Saturday, January 31, 2009

Gaming With Grandma - 87

Another Saturday morning gaming session with my mother (AKA Grandma) and 7 year old daughter (AKA Maddie).

The first game of the morning was played by Grandma and I. YINSH is an abstract game and is part of the GIPF project by Kris Burm. I was white and went first. Grandma was leading in score during most of the game but I managed to eventually grab the win with three rings to two.

Our next game was another two-player between Grandma and I. Battle Line is an enjoyable card game by Reiner Knizia. Grandma led first and went on to win our first game with an envelopment of 5 flags to 4 flags.

I led first in our second game, coming back strong to take the win with a breakthrough, 3 flags to 2 flags.

Maddie joined us for the final game of the morning. Risk Express is another game designed by Reiner Knizia. In this game players roll dice to try and match symbols to claim cards representing territories. I quite enjoy this game for a bit of dice rolling fun.

Maddie took an early lead by claiming Australia. We each claimed a couple of unclaimed territories from the middle of the table. There was then a bit of back and forth fighting over already claimed territories with Grandma coming off the worst. Final scores were me, Wayne 18, Maddie 15 and Grandma 2.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Double Rainbow

We had some rain showers this morning. I happened to glance out the bathroom window as I was shaving and noticed a double rainbow. I raced out onto the back deck to take a photo of this rare event. The primary inner rainbow actually stretched in an unbroken arch right across the sky. It was very impressive.

A double rainbow

The fainter rainbow on the outside is known as a secondary rainbow. Secondary rainbows are caused by a double reflection of sunlight inside the raindrops. As a result of the second reflection, the colours of a secondary rainbow are inverted compared to the primary bow. Note that the blue is on the outside with the red on the inside, opposite to that of the primary bow.

Incidentally, the dark area of unlit sky lying between the primary and secondary bows is called Alexander's band, after Alexander of Aphrodisias who first described it.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Happy Birthday, Georgia!

Our younger daughter, Georgia, turned three years old today. Happy birthday, Georgie!

Georgia in the process of blowing out the candles on her birthday cake

Her main birthday present was a lovely dollhouse from Plan Toys (we were very lucky to find one that had been heavily discounted in price). The grandparents also chipped in for some of the cool accessories.

The bedroom

Another photo of the bedroom

The kitchen

Daddy on the toilet watching TV. Who designed this house? Al Bundy?

This afternoon, on the request of Georgia, we'll all be making cupcakes together. Vanilla cupcakes with pink and yellow icing to be exact.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Gaming With Grandma - 86

Mum (AKA Grandma) dropped around for a cup of tea and a chat this morning. For the last month or so I've been taping Long Way Down which is currently on TV on Wednesday evenings on SBS, and Mum and I have been watching it together on Saturday mornings. After that we've either been playing the Wii or some board games.

Our first game of the morning was DVONN. This is a really enjoyable abstract game and part of the GIPF Project by Kris Burm. Grandma was white and I was black. I was in control and clearly winning for the majority of the game. However, in the last few moves of the game, Grandma was able to make a comeback and win 28 to 16.

DVONN - Yes, we realised the pieces were upside down half-way through the game.

Our second, and final, game of the morning was another in the GIPF series - ZERTZ. This is another really cool game and is also quite stunning to look at. I won by capturing four white marbles. Final score was me with 2 Black, 1 Grey and 4 White, while Grandma had 3 Black, 3 Grey and 1 White.


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Listening to Podcasts

One of the joys of being a new owner of an MP3 player is being able to download and listen to podcasts whenever and wherever you want. I broke in the iPhone last night by downloading a couple of episodes of Meeples & Miniatures, a podcast about miniature wargames and strategy boardgames. What a pleasure to be able to listen to a podcast like this on my way to and from work. I even listened while I ate my lunch.

There are also several other podcasts that I'm keen to download. Not only that, the iPhone can also play videos so I've been able to download videos from YouTube to watch. How cool is that!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A Momentous Day In History

Now, for those of you who may not know me I am a bit of a luddite when it comes to mobile phones (cell phones). I've never felt the need to own a mobile phone and had no desire to have the latest and greatest models. Although I have owned mobile phones for the last few years they have always been hand-me-downs from my wife when she upgraded her accounts. I was always on whatever was the bare minimum plan and rarely used the phone except to occasionally call my wife if my train was running late. I basically only know how to make a call and press the button to answer a call. I have never sent a text message in my life.

I get home this afternoon to find that my wife has upgraded her business account and got herself an iPhone! And she got me one too! She hadn't told me she was planning to do this so it was a big surprise.

The iPhone has a camera and an iPod rolled into it. This is really useful for me as I've never owned an MP3 player and will now be able to download my favourite gaming podcasts and listen to them on the train. I am quite giddy with excitement at exploring the features of this piece of technology. Today was indeed a momentous day in history.

Oh yeah, and some guy called Barack Obama was inaugurated as the 44th President of the United States of America in the early hours of this morning Australia time.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Tropic Thunder

I took a couple of days of leave off work to care for Maddie as she's currently on school holidays. We've had fun hanging out together and playing the Wii Santa gave our family for Xmas (for the record Maddie kicks my butt at most Wii games).

Anyway, my father-in-law wanted to take Maddie to the movies today to see Hotel for Dogs. As they would be going out for a few hours I decided to treat myself to a DVD from our local video shop (it was $2 Tuesday for new releases). I'd had a pretty productive morning already (gardening, house cleaning, dishes, clothes washing) so took some time off to rent and watch Tropic Thunder.

I had reasonably high hopes for this satirical action/comedy film which stars Ben Stiller, Robert Downey Jr and Jack Black as actors filming a Vietnam war movie. While I found some parts of the movie funny, overall I was a little disappointed. I have to say that Robert Downey Jr was very good as the Australian actor playing an African/American soldier. The appearance of Tom Cruise playing the foul-mouthed studio exec just turned me off. The make-up on Cruise was great but his acting (voice and mannerisms) felt like he was just being Tom Cruise, and Tom Cruise scares and creeps me out.

The plot felt vaguely familiar and I guess this isn't a surprise as it's been done to death in countless action films (which is the point of the movie). However, the comedy of people believing that real life situations are actually a movie, now where has that been done before? Oh yeah, that reminded me a lot of Bowfinger which sort of has the reverse situation and which I found ultimately to be the funnier movie.

I like Stiller's work, and while I did somewhat enjoy Tropic Thunder, I still feel his best comedic work (and one of the few films that has literally brought tears of laughter to my eyes) has been There's Something About Mary.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Looking for a Loopin' Louie chicken token

I picked up the original 1992 edition of Loopin' Louie at a garage sale several years ago but unfortunately it was missing a chicken token. This means I can't play with four players which is a real shame. I did buy the re-released 2005 smaller edition last year but then traded it away because I felt the game play didn't feel as good as the larger original edition.

Image courtesy of BGG and Kevin Wood (kvn299)

So I've just advertised on BoardGameGeek looking for someone to post me a single original chicken token in exchange for 30 Geek Gold.

Hopefully some nice person with a spare original Loopin' Louie stickered chicken token will take me up on the offer.

The Incredible Shrinking Man

Another old movie I've seen lately was The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957). Coincidentally, it and another old film I've recently watched, The Last Man on Earth, were both based on novels by Richard Matheson.

In The Incredible Shrinking Man, Grant Williams stars as Scott Carey, a man who is exposed to a combination of radiation and insecticide which causes him to shrink day by day. As the effects progress, Carey is bitter and tormented and struggles to accept his fate.

