big hammer did the trick and they headed off to support the infantry advance into the village on the Teutonian left flank.

Lynx, light scout Panzer, Ausf B
 The Brits appeared content to sit tight on the Teutonian right flank and trade blows, counting on superior armour and fire power to annihilate or subdue the enemy. Their Sky Hussars, despite flitting about in their usual flamboyant manner, achieved very little other than to draw fire.
Meanwhile the remaining Brit medium armoured walkers armoured walkers advanced cautiously on the village to tackle the Teutonian infantry which, by now, had established a firm hold of the main buildings.

Bulldog medium walkers move forward to carry out some house cleaning.
The Brits appeared to have made something of an oversight in their planning by not supporting their armour with infantry. It's generally very difficult to shift well defended infantry from buildings without grunts on the ground.

They did, however, have a fiendlishly clever secret weapon up their sleeve in the form of a Fantham, Mk2 Ground Attack Ornithopter. This delightful piece of kit hovered over the village and began strafing the Teutonians to put their heads down prepartory to lining up for a bomb run.

Fantham, Mk2, Ground Attack Ornithopter

 Sadly for the Brit airmen this wasn't to prove their finest hour. The Teutonians, undaunted by this unusual and amazing contraption, simply took a bead with their multi barrelled plasma cannon and disintergrated the blade off the main rotor. This sent the it into an immediate tailspin and only by superhuman effort was the  pilot able to bring his craft to the ground cheating death by a hairsbreadth.

Bombs away!

Thok, thok, thok....BOOM!
To cap off this round of abysmal luck the Teutonians scored a direct hit on a Brit medium walker, neatly severing the body and leaving two smoking legs.

Bulldog, MkIV, medium steam walker

'Deconstructed' Bulldog.

At this point the Britannian Commander decided to call it a day. With no hope of launching a counter attack on the village with the remaining forces at his disposal he reluctantly ordered his bugler to sound the retreat on his steam bugle.

Up close and personal. A Teutonian Knight engages Britanian infantry. 

Leviathan Class Heavy Steam Walkers

Teutonian Light Panzer


Teutonian HQ
We found the Gaslight rules did the trick but it was decided a lot of work is need to combine the core Gaslight rules and Big Battle rules onto a quick reference playsheet as a lot of time was spent flicking back and forth. I think it fair to say the rules are a bit disjointed compared to some of the latest offerings such as IHMN but are imminently worth persevering with.