Sunday, October 4, 2009

I Get Glory at Last

Two weeks ago we played our sixth campaign game. It was much fun. Mark developed an elaborate multi-player scenario in which each player was trying to capture gold from some obvious hill defenses. The ten of us each got to choose our forces based on a point valuation. I selected two Martian militia units and a hill Martian unit armed with Martini Henry rifles, plus the organ gun I unveiled in the last campaign game. It turns out I chose wisely.

I was flanked on left and right by a unit of earthers. I made a deal with Dave Schueler on my right to cooperate, or at least stay out of one another's way. I thought I had a deal with Gary Griess on my left, but in the first turn he fired a Gatling gun and unit of redcoats at me, so I had no choice but to give him the business. For three turns I shot him and meleed him with superior numbers while his second unit move up the hill toward the gold, only to be blasted by Masked Minions defending the walls. It's okay, I maimed the unit I faced, and took the Gatling. Nothing like a unit of Martian militia with a Gatling gun

We eventually declared a truce and I began heading for the hill. Like the other units that struck for the pile of gold at the very top, I rapidly bogged down under fire from the Minions. They were protected by walls, wore armor and had some exotic weaponry. However, I had a special secret weapon-Hill Martians. The Hill Martians pay no extra cost for terrain, so a couple of decent die rolls put me in position to rush the hilltop.

I made my way to the foot of the Minions' defenses on the same turn they disappeared, and the following turn made my rush to the hilltop and collected the gold--on the last turn of the game. That saved me from being blasted by all my "friends" on the way back down. The gold earned me the right to buy the large gas projecting gun in the right of the pictures, as well as a figure of renown to use in upcoming campaign games. Makes me happy.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Battle for the Passes: Fifth Campaign Game

On Saturday we met at Game Matrix for our fifth Mars campaign game. The usual suspects, Gene Anderson, Dale Mickel, Joe Waddington, Scott Murphy, Chris Bauermeister and I were all in attendance. Gene brought along his grandson, Matt. We had a guest appearance from WAB-meister and all around good guy Adrian Nelson. Mark Waddington, as usual, designed the land-based scenario.

In this game, the British try to change up the strategic situation. Symied in their effort to force their way into Shastapsh by way of the canal, the Brits try the ol' end around through the mountain passes. We'd played this game once before. The British really got bogged down in the high ground, and paid a nasty price, but eventually fought their way through using a flank march through a second pass to drive the Martians out of their position.

This scenario was tricky and included some great decision making by both sides. It also involved the unveiling of some new Martian gimmickry. One was the introduction of the lob cannon firing exploding shell. I rationalized the improvement of this Martian weapon with the metal carriage constructed from the wreck of the HMS Thunderer (campaign game number three) and the capture of munitions from that wreck. Another weapon we introduced was the organ gun or super sweeper. Really an earth medieval weapon, I used a venerable RAFM weapon in the game as a short range gun that was nasty but slow to load. Both weapons were surprising in their performance, though not necessarily in a good way. There was also a diplomatic maneuver in which the nomad prince captured in the canal fight was exchanged for 10 Martini-Henry rifles, and given to the unit of hill Martians that captured him. This proved to be an exceptionally good move.

The British opted for the head-first assault. The rationale for the game was that the Brits had forced marched to the valley of death (my description, nothing official) while the Martians quick-marched to oppose them. Martian forces consisted of two gashant mounted cavalry units, three legion units, two units of hill Martians, a unit of banded rifles, a medium gun and the previously mentioned secret weapons.

The game began with the limeys massing behind cover, with a massed battery on a hilltop ready to deal death to any Martians that might show their faces. The Martian units, represented only by poker chips moved to their positions. On game turn two, with forward observers in place, the Martians unleashed the first of the new uber-weapons, the improved lob cannon. With many units clustered together, just waiting to be blasted, Scott Murphy unleashed the first round--and promptly blew up the gun by rolling a 20 on a 20-sided die. Gack!

The battlefield was fought over a series of geographic spurs. In pre-game planning the Martian planners agreed to preserve our light troops (hill Martians and banded rifles) as much as possible while inflicting maximum casualties on the British. We immediately put a conservative, but effective plan into effect, withdrawing into the valley and maximizing Martian firepower.