I was quite amazed at the special effects in this 1957 film. At one stage, when Carey is about 6 inches tall he is attacked by the family cat. He barely escapes to the basement where he is trapped for some time. He continues to shrink and when he is about an inch tall he has a run-in with a tarantula spider. All the effects were quite realistic. Although Carey's life is thrown into disarray, the film does end on a positive note.

I quite enjoyed this film and it reminded me of a TV series I used to love watching when I was a kid - The Land of The Giants.

The Last Man on Earth

I watched The Last Man on Earth (1964) recently. ABC1 will often show old films late at night and this was one that I'd recorded to watch when I had some spare time.

Vincent Price stars as Dr Robert Morgan, a man having to face life alone after finding himself the only survivor of a devastating world-wide plague. As night falls zombie/vampire-like plague victims leave their shelters and roam the countryside looking for blood. During the day Dr Morgan seeks out the plague victims in their hiding places to drive a wooden stake through their hearts and then transport their bodies to a quarry for cremation.

This bleak vision of an apocalyptic world is based on the Richard Matheson novel I am Legend, as are the films The Omega Man (1971) and I am Legend (2007), neither of which I've yet seen.

Look out for The Last Man on Earth on late-night TV, it's a good zombie film and one worth seeing at least once.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Gaming With Grandma - 85

My mum (AKA Grandma to our kids) popped over this morning for a cup of tea and a chat. We also had the opportunity to play some two-player games.

Our first game of the morning was GIPF. I was black and Grandma was white. The last time I played GIPF was back on 14 October 2006 so it had certainly been overdue for a play. Grandma actually won the game, capturing six of my pieces to my three of her pieces. I lost because my reserve ran out.

The board of GIPF after a few turns.

Our second game of the morning was TAMSK. This is a very interesting game as the playing pieces are sand-timers. You turn a timer and place a ring over it when it is moved. There is a constant tension because if all the sand runs out in a timer it is a dead playing piece and can no longer be moved. I won the game with one ring left to Grandma's three rings.

The board of TAMSK after a few turns.

Our third and final game of the morning was PUNCT. In this game you are trying to link the pieces of your colour from one hex edge to the opposite hex edge. I was white and Grandma was black. I went on to win.

The final board of our game of PUNCT.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Gaming at GWAN - 2

Wednesday evening found me at GWAN (Gamers Without A Name), a game group hosted by Kevin (BGG user cyberkev63) at his house. Also in attendance were two others I had gamed with before, John (BGG user Friendless) and Justin (BGG user jwalduck), and two others I hadn't met before, Phil (BGG user Jacko_p) and Adam (BGG user AdamP).

After some deliberation on choosing a game that would take six players we settled on Deduce or Die. Deduce or Die is a deduction game for 3-6 players by Larry Levy in which the players are trying to find out who among them is a murderer. The actual murderer is as anxious as anyone else to determine the facts of the case, as that will allow him or her to pin the blame on someone else. The first player who can correctly accuse another player of the crime wins the game.

The rules for Deduce or Die are available at the Games Journal. The game is played with three decks of normal playing cards (using Spades, Hearts and Clubs) and a special sheet to write notes as questions are asked and answers revealed. Justin (jwalduck) had cleverly re-themed the motivation cards to represent the three motives of Money, Love and Hate. Not only that but he has created the cards with his own artwork. To see what they look like click here. We also had available to us his specially designed deduction sheets for writing down the clues.

The deduction sheet and cards designed by Justin.

Deduce or Die would have to be one of the more challenging of the deduction games around and I found it to be quite a brain-burner. It also seemed to take several rounds of questioning before I started being able to identify which players had what cards. When it wasn't my turn to ask a question I was focusing on my deduction sheet and the information I had gathered. In fact, there was little player interaction and for the majority of the game all players had their heads bent down intently studying their deduction sheets.

Deduce or Die felt to me like a more complicated game of Sudoku, mixed with the feeling of a game of Bingo as information was revealed and all players jotted it down on their deduction sheets. Including the initial rules explanation the game took 2.5 hours. For the entire game one is concentrating on the clues and trying to logically work out which two cards are missing to enable you to work out the third card which will be held in the initial four-card hand of one of the players. I almost came to resent each player having to ask a question as it broke my concentration and the processing of the information revealed by the previous question. Two hours of this sort of concentration felt way too long for me.

I'm generally not that big a fan of deduction games due to the effect an incorrect answer or the incorrect recording of information can have on the outcome. This issue is quite noticeable with Deduce or Die so accurate note-taking is vital. While I'm certain no players gave a wrong answer I did realise towards the end of the game with the revelation of further clues that at some stage I'd either incorrectly interpreted or transcribed information on my deduction sheet. This affected my data and I was suddenly at a loss as to what was correct and what was not.

My deduction sheet at the end of the game. What a mess!

John (Friendless) went on to impressively take the win with an accurate accusation. It turned out that I was the murderer and I did it for the money.

While Deduce or Die is undoubtedly a very good deduction game it runs too long for my taste and feels too much like a puzzle that must be solved. I prefer my deduction games to be either shorter (e.g. Coda), or with more theme (e.g. Mystery of the Abbey), and my puzzles played solitaire.

Having said all that, I did enjoy the gaming experience this evening and it was great to catch up with some old opponents and have the opportunity to meet new ones.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Battle of Himera 480BC

I went over to Friendless' house on Tuesday evening for some more Commands & Colors: Ancients gaming.

We had previously decided to play the Battle of Himera 480BC from Commands & Colors: Ancients Expansion Pack #1: Greece & Eastern Kingdoms and I helped Friendless set up the board when I arrived. I happened to sit down on the side of the table that the Carthaginians were on and so the battle commenced.

The Battle of Himera (480BC)

Historical Background (From the scenario booklet)

Phoenicia and Greece both colonized the western Mediterranean. Carthage unified the Punic cities into an empire, while Syracuse rose to become the leading Greek city under its first Tyrant, Gelon. With Theron of Akragas, Gelon took control of Himera and drove out the former ruler, Terillus, in 483. King Hamilcar of Carthage, an ally and friend of Terillus, led an army to Sicily in 480 BC to restore him to power. Hamilcar established two camps to the west and southwest of Himera. As the armies skirmished outside the city, Gelon's raiders captured a message providing the date of arrival of a body of Greek cavalry reinforcing Hamilcar's army. A treacherous plan was hatched to substitute Gelon's own cavalry for these reinforcements. At dawn on the specified day, Gelon's horsemen entered the Punic sea-camp without raising any suspicion. They suddenly attacked, raising havoc and killing Hamilcar. Meanwhile the rest of Gelon’s army launched a surprise attack against both camps. Most of the forces in the sea-camp were slaughtered but a successful counter-attack at the hill camp prevented the total destruction of the Carthaginian army. A peace treaty was signed between Syracuse and Carthage, which held for seven decades. Since Hamilcar’s expedition coincided with the Xerxes’ invasion, it was believed to be part of a coordinated assault on the Greek world.

The stage is set. The battle lines are drawn and you are in command. The rest is history.

War Council

Carthaginian Army
• Leader: Hamilcar Gisgo
• 5 Command Cards

Syracusan Army
• Leader: Gelon
• 5 Command Cards
• Move First

6 Banners

Image from
Click for a larger image.

Game 1: In our first game I commanded the Carthaginians (brown blocks), while Friendless commanded the Syracusans (light blue blocks). This looked to be a very interesting scenario, due mainly to the fact that the Carthaginians had a lone leader in a hex vulnerable to attack on the first turn of the game!

