Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Showcase: Junkers Sandrunners

Introduction

I've been falling behind my intended posting schedule a bit, recently and I can't quite put my finger on why this is so.  Sure, I've been busy with work and family - but that's always the case and so it isn't any real excuse.  Perhaps I'm spending too much time reading other people's blogs, instead of updating my own?  Possibly, but surely there's time enough for both?

Anyway, here's a description of some models I've had for some time.  This is part of my ongoing plan to document my collection (though I doubt very much that it's realistic to photograph and describe everything I've collected over the years).  Still, I've got to try!

Without any further ado...

Junkers Sandrunners

The Junkers were one of the 4 human factions in the VOID 1.1 Science Fiction game.  Originally these models were produced by I-Kore, though the range was obtained by Scotia Grendel when I-Kore folded (actually, that's simplifying the history a bit, but I can't remember all the ins and outs of it).

I bought a lot of the Junkers, Viridian and Syntha figures cheap when the game fell out of favour.  The VOID 1.1 rules are nothing very special, I think (just a d10 "Warhammer 40,000" knock-off), but I like a lot of the models and they can easily be used with other rules such as 5150 or FUBAR.  Although I've painted a fair number of my VOID models, I have many more just waiting...

As written, the background for the Junkers was a harsh, militaristic dictatorship.  Some elite forces were pampered and equipped with the best that money could buy, but many brutal penal legions also exist.  Think of a cross between House Harkonnen from Dune, the Soviets under Stalin and the Roman Empire.  Within their army, the sandrunners are scouting forces that consist of melee-armed troopers mounted on bad-tempered, 2-legged giant lizards.  How could I resist!

Within my sandrunner collection, I have 2 different commissars or enforcers.  These are there to enforce discipline and ensure that no-one has any unpatriotic thoughts (by blowing their brains out should anyone start thinking for themselves)!  I doubt that I'd ever use both of these enforcers at the same time, but either could be used alone as a lone spy, scout or post-apocalyptic nutcase, I think.

 Of the 5 troopers, the sergeant and 1 of his men have short swords.  The other 3 guys have thermite lances - basically an explosive charge on the end of a long stick.  In theory these can eliminate anything up to (and including) a main battle tank, but first you'd need to get close enough to charge the enemy and secondly you'd have to hope that the back blast didn't kill you.  Life is cheap in a sandrunner patrol!

Here's a view from the other side.  You can see that the lead swordsman is left-handed; this is quite unusual amongst wargaming miniatures.  I approve thoroughly of this, since I'm corrie-fisted myself.

I see these guys as tasked with patrolling remote areas or backwater planets to keep down native resistance, rather than being thrown into a main battle line.  They have simple equipment that doesn't need much maintenance or fuel, so they can be fairly self-reliant.  There are examples of this role in many places, such as the initial Star Wars film on the desert planet and indeed in the later colonial empires of Britain, France &c.

Mind you, I still don't know how the troopers manage to ride the lizards without being eaten.  They're some of the most bad-tempered critters I've ever seen used as cavalry mounts!

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Crossed Lances: a Review

Introduction

For a long time now, I have been looking for a set of wargames rules that will allow me to portray a medieval joust.  I want knights charging at each other with blunted lances whilst the lords and ladies watch from the galleries and spectators of the lower social orders shout raucously!  The look and feel that I am after is very much that portrayed in the lightweight (but fun) 2001 film "A Knight's Tale".  It's a sports game, with winners and losers, underdogs, heroes and villains!

There aren't many suitable sets of rules for jousts about.  I am aware of maybe 3 or 4 different commercial titles, along with a number of medieval or fantasy skirmish rules which have at least some provision for jousting.  None of these really meets my requirements, which are primarily:
  • Must be intended for miniatures (i.e. placement of the models has at least some significance).
  • Must offer tactical choices (i.e. not be just a dice-rolling exercise)
  • Must have some "role-playing" elements - especially the differentiation of knights' skills and a "campaign" system.

