Archive for the ‘Medieval’ Category

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Osprey Publishing continue their successful run of ‘blue cover’ wargame rulebooks with En Garde! a swashbuckling skirmish game based on Renaissance-era combat, covering settings ranging from The English Civil war, through The Thirty Years War, Spanish conquests in the Americas, and pretty much anything else from the period; though the thing that excited me the most was the somewhat-historical exploits of The Three Musketeers, who perfectly encapsulate the spirit of these rules.

The nuts and bolts of this game are carried over fairly intact from an earlier release, Ronin, which focused on skirmish combat in feudal Japan a la Seven Samurai. What En Garde! does is take the basics of these rules and blow them wide open in terms of potential settings in which players could utilise them, with army lists covering the various historical eras mentioned above; a preposterously wide range of times places and characters, only made wider by appendices giving rough rules for magic and fantastical characters!

Of course though, what I tried out was the The Three (Four?) Musketeers, and those were the miniatures I assembled to playtest this, including Cardinal Richelieu, The Man In The Iron Mask, and a load of pirates I already had which would serve for canon fodder henchmen.

The game plays pretty smoothly once you’ve got the rules down. Moving and shooting are combined into one phase, followed by close combat. Shooting is dispensed with  fairly briefly; the only part that puzzled me was a need to turn your models and worry about their facing, with what appears to be no major discernible effect in game.  There’s no bonus for attacking a guy from behind or anything.  This isn’t that usual for skirmish level games I’ve played in the past, and in the end my opponent and I quietly dropped it, for expedience. If we were doing it wrong, then I hope the developer forgives me.

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Shooting is, oddly, folded into the movement phase and given fairly short shrift, decided by one roll.  If you succeed, then you hit and wound your target, and there’s nothing they can do about it. I suppose this is actually more true to life than most games, but in a different set of rules such a thing might break the game a bit. Here, guns are quite rare, and reloading is awkward, so the streamlined rules are pretty much spot on in terms of balance.

Of course the reason for this is the focus is on hand-to-hand fighting, there are loads of weapon possibilities, with different bonuses, but swords give you the most options in a duel.

There was a very satisfying moment while playtesting, where the game completely changed.  After a good deal of maneuvering and dancing around each other, The Musketeers closed in with a knot of pirates and got stuck into a great big ruck. The game requires you to more or less ‘pair off’ belligerents on opposing sides into a succession of one on one fights, to be resolved one at a time, conjuring images of old fashioned, Errol Flynn style duels. Perfect.

This continues as you actually resolve the fights, with players using their characters skills to amass counters, and assigning them to attack or defense in secret, to attempt to out-manoeuvre the opponent. Spending attack and defense tokens to allow your character to lunge, parry, riposte or feint, which either give you attack or defense bonuses, If you get past your foe’s guard, then you inflict a wound, and combat continues until both fighters have spent all their tokens. This is a great mechanic, and absolutely key to the game’s appeal for me.  It’s at this point that everything suddenly zooms in, and the player has to think tactically for each fight, rather than moving his models up to the enemy’s, and then just rolling a bunch of dice and crossing his fingers – though you will still be doing that to an extent of course.

The focus on relatively small warbands is pretty relevant to my interests, and lends itself to really investing in a small group of characters over a campaign (or simply a continuing series of games). While En Garde! does cater to this, the campaign section is a tad brief and feels like mere lip service. I’d have liked to see something with more than just rules for leveling up characters between games, such as income, and gaining new weapons and abilities, more in the vein of Frostgrave, or my old favourite skirmish level game, Legends Of The Old West. Of course, one can always do that oneself , and the stupidly broad scope and level of possibility offered by this game leave me with little room to complain.
For fans of this level of wargame, who haven’t played Ronin, En Garde! offers something a bit different, very engaging, and stuffed with potential uses, pretty whatever your historical (or fantastical) area of interest, these rules could be put to use for it.

In fact, I’ve just had an idea.

Lightsabers….


Review by Spike Direction.  En Garde! is available now from Osprey Games; and you can follow Spike on Twitter.

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105800 It’s hard to believe that it’s nearly two years now since Henry Hyde’s The Wargaming Compendium was unleashed upon wargamers the world over.  Now, it’s back, significantly cheaper, and significantly lighter…yet still bursting with all – if not more – of the content that made its original release so awesome.