Friendless commenced the battle by playing an Outflanked card giving the Syracusans two orders on both the left and right flanks. On my left flank he sent forward a unit of Medium Cavalry to attack and score two hits on my unit of Auxilia defending the rampart of my sea-camp. On my right flank the Syracusan leader Eumachus, commanding the Medium Cavalry outside my sea-camp, charged at my lone leader, Hamilcar. To kill Hamilcar, Friendless needed to roll just one Leader symbol (a 1 in 6 chance) on three dice. Luckily for me he failed to roll a Leader symbol and Hamilcar was able to evade back and attach himself to the unit of Heavy Chariots on my back board edge.

I responded to the Syracusan attack with an Order Two Units Left card. Hamilcar, now commanding a unit of Heavy Chariots, charged forward at Eumachus and his Medium Cavalry. The Heavy Chariot attack was devastating and Eumachus’ Medium Cavalry were destroyed. Banner check – Ozvortex 1, Friendless 0. As a result of this Eumachus was left alone in the hex. I then had to roll a Leader Casualty Check. If I rolled a Leader symbol on one die (1 in 6 chance) Eumaches would be killed as a result of the combat. I rolled the die – a Leader symbol! Eumachus is slain! Banner check – Ozvortex 2, Friendless 0. As I had destroyed both the Medium Cavalry and the attached Leader I then momentum advanced my Heavy Chariot unit and did a bonus close combat against a nearby Syracusan Medium Cavalry unit. I was able to destroy one block before it evaded away.

Friendless then played Order Four Units Centre to move up his Medium and Heavy Infantry as well as a couple of charges by his Medium Cavalry against my Carthaginian Auxilia defending the ramparts of my sea-camp.

I noticed that one of Friendless’ Medium Cavalry units that had attacked the previous turn was within range of a unit of my Medium Infantry. The Syracusan cavalry unit had also suffered further damage from my Auxilia unit and had only a single block remaining. I played Order Three Units Centre and moved forward a unit of Auxilia, Medium Infantry and Heavy Infantry. My Medium Infantry attacked, and although the Syracusan Medium Cavalry attempted to evade it was wiped out. Banner check – Ozvortex 3, Friendless 0.

After these setbacks, Friendless then played Order Medium Troops. He pulled back a wounded unit of Medium Cavalry and used the remaining orders to straighten his battle line in all three sections.

Seeing the Syracusan troops massing for an attack on the ramparts on my right flank I decided to send some missiles their way with an Order Light Troops. My Light Slingers and Light Infantry managed to do a block of damage each to both a Medium and Heavy Infantry Syracusan unit.

Friendless next played Order Heavy Troops to move forward his units of Heavy Infantry. They were now almost in contact with the rampart on my left flank.

I realise that some of my best infantry are languishing at my rear so I play Line Command to move them forward towards the advancing Syracusan threat in my centre.

Friendless now unleashes his attack on the ramparts by also playing a Line Command card. My troops defending the rampart can ignore a crossed swords symbol and may ignore a flag. Two Syracusan Medium Infantry units attack across the rampart at a unit of my Light Slingers and Auxilia which both take one hit but give as good as they get in the battle backs. A Syracusan Light Slinger unit attempts to cross the rampart but one of my own Light Slinger units blocks its advance and causes a casualty in a battle back. Finally, a Syracusan Heavy Infantry unit commanded by the leader, Gelon, attacks my Light Infantry unit holding the extreme right flank of the rampart. Knowing that the attack would be five dice with each die having a 50% chance of scoring a hit, I choose to evade my unit of Light Infantry. By choosing to evade, each die would then only have a 16.6% (1 in 6) chance of hitting. My Light Slingers survive the attack and evade to safety. Gelon and his Heavy Infantry momentum advances onto the rampart (we made a mistake here. Units can’t momentum advance after a unit evades).

Gelon’s cheering Heavy Infantry atop the rampart are soon quieted as I play Order Four Units Right and they see a unit of Cathaginian Warriors charging towards them and a Light Infantry unit moving behind them to cut off their retreat. My Warrior unit hits the Heavy Infantry and destroys it. Banner check – Ozvortex 4, Friendless 0. Gelon is left alone in the hex. I have a 1 in 6 chance of destroying him as well. I roll the die and am amazed to again see the required Leader symbol! Gelon is slain! Banner check – Ozvortex 5, Friendless 0. Over on the left of the rampart another of my ordered Medium Infantry units attacks a weakened Syracusan Medium Infantry unit and rolls sufficient hits to also kill it. Banner check – Ozvortex 6, Friendless 0.

Victory is mine!

This was a memorable game, notable for the deaths of two Leaders and the wide margin in victory banners. I was very lucky to eliminate the two Syracusan Leaders and had I failed to do so I am in no doubt the final scores would have been much closer.

Final score was me with 6 banners for the win against Friendless with 0 banners.

The placement of forces at the end of the battle. Viewed from the Carthaginian side.

Game 2: We swapped armies so I now commanded the Syracusans (light blue blocks) and Friendless commanded the Carthaginians (brown blocks).

I commence by playing an Order Three Units Right to first send Eumachus and his Medium Cavalry against the lone Hamilcar, then send a unit of Medium Infantry to assault the Carthaginian Auxilia unit defending the rampart, and finally to move forward Theron and his Heavy Infantry. As had happened to Friendless in our first game, I also fail to kill Hamilcar and the Carthaginian commander is able to evade back to a unit of Heavy Chariots. The doughty Carthaginian Auxilia manages to hold off the attacks of both of my Medium Infantry units, knocking out half the blocks of one unit and sending the other retreating two hexes.

Friendless responds to my attacks by playing an Order Two Units Left. He counterattacks with Hamilcar and his Heavy Chariot unit against Eumachus and his Medium Cavalry unit. The attack by the Carthaginian Heavy Chariots reduce my Medium Cavalry to only one block, however in the battle back I also reduce his Heavy Chariots to one block. Friendless then orders his Light Cavalry to attack my Medium Infantry which stands its ground and takes no damage.

I play another Order Three Units Right card. My first order is to charge another Medium Cavalry to attack the Auxilia unit defending the rampart of the sea-camp in the flank, thus negating the protection of the rampart. My second and third orders are to advance two of my Medium Infantry units assault the Carthaginian sea-camp rampart.

The attack by my Medium Cavalry on the Auxilia unit is a success and I am able to totally destroy it. Banner check – Ozvortex 1, Friendless 0. Having destroyed the Auxilia my Medium Cavalry is then able to momentum advance and make a bonus close combat against Hamilcar and his remaining block of Heavy Chariots. My bonus attack also succeeds and I destroy the Heavy Chariot unit. Banner check – Ozvortex 2, Friendless 0. As Hamilcar was now left alone in the hex the Leader Casualty check is a roll of one die looking for a Leader symbol to kill him. Hamilcar is lucky and manages to evade back to a unit of Carthaginian Light Cavalry.

Friendless now plays Order Light Troops. Five units of Light Slingers, Light Infantry and Auxilia unleash a barrage of missiles across my battle line. One of my Medium Infantry units loses two blocks and a unit of Medium Cavalry is forced to retreat.

I play Order Three Units Centre. My first order is to retreat Eumachus and his one block of Medium Cavalry out of danger. My second and third orders are to move up my two units of Medium Infantry into line with the units facing the hill-camp ramparts.

Friendless plays Move-Fire-Move. All his ranged combat units shoot but do little damage.

I respond by playing Order Two Units Left to start preparing my assault on the Carthaginian hill-camp on my left flank. I move my Syracusan leader, Gelon and his Heavy Infantry, up to take position on the end of the left flank of my battle line. I have a Line Command card in my hand that I intend to play next turn which will allow a line of six of my infantry units to move up to the ramparts and attack.