Overview

It was with great interest that I heard recently of a new set of rules entitled "Crossed Lance's" [sic].  The authors of this have gone to town with support; as well as the rulebook on their website you can buy miniatures of knights, squires, heralds &c, transfers/decals for heraldry, game accessories (cards and tokens), scenery (tents, grandstands, tilt barriers and the like) and so on.  All of this is very impressive, as is the promise to produce another volume of rules for other parts of the tournament.  I believe that this second volume will contain rules for the archery competition and the foot melee.  I thoroughly applaud this level of dedication!
 
So, what about the main offering: the jousting rules?  Physically this is an A4 book of 46 pages, coloured as if it were old parchment.  The covers are soft and I believe the correct term for the way the book is constructed is "gum binding".  It's not going to be easy to open the book flat without breaking the spine.

Within this booklet there are actually rules for 2 separate games:
  1. The Jousting rules take up 8 pages
  2. 12 pages are dedicated to rules for the Grand Melee (a form of enormous mounted brawl).
This is less than half of the booklet; the remaining 26 pages are for forewords, introductions and a short historical overview.  Nearly half of the pages in the book are game components which may be cut out, though in my copy there was a large set of replacement inserts and a small note that explained that the original components couldn't be used double-sided due to a registration error when they were printed.


The Jousting Rules

So, at the simplest, here's what happens.  2 suitable models of knights on horseback are placed at opposite ends of the tilt.  According to the rulebook, the tilt barrier should be at least 18" long; it's convenient if it is discreetly marked off in inches.  The central 6" (or 4" in some paragraphs?) is the "attain" zone, where strikes may occur.  Note that a "lesser attain" may be scored if the knights have passed each other and moved beyond this zone without making full contact.

A joust comprises 3 runs, though this may be cut short if either knight is unhorsed.  If neither knight has achieved such a victory after 3 runs then the winner is decided by the number of points scored.

At the start of the joust, each player draws 3 "shield" cards and plays them face-down in the order that they desire.  1 such card is revealed at the end of each run, when it is used to adjust the number of points awarded for the run (from +3 to -3).  In addition, each player has a single "Lord" card, again with a hidden value from +3 to -3, which may be played only once, on any of the 3 runs.

For a run, each knight rolls 2 dice of different colours.  Their model is moved forwards by the sum of the dice, whilst the individual scores on the dice are used to determine the strength of a hit if contact is made.  Since the average score for 2d6 is '7' and since this movement will take a knight from his starting position into the attain area, the majority of runs will be resolved with a single throw.  A second round will only be needed if either knight rolls very low on their first round.

Once contact occurs, the outcome is determined by the dice already rolled.  Any double will unseat an opponent, with high doubles also knocking down the opponent's horse.  Otherwise, the dice are used to look up a chart and points are awarded (or lost, in the case of a foul) accordingly.  Points are adjusted by the shield card played for that run and optionally by the player's lord card as well.  And that's it...

The only provision for differentiating a knight's skill is by having a different pool of shield cards on which to draw.  I suppose that a better knight's pool might have more of these tokens with a value of +3 and fewer with a -3, whilst a poor jouster would have a collection of shield tokens that tended to be lower in value.

The Grand Melee

Since my main interest is the joust, I've not put as much effort into reading or trying out the second set of rules in the book.  However, here's a quick summary: each turn a knight secretly chooses 3 hex move cards.  These can take the form of an advance, a 60 degree turn or a halt in place.  When it's that knight's turn to act, the 3 cards are played in the chosen sequence and the actions on each card are enacted.  If any models come close enough then they fight each other: 2 dice are thrown and the result is read off a table.  Typically this will result in a number of hits to an opponent (this may be adjusted by playing a lord card), though it is also possible to lose a helm or shield or to be unhorsed.