For the first two thirds of the game, the massive explosion of the lob cannon notwithstanding, the Martian game plan succeeded. The British, advancing on two fronts, directly up the valley and across a ridge line was stymied. The advance into the valley, led by two subject Martian units as bullet catchers, were caught in a bloody crossfire by the organ gun and Martian infantry. However they did hold things together long enough for British regulars and artillery to catch up to them.

On the ridge line, the Martian positions were held by the Martini-wielding hill troops. Aided by a unit of gashant lancers the hillmen made no less than five successful charges, driving off sepoys and British regulars. The gashants made two terriffic charges, driving off one unit and then another, but were shot away. Things were looking bad for the Martini/hill troops as the British massed to take crush them. Brits began ascending the hills surrounding them, their only hope was skedaddle.

At game's end (when I had to leave and take my toys with me,) Mark awarded the British a victory. I think we could have prolonged things longer, but the last third of the game we simply hadn't hit as well as in the first parts of the game and the British were moving to a position where their superior firepower would have produced unacceptable losses. I thought it was important to preserve our forces-it is a campaign-and frankly I thought we gave a lot better than we got. We could haul off the medium gun and organ gun, and our draft grohsks hauled off the wreck of the lob cannon for major refit. The Brits were in no position to pursue with any speed, and we could justify another place for a defensive stand.

Thursday, June 18, 2009


Nobody wants to hear these words: Your computer can't read your hard drive. That's what I heard last night when my computer screen went dark.

For the time being, I'm offline. I hope to have things up again in the next week, but in the context of a major car repair, not one but two sick dogs, and a host of other small expenses, my blogs may be down for a bit. I'll be able to access e-mail (though I don't have everyone's addresses at the moment.)

Friday, May 29, 2009

Some Really Big Guns

We always crab about the relative impotence of Martian heavy weapons. Yes, they have some random artillery that can be effective it actually hits, but the chances to hit are lower than Earth weapons.

One gun that everyone fears is the Martian lob cannon. These were massive mortars that fired a huge stone that was so large that if it struck an air ship it would cause an immediate trim critical. I managed to pick up a couple of the steampunk cannon by JR Miniatures. These are ground mount lob guns that could be used as anti-air batteries, or for bombardment. Pretty cool. They're cast in light resin, and put them on stone platforms. They look like ACW mortars on a massive platform, but aren't ornate like some similar Games Workshop guns, and their relatively cheap prices made them bargains.

Of course, every big gun needs some smaller guns to protect them. Of course there are no Nordenfeldts or Gatlings in the Martian armory, so I decided it would be quite possible for them to have a multi-barrel, slow loading weapon like an organ gun or ribaulequin. So I picked up a couple of the RAFM organ guns and they're ready to go. I haven't quite invented a rating yet, I'll have to come up with something. I'm thinking two dice per barrel, but they only fire every other (every third?) turn.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Amphibious Assault

Saturday we played game four of our campaign series on Mars. It really was a great game with lots of moving parts, posing many challenges for both sides.

First, the battlefield was very unique. The scenario called for an amphibious assault up a canal with many requirements on the British forces. The 8' X 5' board was bisected lengthwise by a canal, crossed by a single bridge. Though it was possible to take small boats across the canal too, I can only presume the process would have been very time-consuming.

Four scattered Martian militia units were allotted to defend the canal area. As Martian defenders, we chose to defend high value targets that would take considerable time to rebuild if destroyed. These included heavy gun batteries, the bridge crossing and the Thunderer prisoners from the previous battle. The role of the Martian defenders was to hang on as long as possible until help could arrive.

The defenders' disillusionment began immediately. The British and their allies achieved complete surprise, sailing quietly past the defending shore batteries and disembarking their troops directly onto the bridge. There, these troops rapidly overcame the few sentries and secured both ends of the important canal crossing. Flanking parties landed near the heavy Martian cannon defending the mouth of the canal, and quickly spiked the guns, though the gunners and their defenders inflicted some loss on the landing force.

More adventurous was the airlifting of two companies of Egyptian troops up the canal to attack Martian supply points. These troops were landed far in advance of the British drive and attacked Martian militia units and disembarked . . . just as Martian reinforcements began arriving on the table. Far from British support, these troops began to receive unwanted attention from an imported walker, spraying Gatling rounds at flyer and soldier alike. Though they recovered some important documents, their demolition crews were killed and they recalled their transport for rescue.