Friendless sees the threat of my last move and plays Order Four Units Right. Four of his units defending the ramparts send a rain of stones, arrows and javelins down on my advancing line. One of my Medium Infantry units, already wounded in a previous attack, is destroyed. Banner check – Ozvortex 2, Friendless 1. Another unit of my Medium Infantry, now resembling a pin-cushion, is reduced to half strength. A further unit of my Medium Infantry is forced to retreat twice.

My main battle line has now been separated in two. If I play my Line Command card as intended it will have little effect. I instead choose to play Coordinated Attack to move up units of Medium and Heavy Infantry to beef up the line on my left and send Theron and his Heavy Infantry to assault the Light Infantry defending the rampart of the sea-camp on my right. The Carthaginian Light Infantry unit evades back to the protection of the camp behind the rampart.

Friendless plays Order Three Units Centre. Hamilcar, now commanding a unit of Light Cavalry attacks a unit of my Medium Infantry but does no damage. A Carthaginian Auxilia unit does a block of damage to one of my units of Medium Infantry.

I play Order Two Units Centre. I detach Eumachus from his wounded cavalry unit and attach him to a full strength Medium Cavalry unit. I also move forward a unit of Heavy Infantry to face the threat of the Carthaginian centre.

Friendless plays Order Heavy Units to move forward his sole unit of Heavy Infantry commanded by Terrilus from the back edge of the board.

Having reformed my main battle line I decide the time is right to play Line Command. My line moves forward but the units which make contact with the enemy do little damage due to the protection of the rampart.

Friendless plays Leadership Any Section to advance Terrilus’ battle group of Medium and Heavy Infantry forward.

I play Order Two Units Centre to bring up more reinforcements.

Friendless plays Order Three Units Centre to again advance Terrilus’ battle group.

I play Coordinated Attack to move one unit in each section of the battlefield. On my left I pull a wounded unit of Light Slingers back to safety. In my centre my Medium Cavalry charges Hamilcar’s Light Cavalry and destroys it completely. Banner check – Ozvortex 3, Friendless 1. I fail to kill Hamilcar on the Leader Casualty check and he evades back to attach himself to a unit of Auxilia. On my right a unit of my Light Infantry attacks a Carthaginian unit of Auxilia but does no damage.

Friendless plays Counter Attack. Hamilcar, now commanding a unit of Auxilia, attacks Eumachus and his unit of Medium Cavalry. On the previous turn I had drawn the card First Strike. I now play it to attack before Friendless. Eumachus destroys Hamilcar’s Auxilia. Banner check – Ozvortex 4, Friendless 1. This is the third unit Hamilcar has had destroyed out from under him. He again survives the Leader Casualty check and evades to safety.

I now play Order Medium Troops. I move two units of Medium Cavalry forward and retreat Eumachus and his now wounded Medium Cavalry back to safety. I debate whether or not to send a unit of Medium Infantry with just two blocks remaining to attack a unit of Carthaginian Auxilia. The red mist descends and I attack. The Auxilia unit survives my attack and battles back killing my Medium Infantry. Banner check – Ozvortex 4, Friendless 2.

Friendless makes an attack on my right flank with a unit of Auxilia and two units of Light Infantry by playing Order Three Units Left. A unit of my Light Infantry evades and a unit of my Medium Cavalry loses one block.

I play Darken the Sky with the only two units I have in range that are capable of missile combat. My unit of Light Slingers is able to destroy a unit of Carthaginian Auxilia defending the hill-camp rampart. Banner check – Ozvortex 5, Friendless 2.

Friendless again plays Order Three Units Left but his attack with his light troops in the sea-camp are ineffective.

I play Line Command to have my Medium and Heavy Infantry units continue their attack on the sea-camp on my right flank. I do some severe damage but fail to destroy any units.

Friendless plays Counter Attack to attack with Terrilus and his battlegroup of Medium and Heavy Infantry. I lose a unit of Medium Infantry in the heavy fighting. Banner check – Ozvortex 5, Friendless 3.

I’ve been holding the card I am Spartacus in my hand for some time. Now is the time to play it. I send Gelon and his Heavy Infantry to push forward past the rampart of the hill-camp on my left flank to engage a unit of Carthaginian Auxilia that has only two blocks remaining. The Heavy Infantry unit, inspired by both Gelon and the I am Spartacus card (which allows them to roll an extra die) totally wipe out the Carthaginian Auxilia. Banner check – Ozvortex 6, Friendless 3.

Victory is mine!

Final scores were me with 6 banners for the win and Friendless with 3 banners.

The placement of forces at the end of the battle. Viewed from the Syracusan side.

The final total score of both games was me with 12 banners and Friendless with 3 banners. When Friendless and I next meet we will play the second scenario of C&C Ancients: Expansion Pack #2: Rome and the Barbarians - Telemon 225BC.

A Package From Eureka Miniatures

I submitted an order with Eureka Miniatures last Wednesday and the package arrived today. This was my first order direct through Eureka and I was very pleased with the service and packaging.

Each miniature code comes in several variants.

I ordered some test samples of Orcs, Wood Elves, Elves of the Lofty Spire, Men of Grandeur and Dwarves from their 18mm Fantasy range of miniatures. I'm interested in this range because the miniatures look like they are heavily inspired by the recent Lord of the Rings movies. At this stage I'll base and paint them up individually for the Song of Blades and Heroes skirmish game.

A human mage.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Picked Up Some Hobby Supplies

My holidays are nearing an end (sigh) and it's back to work for me on Wednesday.

I took my 7 year old daughter, Maddie, with me to visit the local hobby shop, Hobbyrama at 480 Stafford Road at Stafford, this morning. I'm pretty lucky to have this large hobby shop within 10 minutes drive of my home.

The purpose of my visit was to pick up some essential supplies. For a start I'd run out of blades for my craft knife and needed to get some replacements. I'd also recently broken a mini drill bit I'd bought many years ago for drilling out the hands of 15mm miniatures (to replace weapons). The drill bit was just the right size to also drill out the gun barrels of 25mm miniatures to make them look more realistic.

Now these drill bits are tiny, so tiny that their width is measured in microns. They attach to an instrument called a pin vice which holds the bit in place and allows you to just drill with the pressure and rotation of your fingertips.

I spoke to one of the staff and we located just the size drill bit I was after. He told me it was $4.50. He then mentioned that they sold a set of 20 drill bits of different sizes (including the size I was after) in a pack for $16.95. As I'd always wanted a wider variety of drill bits I purchased the 20 piece set because it was better value. I also picked up a pack of blades for my craft knife.

There was an aquarium shop next door and Maddie wanted to have a look. They had both tropical and marine fish for sale. Maddie was particularly excited when she saw some real live Nemo fish (Clownfish).

Seeing all those aquariums brought back memories for me of when I had an aquarium in my bedroom as a teenager. I had the aquarium for several years and was quite into the hobby. What shocked me most wandering around the store this morning was the price of the tropical fish. For example, a fish I would have paid a couple of dollars for twenty-five years ago is now selling for around $30-$40 each!

A Beautiful Sunset

Every so often I see a sunset that I find extremely beautiful. Here's the sunset from my back deck this evening, Monday 12 January 2009.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

The Battle of Crimissos River 341BC

I went over to Friendless' house Thursday evening for some more Commands & Colors: Ancients gaming.

We'd previously decided to play the Battle of Crimissos River 341BC from the base Commands & Colors: Ancients game and Friendless had the board already set up when I arrived. I happened to sit down on the side of the table that the Carthaginians were on and so the battle commenced.