My Opinion

So far I've restricted myself to describing the game(s) in a factual manner.  However, I cannot end this article without giving a personal reaction to Crossed Lances.  I really wanted to like this set of rules, but there are 2 areas in the joust that need to be mentioned:

1. The proof-reading in this publication is terrible!  It seemed that about 1 sentence in 2 either had grammatical mistakes in it or was just unclear to read.  If I hadn't had the games demonstrated to me at Salute 2014 then it would have been difficult to work out how to play from just reading the rules.  Here are some examples:
  • The title of the game should be "Crossed Lances" and not "Crossed Lance's".
  • On page 10, the first paragraph gives the attain area as the central 6" of the tilt.  The second paragraph states that the attain area is 4".  Which is correct?
  • Here's the first sentence from the top of page 11, exactly as printed: "The player with the highest roll is the winner of that run through his speed of and charge and scores 1 point."  Huh?
    Sadly, there are many, many more such examples.
2. In theory there is some decision-making to be had: each player must decide in which order to play his/her 3 shield cards.  In practice, this seems irrelevant because:
  • Most jousts will end with one or both knights unhorsed (the odds of neither knight rolling a double on any of 3 successive runs is very low).  There's little chance that the 3rd shield card will be needed, so why do anything other than play the best ones first?
  • The shield cards do nothing apart from act as modifiers for the number of points scored.  It doesn't matter whether I lose -2 points in the first run and gain +3 in the second, or if I gain +3 points in the first run and lose -2 in the second: either way I score the same amount.

I don't think that "Crossed Lances" is completely unplayable.  I certainly do like the idea of having a large tournament with a multitude of different events - jousting, grand melee, archery, foot melee - but for me there needs to be a bit more tactical play.  I'm already pondering house rules such as allowing the shield card to modify the dice roll (either for movement or for combat result) rather than the points scored.  That might make it more interesting.  However, I'm disappointed that I feel the need to change these rules before I can use them.

Summary


Components: 3/5 .  All the necessary cards are present in the rule book and are promised as PDF downloads as well.  I have some doubts about the durability of the thin paper and gum binding of the rule book.
Support: 5/5 .  There are clearly many plans to support this game with excellent miniatures and terrain, play aids and future expansions.  The authors appear knowledgeable and enthusiastic.
Playability: 2/5 .  The result of a joust appears to be little more than chance, though the grand melee probably requires more positioning skill.  Rules are poorly written and often contradictory or difficult to comprehend.
Value for money: 2/5 . At £20, this is a very expensive rulebook.  I could accept this if the rules were a bit meatier and the book was a hardback, but as it is I think it's only for the serious collector of tourney rules.
Overall: 2/5 .  I'm very disappointed that this isn't the set of jousting rules.  Perhaps the authors will produce a revised edition sometime soon?





Monday, 14 April 2014

Back from Salute...

Introduction

By now, everyone else who was there seems to have put up their blog posts about Salute 2014.  I'm slightly later because it took us most of Sunday to get home (what with the distance being a bit further than for many) and then I had to go to work as usual today (Monday).  So, now that I'm back from work and the younger kids are in bed, I've just got time to put together a short report.

This isn't a general show report and I don't have any pictures.  Instead it's simply a quick record of what myself and my 2 boys did on the show day.

The Day

We arrived about 20 minutes early and had to wait in what seemed like an enormously long queue.  Younger son (A.) was getting a bit bored with this until some Star Wars re-enactors walked along the line.  For some reason they all seemed to be bad guys: we saw an Imperial naval officer, Boba Fett, one of the pig-like guards from Jabba's palace (Gamoreans?) and several stormtroopers.  Mind you, A. informed me that one of them was a sandtrooper, not a stormtrooper.  Hmm, they looked much the same to me...