The British advance halted, not because of any action taken by their enemies, but because they were willing to settle for half-measures. As Martian troops began streaming down both banks of the canal, it was clear that their massing was going to result in some serious bloodshed. The flyer lifted off with its charges, taking damage as it went. A small force of Martian reinforcements arrived on the north bridge road, behind the British flank. Rocket fire struck the flyer, and the fanatic Sverdlinkers launched a desperate attack on a band of Hill Martians.

The Hill Martians, firing bows, and massing their own much larger force to receive the crazed red-men, quailed under the initial assault. Eventually the tide turned and each swordsman in was slain except for their leader, the Prince Imperial, and he was carried off, bleeding from a half dozen wounds, with his fate to be bartered by the wild hillmen.

As the Sverdlinkers met their fate, the British decided to retreat up the canal. Pre-positioned charges destroyed the bridge. Guns were spiked and captured supplies were destroyed. Using their firepower to cover their retreat, Her Majesty's soldiers and sailors and their native allies re-embarked. The Martian commander Willie Fraser arrived on the scene just in time to vent his frustration. Grabbing the Thunderer survivors, he dragged them to the tallest watch tower. Fraser kicked the remnants of a destroyed rocket launcher down the stairs before hacking the head from each airship crewman with his highland broadsword. Then he tossed each headless body from the watchtower as the British raiding forces withdrew.

The British once again damaged the city's defenses with relative impunity. The damage was not so bad, but it demonstrated once again the Martians' limited ability to respond. More scarce resources would be spent on repairing valuable infrastructure. On the other hand, the British missed an important opportunity devastate the city's suburbs.

A note on photos. These were taken by both Mark and me. The top left shows an assault on one of the gun batteries defending the mouth of the canal. Sverdlinkers and Martian askaris attack the front and right flank of the gun, while sailors make their way around the left. The gun is defended by the gunners and a unit of militia muskets.

Two views of the British flotilla on the canal. The first is of the British gunboat leading the way, crashing into the bridge. This is the paper gunboat model by Reviresco. It's first battle, it was nice to get this in action. The guns mounted on this vessel were source of constant irritation to the defenders. The second view shows the Brits in position on the bridge after overcoming the few Martian defenders.

The middle view shows the Sverdlinkers' counter attack against the Hill Martians near the end of the game. In our game the Sverdlinkers are fanatic swordsmen who receive a +2 in melee combat. The Hill Martians are indifferent troops, but I had twenty and he had four. Eventually the weight of numbers ran against him and I captured the Prince Imperial. This is a personal character (mine is Willie Fraser) so this is a great loss for the British allies.

Last, but certainly not least, is Chris Bauermeister's beautiful flyer. Armed with a couple of Gatlings as well as two companies of Egyptians, the flyer was all over the place. It shot up a couple of militia units and air landed its charges behind enemy lines. Took a lot of damage too, but survived the game after braving fire to extricate its cargo.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Campaign Battle Four

Tomorrow is our fourth campaign battle. It should be big. It should be fun. It should be wild. There are a few folks attending who haven't played in our big Martian slugfests, so there will be new blood.

Mark asked me to bring along a couple of the vessels I've built. None are scratch-built. I'm taking my little Reviresco paper gunboat, and I also have a couple of Merrimac shipyards resin longboats that I've painted up for my Lewis and Clark scenarios.

Mark is the mad scenario designer, and he's put my character, Willie Fraser in command of the Martian forces. We'll see how this turns out.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Mea Culpas

Yes, I know, I'm late. It's been a month and half since our last game, and I confess that all of my attention is wrapped up in my Lewis and Clark project. We have another campaign game scheduled for the 25th, and I still have a few of Mark's articles remaining to post. I'll try to stay on it.

I've included three pics of Chris Bauermeister's superb scratchbuilt flyer. It's a hybrid airship/kite, armed with gatling guns. Very spiff stuff.

Squeezing Nippletown.

Air Vice Marshal Adrian Steiner-Pugh was outraged by the attack on the fleet evacuating diplomatic officials from Shastapsh, and pledged vengeance. Referring to the oddly shaped domes of the city, he declared, “ I’ll squeeze Nippletown until she screams.” Steiner-Pugh immediately planned for a punitive raid, designed to destroy city infrastructure as well as any vessels that rose to meet them.