The Battle of Crimissos River (341BC)

Historical Background (From the scenario booklet)

The Carthaginians learned from earlier defeats in Sicily that they had to field reliable, trained heavy infantry of their own. They formed the Sacred Band, a force of about 2,500 excellently trained Carthaginians, as good or better than the best the Greeks or Syracusans could field. They formed a part of a large army under Hasdrubal, advancing eastward to subjugate Sicily. Opposing him with a much smaller army was the able tactician Timoleon. Ever aggressive, Timoleon anxiously awaited an opportunity to strike the Carthaginians a hard blow on his terms. He got that chance when, on a foggy morning, Hasdrubal carelessly ordered his army to cross the Crimissos River without bothering to send out scouts (who would have reported that Timoleon’s army was arrayed on the bluffs just beyond the river). Waiting until about half of the Carthaginian army had crossed, Timoleon unleashed his excellent heavy infantry phalanx against the surprised Carthaginians. Most who survived fled, but the Sacred Band stood their ground and were annihilated by superior numbers, (aided by a sudden rainstorm that slowed Carthaginian reinforcements crossing the river). Seeing the disaster unfolding across the river, the remainder of Hasdrubal’s army broke and fled. The loss of so many citizen soldiers had a horrific effect on Carthage. The Sacred Band was reformed, but only once was it ever dispatched from Africa again, and then only for a very short campaign.

The stage is set. The battle lines are drawn and you are in command. The rest is history.

War Council

Carthaginian Army
• Leader: Hasdrubal
• 5 Command Cards
• Move First

Syracusan Army
• Leader: Timoleon
• 5 Command Cards

5 Banners

Special Rules

  • The Crimissos River is fordable only at the five bends in the river.
  • The Carthaginian Sacred Band is a special unit. Place a Special Unit block (if playing with expansion blocks) or a Carthaginian Victory Banner block in the hex with the Sacred Band unit to distinguish it from other Carthaginian units. Sacred Band special abilities:
  • - The Sacred Band will score one hit for each leader symbol rolled in close combat. A leader does not have to be attached or in an adjacent hex to confer this benefit.
  • - The Sacred Band may ignore one flag.
  • - The Sacred Band retains these special abilities until the last block of the unit has been removed from the battlefield.
  • The Special Unit/Victory banner block moves with the unit. It does not count as a block that can be removed to satisfy losses. This block is not transferable to any other unit. If the Sacred Band unit is eliminated, this block is removed from the map along with the last block of the unit.
* I've highlighted the above in red because we were using the 1st printing of C&C Ancients and the above text only appeared in the 2nd printing of the game. As such we did not use the Sacred Band's special abilities.

Image from
Click for a larger image.

Game 1: In our first game I commanded the Carthaginians (brown blocks), while Friendless commanded the Syracusans (grey blocks). We had played this particular scenario once before, back in 2006, but I have no records of the outcome.

Friendless started by playing Line Advance to send his entire line forward. I decide to get rid of the card Inspired Left Leadership to move one unit of my choice because I have no Leaders on my left flank. I moved my Medium Cavalry forward towards the river crossing. Friendless similarly burns an Inspired Right Leadership card by moving one of his light units forward to oppose my river crossing.

I decide to Order Light Troops and send a barrage of missiles at the advancing Syracusan troops. I roll a total of 7 dice and achieve no hits. Friendless then sends his Heavy Infantry in to attack my centre with an Order Heavy Troops. In that one turn he reduces two of my Auxilia units to a single block each. My Auxilia units both battle back and score a couple of hits.

I respond by playing an Order Three Units Left to move my two Medium Infantry and a unit of Light Slingers forward. One Medium Infantry unit and the Slingers reach the river crossing. Friendless continues his attack in the centre by playing an Order Three Units Centre. His Heavy Infantry kill off one of my Auxilia units. Banner check: Ozvortex 0, Friendless 1.

I play a Coordinated Attack to order a unit in each section. The main battle is my Medium Infantry which crosses the river and attacks a unit of Syracusan Heavy Infantry scoring two hits. The Heavy Infantry battles back and rolls four blue triangles to destroy my Medium Infantry in one attack. Banner check: Ozvortex 0, Friendless 2.

Friendless then plays Order Three Units Right to have his light units shoot at my troops still trying to cross the river. Luckily the damage is minimal.

I then judge the time is right to play Order Four Units Right to send forward my Leader, Hasdrubal, with his two units of Heavy Infantry, a unit of Light Slingers and a unit of Heavy Chariots. My attack is devastating and I kill two Syracusan units of Heavy Infantry and Auxilia. The Syracusan Leader, Timoleon, who was attached to the Heavy Infantry unit, survives a Leader Casualty check and evades back towards a unit of Medium Cavalry. Banner check: Ozvortex 2, Friendless 2.

I'm now getting very nervous. The majority of the cards in my hand are Centre section cards. In the centre I only have one severely wounded Auxilia unit which has retired to the back of the board. My tough troops under my only Leader are on my right flank. My other good Medium troops are stuck behind the river on my left flank with little opportunity to cross. I am, however, pleasantly surprised when I draw my replacement card.

Friendless then plays Leadership Any Section to attach his Leader to the unit of Medium Cavalry on his left flank. That's a threat I'll have to watch closely. I reply by playing the card I'd just picked up - Double Time. This card allowed me to move two units of Heavy Infantry and a unit of Light Infantry from my right flank in to the centre section. I had at least three centre section cards in my hand and this move put me in a much better situation.

Friendless then sends Timoleon, commanding a unit of Medium Cavalry, forward via a Mounted Attack to harry my unit of Heavy Chariots which had been left unsupported on my right flank. My Heavy Chariot unit is wiped out. Banner check: Ozvortex 2, Friendless 3.

I now use my Order Four Units Centre card I'd been holding in my hand to good effect. Hasdrubal and his Heavy Infantry destroy a unit of Syracusan Heavy Infantry. Banner check: Ozvortex 3, Friendless 3.

Friendless plays Order Medium Troops and sends Timoleon and his Medium Cavalry charging behind my lines into my wounded unit of Auxilia at the rear of my centre. He overruns the Auxilia unit and then momentum advances to attack my unit of Light Infantry which thankfully was able to successfully evade. Banner check: Ozvortex 3, Friendless 4.

I can see the battle slipping away from me. Friendless is only 0ne banner from victory. If I'm going to do anything it's going to have to be now.

I play Order Three Units Centre. Timoleon's charge and subsequent momentum advance has put him within range of my centre units and I am able to cunningly position my units such that his retreat towards his own side of the battlefield is blocked. His Medium Cavalry will now lose a block for every hex it can't retreat on a flag roll. I attack Timoleon and his Medium Cavalry with two units of Heavy Infantry and a unit of Light Infantry. All three of my units are either attached or adjacent to my Leader, Hasdrubal. That will be a total of 12 dice spread over three attacks. The first attack by my Heavy Infantry unit commanded by Hasdrubal is enough to seal the fate of Timoleon's Medium Cavalry. Banner check: Ozvortex 4, Friendless 4.

Timoleon, a Leader alone in a hex, must now evade. He's in a difficult position because he will have to evade through enemy units. He chooses to evade through Hasdrubal's Heavy Infantry. I attack and only need to roll a purple helmet on any of 5 dice. I do and Timoleon is killed. Banner check: Ozvortex 5, Friendless 4.

Victory is mine!

Final score was me with 5 banners for the win against Friendless with 4 banners.

The placement of forces at the end of the battle. Viewed from the Carthaginian side.

Game 2: We swapped armies so I now commanded the Syracusans (grey blocks) and Friendless commanded the Carthaginians (brown blocks).