The queue moved very quickly once 10:00 arrived, so that wasn't a problem.  We then spent the next hours looking at the many tables, playing some games and making a few targeted purchases.  General observations on the show:
  • Many of the stalls (but not all) were mobbed and it was very difficult to approach them with 2 children in tow.  I don't know what the traders could have done about this and maybe things quietened down later (I'm not sure), but it did mean that I saved a little money.
  • All the games I remember looked good and some were really stunning.  There were huge differences in the approach of the people running them, though.  The best clubs reached out to people who looked interested, drew them in and involved them in the game.  The worst participation games are the ones where we would hang around, maybe ask a few questions and yet the people running them would all but ignore you.  Come on guys; if you're going to go to the trouble of putting on a public game then make sure that the public get to play it!
Here's a list of the games that we did play (at least, the ones that I remember).  The show theme for this year was "D-Day", so a number of the games were oriented towards that:
  • Crossed Lances: I've been hankering for a decent jousting game for a while and am hoping that this might be it.  I won't be really sure until I've read the rules and maybe played a few games of my own, but the guys who are promoting it were very enthusiastic and knowledgeable.  We ran a few courses; firstly A. knocked J. (older son) off his horse.  Then I knocked A. to the ground.  Still got it...
  • D-1 Paratroops: I'm not sure of the proper name for this game, but A. and J. took small squads of US paratroops who were lost after the drop during the night before D-Day.  They were trying to make their way across the table to a rendezvous point, but kept bumping into cows, owls, German sentries, wounded colleagues and the like in the thick terrain.  An excellent game which both the boys enjoyed thoroughly (and it was a draw: J. got further across the table and scored more points for this, but he was penalised for leaving one of his wounded men behind).
  • Hobart's Funnies: This was a rather silly game in which goofy Sci-fi tanks from different arms suppliers tried to demonstrate their superiority to potential purchasers by making a beach landing.  Each player was dealt a hand of 4 cards every round; different cards could be used to move your own vehicle, destroy obstacles or place hazards near the other players' tanks.  Both boys enjoyed this enormously; at one point it looked as if the 2 of them were well out in front and close to winning.  Then the other 3 players started to block their route with minefields, hedgehogs and the like.  Eventually they came in 4th and 5th (of 5)!
  • [Edit R/C Tanks: There were some radio-controlled tanks in a roped-off area of the hall, with upturned cardboard boxes for buildings.  All three of us had a go, though we found controlling the vehicles much harder than we had hoped.  J.'s King Tiger and my T-34 ended up ramming and shooting each other to bits, so A.'s Sherman was the winner]
  • Firefight Normandy: A very detailed man-to-man skirmish game in thick hedgerows, using larger models.  The people running this were friendly and enthusiastic, but it seemed that much of the game was spent in calculating percentages and tracking injuries ("10% damage to the left arm", for example).  After a while we had to bow out, else we wouldn't have seen much else of the show.
  • Ronin: I've had these rules for a while and am somewhat tempted to build some warbands for Samurai skirmishes, so I was keen to see how this would work.  A. took a small group of warrior monks whilst J. opposed him with a slightly larger force of bandits.  Highlight was definitely one of A.'s initiates taking on 5 bandits at once.  I think he killed 3 or 4 of them before he was himself pulled down.  Lowlight: A's archer was hopeless; we figured that he didn't know which way round to put the arrows.  J. won in the end, but enough blood had been spilt to satisfy both of them.

Loot

Finally, here's the obligatory loot picture.  Bear in mind that it's probably 14 years since I last attended Salute:
I'm not going to enumerate everything in it, but here are some keywords: Vikings, harpies, rules, prospector, Daredevil pilots, Amera.  2 of the books and the Airfix kit are for A.; J. has already snaffled his book (so it doesn't appear in this picture).

It was a very full, but very tiring day.  We left Salute about 45 minutes before the doors closed, having been there for many hours.  Even so, I don't think we saw everything...

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Clearing the Decks!

Introduction

We're going to Salute this year!  My boys and I will be visiting London for a few nights to do a little sight-seeing and to visit the biggest single-day wargaming event in the world.  It'll be quite the adventure for them, I think!

It's not the first time that I've ever been to Salute, but it will be the first time since I moved back to Scotland in 2001.  When I lived in Bristol, London was just a 2 hour train ride away and I would occasionally go there.  The last time I went to Salute, the show give-away was a Warlords "Demon Dice".  A few moments on Google suggests that this must have been the year 2000, so quite a few years ago...

Clearing the Decks

Now, here's a problem.  My workbench is already full of clutter and I think it's just possible that I might want to buy some fresh toys at the show next week.  There won't be anywhere to put new purchases!