In addition to his flagship, the aerial monitor Thunderer, Steiner-Pugh added the corvette Reliant. He also waited for the new gunboats Perseus, Theseus, and Hercules to finish their fitting out, adding their new 4.7 inch quick firing guns to the mix. As this squadron prepared to set out, Cmdr. Griess with his light gunboats squadron, Aphid, Ladybug, and Dauntless made plans to rendezvous over the target area.

The Martians received word of the British invaders from their signal stations. With their screw galley squadron allocated out on missions, the Bowel and his planners depended on their kite squadron to intercept the invaders. Supplemented by a pair of Small Bird screw galleys and the last of the anarchist torpedo rams, Vengeance, the kites seemed primed to use their size and exotic weapons to successfully engage their enemies.

Steiner-Pugh’s squadron emerged from the hills with the gunboats clustered near the monitor and the corvette. As the kites moved to intercept them, Griess’s small gunboats appeared on the other side of the canal, shooting up the water pipe as they carefully avoided the Martian ground batteries.

Tragedy struck Steiner-Pugh’s force early in the engagement. Vengeance moved quickly to engage Theseus. Though the ram struck the gunboat squarely and detonated the spar torpedo, some design flaw caused the mysterious craft to plunge into the canal below. However , Theseus suffered trim damage as well, halting its fall directly above Thunderer. The kite East Wind struck Theseus again, dropping the gunboat directly into Thunderer. The monitor immediately lost trim and plunged into the canal below. Theseus managed to regain control, but the loss of the flagship seemed to bode poorly for the British.

Unfortunately for the Martians, the loss of Thunderer and the commander-in-chief seemed to energize their foe. Seemingly a step ahead of the kites, the British seemed to stay just out of reach of the much larger rams. British gunfire too, seemed to fill the sky, setting fires, knocking out guns, killing crew. East Wind and South Wind burned like torches , and the remaining Martians ships withdrew from the city to defend the aerodrome.

British vessels wreaked havoc on the city. Two of three bridges were seriously damaged, with the third suffering moderate damage. The Bowel’s palace was also severely damaged with the Bowel and S’fink’tor seeking shelter in an adjacent neighborhood. Most importantly, the city’s water system suffered nearly catastrophic harm when the pumping station was destroyed, water pipes were damaged, and water storage lost considerable capacity. Service to the south side of the city and the island was interrupted. All of the city’s resources were committed to repair of the water system. Water had to be transported by barge, and a Martian disease like typhoid broke out in the southern suburbs.

Damage to Shastapsh’s infrastructure prevented much further fortification against the attack that must come. However, men were detached to salvage the wreck of the Thunderer. The impact of the plunge destroyed most items of technologic value. However, engineers managed to save a six inch gun and two Nordenfeldts. However, the salvage teams also saved large quantities of munitions of all calibers. Of equal value in the rescue were the large quantities of armor plate and liftwood.

Then there were the survivors of the plunge. Steiner-Pugh and Captain Woodstern were dead. Only ten men survived the crash. Of those, four died of their injuries. Helmsman Caleb Binghamton and trimsman Harry Jones and four seamen were put to work repairing the city water works and the Bowel’s palace.

In the first picture the Griess squadron enters and begins shooting up the water pipes. This force was never opposed. The second pic is of Mark, my good friend, taking his pictures of the game. The third photo shows a pair of burning kites, which, sadly, was the Martian story. The last picture shows the resting place of Vengeance and Thunderer. Beyond the monitor's tragedy, the British suffered little other significant damage.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

USS Kearsarge

USS KEARSARGE A converted Martian Sky ship.

Outside of the British naval yards at Syrtis Major there were no modern (by Earth standards) facilities for building iron armored air ships. Almost all the countries that sent colonies to Mars quickly realized the importance of air travel and air power. Zeppelins were a popular alternative to the rare iron clad air ships but there was another source that was readily available for a price.

The native Martians had been building wooden sky ships for centuries and while their technology stopped progressing, the art of ship building reached heights of excellence. All of the Martian ships were wooden hulled and powered by either the wind or by a crew who spent their time literally cranking the shaft that ran thru the ship to power the propellers. These crew members were called “turncranks”.

Most Martian ships carried at least a minimal armament and those that were purpose built as warships were not only quite heavily armed but many also boasted double hulls with rocks between the two parts of the hull to add a layer of protection to weapons and crew.