I commence with an Order Two Units Right and sent my Light Infantry and Light Slinger units forward to the edge of the Crimissos River to oppose the Carthaginian crossing. Unfortunately, this put me in range of one of the Warrior units on the other side of the river. Friendless plays Order Medium Troops to send his Warrior unit charging into my Light Slingers doing heavy damage before they could evade. He also moves his Medium Infantry units and Medium Cavalry unit forward. The Order Medium Troops is the card I'd been hoping to receive in my hand in our previous game as most of the Carthaginian troops stuck behind the river were Medium units.

I play Order Heavy Troops to move forward those troops in my centre. Friendless plays Outflanked and his Warrior unit that had crossed the river charges forward and attacks one of my Auxilia units on my right flank. My Auxilia takes a hit and has to retreat. The Warrior unit then momentum advances and attacks another unit of my Auxilia, scoring another hit. My right flank was suddenly looking in trouble from this berserk Warrior unit which was now being supported by Carthaginian Medium Infantry crossing the river. Meanwhile, his Medium Cavalry unit on my right flank races along the opposite bank of the river towards the ford where it can cross and attack into my rear.

I play Order Four Units Right to try to hold back the attacks on my right flank. I score no hits. Friendless plays another Order Medium Troops to again send his crazed Warrior unit to create more devastation on my right flank. My unit of Light Slingers falls. Banner Check: Ozvortex 0, Friendless 1. Meanwhile more Medium Carthaginian troops move to cross the river and his unit of Medium Cavalry on my right flank reaches the ford.

I respond by playing Outflanked. This gives me two orders on each flank. I try to pull back some of my wounded units on my right flank. On my left flank I charge my Medium Cavalry into the Carthaginian unit of Heavy Cavalry. I destroy it. Banner Check: Ozvortex 1, Friendless 1.

Friendless plays (another!) Order Medium Troops card. His Medium Cavalry unit enters the ford at my rear. More Carthaginian troops cross the river to my front. I play Order Three Units Left and set up a nice attack on Hasdrubal and his Heavy Infantry. I attack with a unit of Medium Cavalry, a unit of Auxilia and a unit of Heavy Infantry commanded by Timoleon. I will have the opportunity of rolling 11 dice against the Carthaginian Leader. Unfortunately, on my first throw of the dice I roll two flags thus allowing the Hasdrubal to retreat to safety and take no further attacks. What a pity!

Friendless continues the fight in that section of the battlefield and plays Inspired Right Leadership. His unit of Heavy Infantry (the Sacred Band) attacks my Medium Cavalry but does little damage as it evades. Hasdrubal and his Heavy Infantry attack my Leader, Timoleon, and his Heavy Infantry. In the attack and subsequent battle back each unit loses two blocks.

I want to finish what I started so I again play Order Three Units Left. Timoleon and his Heavy Infantry wipe out Hasdrubal's Heavy Infantry. Banner check: Ozvortex 2, Friendless 1. Hasdrubal evades alone back towards his board edge.

Friendless now plays Move-Fire-Move. One of his Light Infantry finishes off the Heavy Infantry of Hasdrubal on my left flank. Hasdrubal evades and attaches himself to a unit of Auxilia. Banner check: Ozvortex 2, Friendless 2.

I Order Light Troops on my right flank. My wounded unit of Auxilia finally kills that Warrior unit that had been giving me such grief. Banner check: Ozvortex 3, Friendless 2.

Friendless plays Order Two Units Left. Another of his Warrior units on my right flank kills off my Auxilia unit. Banner check: Ozvortex 3, Friendless 3. The Warrior unit momentum advances and attacks my Light Infantry unit which evades - right next to the Carthaginian Medium Cavalry unit which has now crossed the river to behind my lines. My poor Light Infantry unit is then attacked but does manage to evade to the back edge of my board with only 1 block left.

My entire right flank has crumbled. I play a Line Advance to move my centre units forward closer to what is remaining of the Carthaginian Centre. It's now a race to see who can break who first.

Friendless responds by playing Order Three Units Centre to straighten up his line and send some missiles my way to no effect.

I then come up with a brilliant plan. A plan which, if successful, would win me two banners and the game on my turn. I play I Am Spartacus and as a result of the dice rolls am allowed to order two Light units, a Medium unit and a Heavy unit. On my right flank my lone unit of Light Infantry with only one block remaining moves forward to place itself behind the Carthaginian Medium Cavalry and next to a Carthaginian Warrior unit, thus blocking the retreat of the Medium Cavalry. I only have to roll a single flag on two dice to wipe out the Medium Cavalry.

Meanwhile, on my left flank I order my unit of Medium Cavalry, a unit of Heavy Infantry and Timoleon and his unit of Auxilia to attack the Carthaginian Sacred Band of Heavy Infantry.

I roll the attack of my Light Infantry unit on my right flank first. It has the opportunity to totally kill a full strength unit of Medium Cavalry by rolling at least one flag on two dice. I roll the dice but sadly do not roll a flag. The Medium Cavalry battles back and wipes out my Light Infantry. Ah well, it didn't go my way, but I was pleased with my cunning plan of blocking off the retreat of the Medium Cavalry. Banner check: Ozvortex 3, Friendless 4. Oh no, he's only one banner from winning!

I now roll my attack against the Sacred Band on my left flank. My rolls are good and the Sacred Band is massacred to a man. Banner check: Ozvortex 4, Friendless 4. It is any one's game.

Friendless plays Order Three Units Centre. He attacks a unit of my Heavy Infantry with a unit of Medium Infantry and a unit of Warriors. My Heavy Infantry unit is unfortunately decimated. Banner check: Ozvortex 4, Friendless 5. Victory to Friendless!

Final scores were Friendless with 5 banners for the win and me with 4 banners.

The placement of forces at the end of the battle. Viewed from the Syracusan side.

The final total score of both games was me with 9 banners and Friendless with 9 banners. Both games were very close, very tense and extremely exciting. When Friendless and I next meet we will play the second scenario of Commands & Colors: Ancients Expansion Pack #1: Greece & Eastern Kingdoms - Himera 480BC.

Song of Blades and Heroes - Evil Human Warband

Being on holidays I'm finding time to do some projects. One such project is to create some warbands for use with the fantasy skirmish rules Song of Blades and Heroes.

I thought I'd learn the rules to SBH by creating a couple of warbands and pitting them against each other in battle. For my first warband I wanted some evil Humans. So I looked through my 15mm fantasy figures and found some I'd purchased on eBay a couple of years ago. I'm not even sure of the manufacturer of these miniatures.

From top left in clockwise order:

Human Leader x 1
Points cost: 60
Quality 3+
Combat 3
Special abilities: Leader

This figure is of a bare-headed, armoured man holding a large two-handed sword. The most striking feature is a boars head covering his right shoulder and chest. It appears to be some sort of combination shield/armour/livery. He looks particularly evil.

Ogre Warrior x 1
Points cost: 50
Quality: 4+
Combat: 4
Special abilities: Big, Long Move

This ogre is wearing an animal skin and wielding a large tree limb with a huge metal spike through the end of it. I'm assuming this ogre has either been somehow enslaved or ensorcelled by the human leader, or is perhaps voluntarily working with him because he gets to eat any of the vanquished foes of this warband.

Human Warriors x 6
Points cost: 30 each
Quality: 3+
Combat: 3
Special abilities: None

These armoured humans are all advancing holding two-handed swords. They have fully enclosed helms and plate mail armour. They are zealous and willing to die for their leader.

Total Warband cost: 290 points

Here they all are after I'd filed off any flash, scrubbed them with a toothbrush and soap to get rid of any mold release agents, and glued to wooden ice-cream sticks ready for painting.