I've tried to spend much of this last week in knuckling down and painting some of my existing models.  If I'm successful then that would free up some space.  I don't think it'll be enough, mind you, but I've got to try...

So, here are the results of my recent labours so far:

Actually, these figures aren't recently painted.  Rather, they're samples of previous work; I've got them out whilst painting more figures for the same forces so that I can match the styles and colours.  At least they don't need any finishing off before they can be put back into storage.

This quartet are almost done.  I need to add some grass to the bases and then varnish the models.  Neither of those tasks is very onerous, though it will probably take a day or two for the glue and sealant to dry.

This pair are a little further off from complete, as both lack some minor detailing.  The armed zombie needs the base to be finished, whilst the cavalier will get work on the hair and hat.  I should be able to complete both models without too much difficulty, I think.

Slightly more effort will go into the next trio.  Although large parts of these models are finished, they have a substantial number of details still to do.  Bases, shirt & tie, shields, swords, helmets, hair...

This group are even further behind.  They have most of their block colours done, but not all the big areas are textured, washed or shaded.  Obviously, details that sit on top of the block costume colours (belts, mostly) haven't been started either.

Finally, I might struggle to finish this set before Salute.  They have some of their base colours, but there are still large patches of undercoat, or perhaps colours that I'm thinking of changing.  Still, they are a long way from "just under-coated" and there is at least a slim chance that I'll paint them in the next 3 days.

Maybe I should just get on with the job, rather than sitting here writing about it?!

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

The Greek Gift

Yesterday, when I returned home from work, I discovered that there was a parcel waiting for me.  Now this was something of a surprise since I wasn't expecting anything.  It was still more of a surprise when I saw that the package had come from Slovenia.

Now, I only know one person who is in Slovenia and that's Mathyoo, a fellow blogger who runs the Necroleadicon .  We share an interest in zombie wargaming and recently we've been discussing Jason and the Argonauts after my post on the subject (here).  It turns out that the Slovenian version of this tale differs in some details from the tale that I know, but it is equally fascinating.

A few weeks ago, I sent Mathyoo some spare parts from one of Wargames Factory "Apocalypse Survivors" kit.  Mostly these were assault rifles of various sorts; I have little use for these as I prefer my civilians/survivors not to be armed with military-grade weapons.  However, Mathyoo is modelling an insurgent force who all need such guns.  It cost me almost nothing to post these parts so I put them in the mail and thought no more about it.

So, what was in the parcel I received?

This is the figure of Jason that was given away at Salute 2013.  For anyone who is new to this, "Salute" is possibly the largest wargames show on earth and the organisers have a tradition of giving away a free figure to all who attend.  Last year, the theme was "Jason and the Argonauts", which I didn't know until very recently.

Not only has Mathyoo sent me a Greek hero, but he's even painted the miniature for me (because of a chance remark that I had too many projects already, I think).  How cool is that?!

It gets even better.  I'm a collector of dice (see here) and Mathyoo included a die as well.  The 6-spot is replaced with the Slovenian "mountain, river and sea" symbol, thus making it fairly unusual.

So, to Mathyoo, a very big Thanks.  Definitely one of the good guys!

Sunday, 30 March 2014

The Inspectors

Introduction

This will be just a short post tonight, as I've not been doing much recently (related to the hobby, at any rate).  I've nothing new to show, so here are some older figures of mine that haven't been made public before, so far as I remember.

The Inspectors

Logo for the unnamed corporation

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away I saw that Heresy Miniatures produced a set of 28mm figures that are collectively referred to as "The Inspectors".  These are delightful miniatures and I bought a set just because I liked them.  Having said that, they could be used for almost any modern or near future government or corporate types.  I've painted mine in a style that is deliberately reminiscent of the officers of the Imperial Navy in Star Wars...

From the left: Johnson, "Knuckles", Kane, Bob Jones and Camille Van Towe.
At the left hand end of the line up is Johnson.  Note that I'm using the names from the Heresy catalogue in this article as I haven't got round to adding names of my own.  Johnson is the supervisor, I think.  Both his sunglasses and his posture & attitude suggest to me that he's quite confident as an overseer.