The various earth nations immediately began to purchase any ships they could get their hands on and rearmed them with modern earth weaponry. Several countries also added steam powered engines to replace the turncrank method. The Americans were famous for adapting existing equipment to meet their own needs. A perfect example of this would be the airship USS Kearsarge the first ship adapted and rebuilt by the Americans from a Martian design. The turncrank method was replaced by a modern force draught steam engine that drove the ships propeller at a steady speed that Martian turncranks could not match.

The most modern weapons available along with an experienced crew made the small vessel a worthy opponent for all but the largest ships.

How the ship was made: While a good portion of what I do is scratch built this particular ship was adapted from an existing Star Wars tatooine skiff toy model. They are readily available from Ebay and run around $40.00 though you can find them for half of that if you are patient. The original toy came with a 4 inch tall Luke Skywalker action figure so you can see that the ship was not originally scaled for 28mm. A cut here and a hole drilled there and presto! A perfect scale ship to go along with the other flying creations for Mars.

I cut down the rails, built a “steam” engine from plastic for the center, gave it a mast, glued on a planked deck, added a propeller, put the all important liftwood on the bottom of the hull, cut a gun port and added a ram in the front. A fair amount of work all-in-all but the effort paid off with a fine looking model.

The only real issue I ran into was that the main hull of the model was the soft poly plastic and required a special glue to make things stick. CA or epoxy was worse than useless on this type of plastic.

My next project in-the-works is a Martian Hullcutter circa the Space 1889 designs. Anyway thanks for looking and if you have any questions you have but to ask! Damn the Tethers! Full Speed Ahead!


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Evil Minions

Mercenaries at their very best (or worst if you prefer). The troops representing the Evil Minions are always working toward their own specific goal but occasionally will work for the highest bidder to earn a bit of cold hard cash. At the very least they will do whatever they can to disrupt one or both sides in any situation just for the pure pleasure in doing so.

No one really knows who the Evil Minions are, who controls them, or where they come from. Their equipment is obviously of earth origin and always of the highest quality and latest technology.

Best guess is an ex-military officer from some army that has his own personal goals and is creating and training his own military force. No one has any idea where their main headquarters is and the few prisoners that have been taken have all taken cyanide before disclosing any information. All attempts at infiltrating or even meeting with the Minion organization have failed. No army can predict when these fellows will appear or what their main purpose might be.

On one occasion a strong force of Evil Minions arrived during a battle, attacked both sides simultaneously for over an hour, and then retreated back into the hills. One can only assume it was some sort of training exercise but who can be sure?

Several rumors abound centered on the use of what is called a lightning gun. A fascinating concept but all earth scientists have stated that such a weapon could not possibly exist.

The amount of times the Evil Minions have appeared has been slowly but surely increasing. They are obviously preparing to complete whatever goal they have chosen. Hopefully it will not disrupt the upcoming campaign against the rebels in Shastapsh.

The figures and guns in the pictures are all available from The London war Room.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Mechanical Steam Cavalry

After the success with creating flying steam driven ships and then tracked steam powered vehicles it was not surprising when the British shipwrights and mechanics developed a steam driven mechanical horse.

The popularity of the design led the British to fully equip several cavalry units with the new mounts. Like other mechanical contraptions of the age they are prone to breakdowns and must have access to a steady supply of water. The advantage of these new beasts is that they are nearly impervious to small arms fire and offer a high level of cover to their riders.

They may move exceptionally fast in a charge (by pushing the engine beyond its standard capacity) and the shock value of the iron horse in open terrain is tremendous against unarmored targets.

Once again it is the younger officers and troopers who have shown the most interest in volunteering for these new units. It will take time to see if the new units prove themselves a true asset on the Battlefield.

Note that there was a serious incident at the shipyard and a troop of these new horses went missing. At first it was presumed to be a transport error but rumors now abound that the missing “animals” have been seen in the city of Shastapsh ridden by rebels.

Kevin’s unit is based in Shastapsh and is the 1st Virginia Steam Cavalry. The unit is composed of ex-Confederates fighting in the city service. They distinguished themselves fighting against the Oenotrians during the city’s revolt against their masters, despite some mechanical failures. The riders are Dixon figures from their fine ACW range.

How they were made:

The horses were taken from the Mage Knight series of “Click base” figures know as Galeshi Cavalrymen. The rider and original base were removed and the mechanical horse lightly touched up and then dry brushed and remounted on a different base. The new riders are from Redoubt miniatures. Lancers seemed the perfect fit.

Any questions? Be happy to answer them!