Common Tree Snake

It's not everyday you see a snake in suburbia. I happened to find one on the road just outside our house this afternoon. Unfortunately it was dead, run over by a car.

I must say I was shocked to see it. My first emotion was fear, fear for my young children. You just don't expect to see a potentially deadly creature so close to your home. However, as I'm very interested in all our local wildlife I just had to take a closer look to see what I could learn.

On looking closer at it I noticed it had beautiful bluish-grey colouration on its dorsal scales and a lovely pale yellowish-green colouration to its ventral scales. It was approximately one metre (3 feet) in length. I took these photos so that I could possibly identify it.

Through my research on the Internet I'm fairly certain that it's a Common Tree Snake (Dendrelaphis punctulatus). Also known as the Green Tree Snake, the Common Tree Snake is apparently quite common in South East Queensland and is one of only two types of tree snakes found in Australia. It is non-venomous and preys mainly on frogs and small mammals. The Common Tree Snake is diurnal (active during the day and resting at night). During the day it looks for food in trees and shrubs and on the ground. Come the night it's usually asleep in tree hollows, crevices and foliage.

Although it's unfortunate the snake was killed, I'm pleased to know that we have such a beautiful, non-venomous species in our locality.

Here's a picture of what a live Common Tree Snake looks like.

Image courtesy of

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Gaming at GWAN - 1

BoardGameGeek user cyberkev63 holds a weekly gaming session entitled GWAN (Gamers Without A Name) at his house on Wednesday nights. My understanding is that around four to six people usually attend these gaming sessions. Now cyberkev63 only lives about a 15-20 minute drive from me which is fairly close. Although I've been on his mailing list for a couple of years I've never taken him up on the offer to attend a session. This has mainly been because the sessions are on a weeknight (i.e. work the next day) and for the past couple of years I've had a baby/toddler to contend with (i.e. disrupted sleep).

However this evening the planets aligned and I attended GWAN for the first time. Unfortunately only two others turned up; cyberkev63 himself (naturally) and Friendless. So there was three of us to play which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Although a fourth player would have been nice, some games are better with three.

So cyberkev63 suggested we play one of his new games, Glory to Rome. This is a card-based city building and resource management game. Each card may act as a building, a role, a raw material, or a valuable resource, which forces players into difficult choices of how each card should be played. Each round you choose a role to play which allows you to do certain things. Scoring is a combination of completing buildings and storing resources, with end-of-game bonuses for storing a diverse assortment. Game length is player-controlled, and is triggered in a few different ways.

The player mat under which cards are stored for various purposes during the game.

We decided to play a learning game which meant we played with half the deck of cards, reduced materials and no building powers. The game took almost 2 hours to play through which included an initial explanation of the rules by cyberkev63. I wasn't quick enough to start storing cards in the vault section of the player mat which ended up costing me a lot of victory points. Final scores were Friendless 1st with 19 points, cyberkev63 2nd with 10 points, and myself, Ozvortex, 3rd with 5 points.

Glory of Rome felt like a longer, more complex version of San Juan. I certainly think this game needs further plays to more fully understand and appreciate the interrelationships of the cards and powers. However, as someone who values theme in a game, I'd rather be leading Roman legionaries in battle than Roman labourers in building.

I enjoyed my first visit to GWAN. I really am fortunate to have a gaming group with a source of new games to play so close to where I live. With my younger daughter turning three years old this month, I hope the nights of disrupted sleep will soon be a distant memory. If so, I may be able to attend GWAN on a more regular basis in 2009.

Bases for Song of Blades and Heroes

I've recently become enthusiastic about trying out the Song of Blades and Heroes fantasy skirmish rules. After some thought I've decided to base up some of my 15mm, rather than 25/28mm, fantasy miniatures. The reason for this is that I'll be able to get the smaller 15mm figures finished quicker than the 25/28mm ones.

So why am I starting another miniatures project when I have so many half-completed projects currently on hold? Well, that's the nature of my personality I guess. I'll get all excited about something and spend a lot of time and energy on it before something else comes along and strikes my fancy. That's not to say an interest of mine is totally forsaken for another. No, it is simply put in a holding queue where it will be picked up once again in the future when I again find the enthusiasm for that particular project.

There is no required basing method for SBH. I deliberated for some time over whether or not I would use round or square bases. I finally decided to go with square basing after reading some messages on the SBH Yahoo group. My reasons for this is that I feel it will be easier to see contact with straight edges and also that square/rectangular bases are easier to make than round bases.

I then considered what sizes to make my bases. After getting out some of my 15mm figures and drawing various sizes of bases on a piece of paper I finally decided on 15mm x 15mm bases for foot, 15mm x 30mm for mounted, 20mm x 20mm for large humanoids, and 40mm x40mm for huge creatures. Obviously if I have big models that don't fit on a 40mm x 40mm base I'll just extend the depth of the base.

So I then went about cutting out some bases using a craft knife with a sharp scalpel-like blade. I used the mounted map boards from The Russian Campaign board game that had been sold by MilSims specifically for the purpose of basing miniatures. Here is a photo.

From the top are 16 bases of 15mm x 30mm (mounted), 4 bases of 20mm x 20mm (large humanoids), and 32 bases of 15mm x 15mm (foot). That should be more than enough to create and base two warbands to play the game.

Monday, January 05, 2009

The Battle of Colline Gate 82BC

I went over to Friendless' house this evening for some more Commands & Colors: Ancients gaming.

We'd previously decided to play the Battle of Colline Gate 82BC from the Commands & Colors: Ancients Expansion Pack #3: The Roman Civil Wars and Friendless had the board already set up when I arrived. I happened to sit down on the side of the table that the Samnites were on and so the battle commenced.

The Battle of Colline Gate (82BC)

Historical Background (From the scenario booklet)

Lucius Cornelius Sulla became the leader of the “optimates” faction in the civil war with the “populares” led by Gaius Marius. Sulla seized Rome in 88 BC and reorganized the government to his liking. However, when Sulla marched east to campaign against Mithridates of Pontus, Marius regained control of the capitol. Many of Sulla’s supporters were hunted down and killed. Although Marius died soon after, his son and other “populares” leaders maintained control of Rome. Meanwhile, Sulla defeated Mithridates and outmaneuvered a Marian army in Pontus, returning to Italy in 82 BC to restore his position and punish the Marians. Sulla quickly defeated the Marian forces in Etruria and then marched to take control of Rome in November. The remnants of the Marian forces, after their losses in Etruria, joined up with the Samnite army under Pontius Telesinus. The combined army advanced on Rome, and encamped near the Colline Gate on the northwest wall of Rome. Sulla took up a position just outside the gate and deployed. The ensuing battle was a desperate struggle, with both sides believing they were fighting to save Rome. Sulla’s legions were pushed hard on his left flank, and his men literally fought with their backs against the city walls. However, Crassus’ forces, fighting on Sulla’s right, managed to turn the opposition’s flank and drive them back. Riding his white horse, Sulla arrived on the left and rallied the flank. Still, it was not until the early hours of the next morning that the Samnites and the Marian forces were broken. In the aftermath, Sulla’s enemies in Rome were rooted out and eliminated, leaving him with absolute power as dictator.

The stage is set. The battle lines are drawn and you are in command. The rest is history.

War Council

Samnite Army
• Leader: Pontius
• 5 Command Cards
• Move First

Roman Army
• Leader: Sulla
• 6 Command Cards

5 Banners

Special Rules

  • The walls of Rome (rampart hexes) are impassable terrain.
  • Marius Legions Rule is in effect for both armies.
  • When a Roman unit occupies an enemy camp hex at the start of the Roman player’s turn, the Roman player gains one Victory Banner that cannot be lost. Remove the camp terrain tile hex and collect the Victory Banner before playing a Command card.