Next in like is "Knuckles".  I've no idea what his real name is, but I suspect that this guy enjoys discovering minor transgressions in his job as an inspector.  Woe betide the poor victim who falls foul of this giant!

In the middle, Kane is examining a data pad and listening to instructions over his headset.  I imagine that he's a stickler for rules and regulations; he will check everything very thoroughly indeed.

In contrast, Bob has been in the job too long.  He's not really interested in anything except making life easy for himself as he waits for retirement.  Smugglers or infiltrators will find him an easy touch, I think.

Finally, Camille is the new recruit.  She's still quite unsure of herself and possibly a bit naive as well.

This shot from the rear shows 2 things quite well:
  1. All of these figures have shoulder patches which display a logo; there is a larger version of this symbol at the top of this article.  It's traditional to invent a fictional corporation (usually evil) and associate goons such as these with that entity, but I haven't really got round to doing that yet.  I have the logo on the figures, but no names for the evil company for which they work.
  2. The bases are all plastic and come from Champ Industries.  This is an American producer with a small, but very nice, range of 25mm bases.  Individually the bases are very cheap, though as always intercontinental postage is a killer if you're not already in North America.  I bought my bases many years ago, so I've no idea if this company is still operating.
So, what's a good name for a fictional corporation, then?  Not one that's already taken, of course...

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

SOBH: The Summoning of Asmodai

Introduction

2 battle reports back-to-back?  My last posting was also a battle report, so you may be wondering what's going on.  Well, last Saturday my friend Steve came over for the day.  As well as the Napoleonic game that we played in the morning, we had time in the afternoon to play Song of Blades and Heroes.


We debated briefly whether to use my Robin Hood warbands in our game, but in the end we went with the Witch Hunters.  This was mainly because I was keen to try out the Song of the Ancient Ones scenario from the Song of Wind and Water supplement.  The scenario revolves around magic users from one warband attempting to summon something supernatural from a shrine in the centre of a stone circle.  Sounds like a job for the witches!

The Scenario

The witches Meg and Agatha prepare to summon a demon from the circle of power.  Giant rats and ghouls accompany the hags, whilst a ghost drifts around nearby.
We played the Song of the Ancient Ones scenario straight out of the book.  The witches would be the defenders and would attempt to summon something nasty from the centre of the magic circle, whilst the local humans (soldiers and professional witch hunters) would try to stop them.

Roughly speaking, the witches have to build up 9 "power points" of magic in the circle and then cast a summoning spell to bring forth a demon.  This doesn't automatically grant them a win, but will add to their victory points and will (probably) give them a useful ally.

One thing that we found slightly confusing was the scenario's description of what happened if someone entered the ring of stones.  In the setup part of the scenario, it suggested that such an act would dissipate all the stored power and therefore the ritual would have to start again.  However in other parts of the description, one power point would be lost if someone stepped into the ring.  We went with the latter and further stipulated that each further activation by a character inside the ring would lose another power point.

Initial setup.  The men chose to place the mad monk and a few soldiers on the southern edge, whilst a large number of musketeers and various characters would approach from the north-west.  As well as their forces near the ritual circle, the witches placed a couple of enormous hellhounds just behind the trees near to the southern group of men.

The Game


John Sterne (the witch hunter) and 3 musketeers climbed the hill overlooking the dark ritual.  Immediately the ghost came drifting out of the darkness towards them.  One of the musketeers fled immediately in terror.  The remaining men, afraid to charge the awful creature, fired their muskets and pistols at it.  However, their shots passed straight through the apparition without harming it at all.

The ghost then turned on one of the other soldiers and gave another terrible shriek.  The man went pale, turned and fled!

Brother Matthew, the mad monk, ran as fast as he could towards the stone circle.  He was screaming threats, or maybe prayers, and waving his staff wildly.  Because he was frothing at the mouth, he was somewhat incoherent and nobody could work out what he was saying.