There are many great things about The Wargaming Compendium that make it an essential purchase, but one of the things to strike me upon reading it cover to cover for the first time is how useful it is no matter if this is the first thing you’ve ever read on wargaming, or if you’re an old hand who’s devoted his spare bedroom over to a 32mm recreation of The Battle of Stamford Bridge.

Within are tips and guides for choosing which era you want to fight in, how to prep and paint figures, how to build and lay-out terrain…pretty much everything you could need. Complete games/rulesets are supplied, as well as a pretty comprehensive directory of conventions, websites, magazines and publishers.  All periods of history are covered, from Ancients to Ultra-Modern, with a fair amount of discussion also given over to fantasy and sci-fi games. I cannot recommend this book enough.

No matter what your experience level, or what aspect of wargaming you are interested in, there is plenty in here to make it worth your while.  And now it’s lighter, as well. Bonus.

Buy it with your hands.  Again.

“Wolf’s Head” by Steven A. McKay

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After viciously assaulting a corrupt but powerful clergyman, the young Robin Hood flees the only home he has ever known in Wakefield, Yorkshire. Becoming a member of a notorious band of outlaws, Hood and his new companions – including John Little and Will Scaflock – hide out in the great forests of Barnsdale, fighting for their very existence as the law hunts them down like animals. When they are betrayed, and their harsh lives become even more unbearable, the band of friends seeks bloody vengeance. Meanwhile, the country is in turmoil, as many of the powerful lords strive to undermine King Edward II’s rule until, inevitably, rebellion becomes a reality and the increasingly deadly yeoman outlaw from Wakefield finds his fate bound up with that of a Hospitaller Knight.

“Wolf’s Head” – the first in the “The Forest Lord” series opens up feeling like a fun, Errol Flynn-type Sunday afternoon swashbuckling adventure, but before long, one realises that this is not the story we thought we knew.  Several aspects of the tale are much darker and more violent than we have previously seen them. 

The phrase “gritty reboot” has become something of a joke these days, but it seems to apply here.  In fact, the violence sometimes seems to border on the extreme – this is certainly an 18+ novel!  It is, if you will, a story for kids who have grown up. 

The characters are all engaging and interesting, with old favourites such as Will Scarlet and Little John, meeting up with new and lesser know names and faces.

The plot is very well presented.  Whenever you think you’ve got a handle on where it’s going or what is going to happen next, it throws you a surprise, and heads off in a totally unexpected, though always credible direction.  The ending feels conclusive, but still leaves you keen to get onto the sequel.

A fun historical fiction adventure that’s well worth checking out.

100 Years War: Agincourt 1415

Posted: July 2, 2014 in DVD, Films, Medieval

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On 25th October 1415 Henry V’s Anglo/Welsh Army destroyed the French at Agincourt. This DVD from Pen and Sword looks at not just this battle but at the whole campaign that led up to this final victory of the 100 Years War.

Unlike the Crecy campaign of his great-grandfather Edward III, this campaign nearly ended in disaster. Although the initial landings and encirclement of Harfleur went well, the siege dragged on and the “Bloody Flux” – the scourge of many a medieval army – struck the English. Although they successfully captured Harfleur the army that was left was a shadow of its former self. Henry’s attempts to march to Calais were beset with problems as the French Army stalked him aiming to bring him to battle and destroy him and his socially inferior army.

Once again the English victory on the field of Agincourt was a demonstration of the French ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. As at Crecy the courage, discipline and steadfastness of the mainly yeoman Anglo/Welsh aided by the use of the longbow turned the massive and magnificent French Army, into a bloody ruin. This victory would allow Henry to achieve his political aim. However, it was only Henry’s early death in 1422 which stopped the English in uniting England and France under an English King.

This is a great DVD. Everything in it is very clearly explained, and the context is very detailed, so you can see how one event leads into another very clearly. Similarly, the whole presentation is very well paced, and you feel like everything is sufficiently covered before moving onto the next part of the campaign.

The location shots are great and really help immerse you in the history of both the campaign and the battle, and the footage of the historical re-enactment groups goes a long way towards acting as an “illustration” of the period. Similarly, the detailed battle plans and CG maps help explain everything very clearly, and you’re left with a good understanding of how everything fits together.

While the presenters are very good at engaging with the camera, some of the interviewees seem a little nervous, and this make for some awkward viewing at times, but nothing that is overly distracting. Altogether, this is a very solid documentary – informative and entertaining.