Saturday, 24 August 2013

Head East, Young Man. Far East.

This past week’s gaming again saw me able to participate in two games during one evening of Army Group York club action at Comic Store West -- both set in Asia.  

First, our own Iron Ivan Keith set up a 28mm Point Blank “Get to the Choppah!” scenario set in Vietnam. In the scenario, Keith and I each commanded a squad of U.S. soldiers trying to get to an LZ, pop some smoke, and escape on the chopper that would come to fetch us before we were slaughtered by the rapidly advancing NVA troops under the command of Zach and Al.

Getting from the table edge to the LZ in the center of the gaming area certainly looked easy enough. It proved to be anything but. While Keith charged his squad forward toward the LZ on the right, I made my advance more slowly and when Zach’s troops popped up close by, I ended up spending a lot of time trying to keep them from mowing down my squad (translation- I ran for cover and started using my activations to open fire instead of staying mobile.)

We're taking fire!

Thankfully I met with early die-rolling success and was able to take out Zach’s MG team. This probably made me a little overconfident, however, and when I decided to “take the fight” to the enemy with one of my guys, he was promptly cut down in a hail of AK fire.

"I'll get 'em Sarge! They don't stand a..." (thud) 
Meanwhile, up on the hill, Keith was under heavy pressure from Al’s troops approaching from the opposite table edge. Keith’s machine-gunner kept losing his assistants, and as soon as a new squaddie would take over those duties, he’d be cut down. They weren’t even lasting as long as Spinal Tap drummers.

With Keith under heavy pressure, I finally decided to get the lead out (no pun intended) and managed to set up defensive positions to the left of the LZ while Keith popped a smoke canister and held down the right. When the chopper arrived there were some hairy moments as we got all but one of our wounded on-board and Zach and Al poured all manner of small arms and RPG fire at our ride, but eventually we were able to take to the air and get away.

I very much enjoy these little Point Blank games Keith runs because his tables always look great, and the rules (which, disclaimer, I helped play-test and in which I am mentioned) lend themselves to quick, exciting games with lots of tactical choices. If you’re looking for squad-based rules for mid-20th century and later combat that you can play without needing a lot of time or figures, Point Blank is really worth checking out.

For our second game we cleared out the chopper, some trees and a hill from Keith’s set-up and tossed on a bridge over the river and my feudal Japanese village. Voila! We’ve instantly traveled from 1970’s South-East Asia to Edo-period Japan.

If you’ve read my review of Osprey’s Ronin rules, you know that the club had a blast with them, and it is now our “Samurai Skirmish” rule-set of choice. Unlike that game, which had six players pitting buntais of seven figures each against each other, tonight’s game was intended to be more of a “game of duels” with each player controlling only 1 or 2 models. While Ronin could handle such a game, it would be over pretty quick, so instead Zach modified the Gloire! rules to have more of a Japanese flavor. The result was a very enjoyable game.

Zach’s scenario had two ronin swordsmen (played by Dieter and Keith) facing off in the center of a small village when a Shogunate magistrate (yours truly) along with his personal assistants and a local samurai (played by Al) show up to enforce the Shogun’s anti-dueling law.

My magistrate approaches from over the river.
In the Army Group York way, both sides charged into battle without much in the way of preliminaries. My magistrate paired off early with Dieter’s ronin, while Al’s samurai tackled Keith’s outlaw. My match with Dieter was very evenly matched as our skill-sets were similar, as were our attributes. While Dieter was able to land a serious blow to a leg early on, the ability of one of my assistants to leap in front of the blade and take it himself kept me from being crippled and probably killed shortly thereafter.

As I fought with Dieter, Keith carved up my teammate Al’s samurai to even up the numbers a little bit. Then things took a really nasty turn when, in one multi-attack combat phase right after he had succeeded in pushing my magistrate back a few inches, Dieter managed to land killing blows against both of my assistants. My magistrate now stood alone.

Well, this doesn't look good.
Dieter’s ronin closed first, but between a number of hits I and my assistants had already scored on him, he was significantly weakened. I successfully parried his initial attacks and then went in for the kill, taking him out with a massive hit to the torso after just missing the chance to lop off an arm. Keith’s ronin was also a little banged up from his tussle with Al’s samurai, but finishing him off with one blow seemed unlikely absent a combination of poor rolling on his part and excellent rolling on mine. Fate was with me this day, however, and once again I was able to land a devastating blow Keith weakened torso that sent him to the ground. In the end I was the only survivor, but the Shogun’s law had been enforced.

My work here is done.
This was my first time playing any version of Gloire! and it was a lot of fun. The rules allow you to make a variety of characters with differing skills and attributes that provide a lot of flavor, and then you do get the feel of a duel as you land and take hits that slowly degrade each player’s fighting ability. At the end of the game we all agreed that we had achieved a rarity in the club – broad agreement on the best rule-sets for three different types of game set in the same location/era: Modified Gloire! for individual “dueling” scenarios in feudal Japan, Ronin for larger skirmish actions, and Peter Pig’s Battles in the Age of War for “big battle” action where armies come to blows.    

While we got our two games in on our table, a massive re-fight of the post-Gettysburg Battle of Williamsport (Falling Waters) was taking place on another table. Josh and Greg were the primary combatants, and they were using Greg’s soon-to-be-released Altar of Freedom ACW grand tactical rules. The game looked good, and it also marked the debut of Josh’s modular terrain boards. A number of us have been discussing doing modular terrain systems, and I’ve actually done a few test pieces. In the coming weeks, look for some more posts on this topic as I’m just about ready to start constructing my boards.

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