Image from
Click for a larger image.

Game 1: In our first game I commanded the Samnites (grey blocks), while Friendless commanded the Romans (red blocks). I had played this particular scenario commanding the Samnites once before against Friendless back on 9 April 2008. In that game I won 5 banners to 3. I wondered if I would again achieve victory over Sulla's Roman forces.

This was an interesting scenario. The walls of Rome counted as an impenetrable barrier which meant that if the Romans were forced to flee as an outcome of combat then they would lose a unit block for every hex they could not move. There was also the effect of the Marius Legions rule which allowed all Medium Infantry in this scenario to throw their pila (a pilum is a heavy javelin) for 1 die at range 2 whether they moved or not. Finally, the Samnites had two camps on their board edge which, if taken by the Romans, meant a victory banner for each.

My plan in this game, as commander of the Samnites, was to deny my left flank and push forward in my centre and right flank. The battle went fairly according to plan and it ended up being a race to see who could claim 5 banners for the win. I was progressing well on my right but the Romans had pushed me back on my left.

Then came an incredible stroke of luck for myself. In over the dozen or so games of C&C Ancients that Friendless and I have played, a general has never died in combat due to the loss of one of the blocks they commanded. In this game the Roman general Sulla had advanced on my centre and was making short work of my Auxilia units. In one combat, one of my units of Auxilia with only two blocks remaining survived an attack and therefore had a chance to battle back. Not only did the Auxilia unit destroy two blocks of Medium Cavalry in the battle back combat but for the first time for both of us we witnessed a Leader casualty roll of two dice actually succeed. You see, if you destroy a block of a unit a Leader is commanding you then roll two dice to see if the Leader is killed. For this to happen you have to roll two purple Leader symbols - a 1 in 36 chance. Sulla was the unlucky general on this occasion.

My Samnite Auxilia unit bottom left kills 2 blocks of Medium Cavalry and then their commanding general.

After another couple of turns of brutal fighting Friendless was on 4 banners and I was on 3. Friendless then advanced on my left flank with his other general, Crassus, who also commanded a unit of Medium Cavalry. Crassus managed to defeat a unit of my Auxilia which had retreated to one of my camps. Friendless then moved Crassus on to the camp. At that point in the game Friendless only needed one more banner to win. He would achieve the banner (and victory of the game) for claiming the Samnite camp at the beginning of his next turn.

With only 3 banners I needed to claim a further 2 banners on my turn or suffer defeat on Friendless' next turn. My only Leader, general Pontius who was commanding a unit of Medium Cavalry, had advanced on my right flank. He was the only unit capable of killing 2 units on my turn. My only problem was that I had no cards that could possibly manoeuvre him on the right flank! Then I looked closer at one of my cards. I can't remember which card it was, but it was a special one that I couldn't use, however if it couldn't be used then you could use it to order 1 unit of your choice. I was then able to order Pontius forward to attack a 1 block unit of Roman Light Slingers which he destroyed. With the Medium Cavalry unit ability of a bonus attack with momentum advance Pontius then followed up with an attack on a 2 block unit of Roman Medium Infantry. I needed to roll 2 hits on 3 dice. Pontius' attacks hit home and he managed to also destroy the unit of Roman Medium Infantry. On my turn I had claimed the 2 banners necessary to claim the victory condition of 5 banners and win the game!

Final score was me with 5 banners for the win against Friendless with 4 banners.

The placement of forces at the end of the battle. Viewed from the Samnite side.

Game 2: We swapped armies so I now commanded the Romans (red blocks) and Friendless commanded the Samnites (grey blocks).

My plan as commander of the Romans was to attack with my greatest strength which was my infantry in the centre and right. One of my goals was also to move Sulla and his units at the entrance of the Colline Gate forward to plug the gap in the centre of my line and also to send Crassus and his cavalry around to flank the Samnites on my right. I had a pretty good hand to start with which included a Counter Attack and Darken the Sky.

Friendless' Samnites went first. Their first move was to advance on my left flank. My first move was to advance my rear units at the gate up to the centre of my line. Friendless then moved units from his centre forward. I was pleased with this as I was just waiting for his line to enter missile range and I'd let the Samnite forces have it with a play of Darken the Sky (which allows missile troops to shoot twice).

Meanwhile, on my left flank the enemy general Pontius moved forward to attack. I had successfully used Pontius to destroy the Roman left flank in my two previous plays of this scenario and I feared what Friendless may achieve with him in this game. I moved Sulla and his Medium Cavalry as well as a unit of Medium Infantry to bolster the forces on my left.

Sulla, commanding his Medium Cavalry and supported by units of Auxilia, hit hard against my left flank. After that first clash the Samnites had destroyed two of my units and claimed 2 victory banners.

This concerned me and I used my next orders to prop up my left flank and counter attack with little effect. My plan was falling apart. Then Friendless' Samnites did something I had not expected. He sent four units of Auxilia and Medium Infantry forward in the centre to attack me. I had not worried about them because they were out of range. He played a Double Time card (which allows foot units to move twice and then attack) and suddenly they had advanced and were hacking and slashing into my centre units. I think I lost another one or two units in that attack.

Meanwhile, I was in a position on my left flank where by simply ordering two units (Sulla commanding Medium Cavalry and a Medium Infantry) I could effectively block Pontius' retreat and have attacks of 7 dice (with Leader hits) against him. This in all likelihood would kill him and his unit and blunt the Samnite threat on my left flank. I chose a Rally card which not only would allow me the chance of replacing lost blocks of my two units but would then allow those units to attack. I had to roll dice equal to command (6 dice) and only needed a combination of two blue symbols or purple Leader symbols to come up. I rolled my 6 dice and was dismayed to see that none of them came up with the appropriate symbols. Not only was I not able to replace blocks from my wounded units but I could not order them! What a wasted opportunity!

Now, I'm not one to normally blame the dice for my losses, but if there was a god of luck then my Romans forgot to sacrifice to him prior to the battle.

Having said that, I have to give credit where credit is due. Friendless' bold advances and highly effective use of the Double Time card gained him the initiative and I felt that through the entire game I was simply responding to his attacks. My plan to push forward on my right to advance on his camps came to nothing and I never regained the initiative.

Final scores were Friendless with 5 banners for the win and me with 0 banners.

The placement of forces at the end of the battle. Viewed from the Roman side.

The final total score of both games was Friendless with 9 banners to my 5 banners. When Friendless and I next meet we will play the second scenario of the base game of Commands & Colors: Ancients - Crimissos River 341BC.

Friendless then suggested we play a game of Axiom. Axiom is a 3D abstract game which is a bit of a brain burner. On a player's turn you can either move a scepter or a cube of your colour. The aim of the game is to move your sceptre to a cube holding one of your opponent's sceptres or force your opponent into a position where they can't move. Check out Friendless' review of Axiom here.

The starting positions of the playing pieces. The board is simply used to turn the pieces.

I was surprised to find that this game was initially made in 1988. We were playing with a newly released edition from Essen last year which has lovely magnetised plastic pieces. For its age Axiom is a surprisingly refreshing abstract game. Friendless was taking it easy on me for my first game and pointed out that I was in 'check' on a couple of occasions. I was able to go on to win the game in the end though. It certainly takes a bit to get one's head around the tactics involved in moving cubes and sceptres in three dimensions. As I said earlier, it's a bit of a brain burner but I did enjoy the game.

The placement of pieces at the end of the game. My orange sceptre has moved to the same cube as Friendless' sceptre which won me the game.