The troopers who had been with him followed cautiously.  They hadn't seen what lurked on the other side of the trees, but they were still uneasy and nervous.

Matthew ran straight for one of the witches in an attempt to prevent her from chanting the horrible ritual.  However, he was followed by one of the hellhounds; the monk had barely reached the hag when he was lifted off his feet and mauled by the monstrous creature.  It scored a gruesome kill on the poor madman but, fortunately for the humans, all of his friends were too far away to see his death in the darkness.

Deciding that the ghost was just a distraction, John Sterne came down off his hill and approached the stone circle from the north-west.  He was joined by Colonel Brandon, who had ranged ahead of his soldiers.  Frustratingly, the men found their way blocked by ghouls who had moved to intercept them.  Even though they were slightly over-matched by the humans, the evil creatures proved remarkably resilient.  Whenever one of the ghouls was knocked down it would just get back up.

The witches continued to chant their dark incantations, building up the power to a critical level (8 of the 9 necessary points for a summoning).  The monk had died a grisly death, the witch hunter and Colonel Brandon were blocked by ghouls and all the foot soldiers were quite a long way off.  What could the humans do?

John Sterne and Colonel Brandon both backed away from the ghouls that were in front of them, but neither man was able to get close enough to hinder the black ritual.  Instead, Major Fairfax came running through the night.  He dodged past the waiting ghouls and stood defiantly in front of the runestone at the heart of the circle.  "Hah!" he cried.  "Foul hags!  Your filthy work is undone!"  One power point was dutifully removed from the ritual.

As the major strutted, the witches redoubled their efforts.  Agatha chanted sufficiently to add 2 more power points, thus giving the circle the required charge of 9.  Meg then called on the infernal powers to summon and bind an agent of darkness to her will.  We rolled on the summoning table and got a '2', thus bringing on Asmodai, a Minor Ancient One.  Not the most exciting result, but a demon nevertheless...

"Oh, CRAP!" the major cried, as the fiend charged straight at him.  He wouldn't get any help from the witch hunter either, as John Sterne was still being obstructed by the ghoul pack.  Mind you, there were now so many figures milling about inside the magic circle that all hope of starting another summoning ritual were abandoned!

Meanwhile, where were all the soldiers?  Sergeant Stone and his squad had been ambushed by a hellhound as they came out of the woods in the south.  After a long fight in which the advantage swayed from one side to the other, the men eventually managed to knock down and then slay the brute [this was something of a sideshow for us; the figures involved were a long way down the priority list for activations].

The soldiers then jogged forwards towards Agatha.  Their attack was disjointed though, with some men lagging far behind the others.  Sergeant Stone was in the lead but to his dismay he found himself fighting a hellhound all on his own.  Worse, the witch caught his attention and he found that he could not avert his gaze.  As the savage beast tore him apart, all the poor, transfixed sergeant could think was "Those eyes!"

All was confusion in the northern part of the table.  The ghouls finally slew John Sterne and settled down to feast on his corpse.  Indeed, they were completely oblivious to everything else for quite some time after this [i.e. they failed every single activation roll that they attempted for many turns in a row].  The demon killed Major Fairfax, though not without some trouble.

This took the human side perilously close to half their starting strength.  They had lost all bar 1 of their special characters as well as several unnamed soldiers.  If they suffered even 1 more casualty then they would all take a morale test; this would probably destroy any hope they had of continuing to fight.  On the other hand, the witches had only lost one ghoul and a single hellhound!

Colonel Brandon retreated a little, but not from fear.  Rather he was now encouraging his troops; the musketeers fired as they advanced.

More humans attacking them was the last thing that the witches wanted, so the demon leaped forwards and snarled at the good colonel.  He wasn't having any of that, so he drew a pistol and blew its brains out!

Colonel Brandon followed up by attacking Meg herself, while 2 of his musketeers hovered close by to protect from any marauding enemies.  Despite Meg's screeches for help, the remaining ghouls were still far to interested in their meal and the witch had to fight alone.  With her back to one of the standing stones, she had nowhere to run.  Several times, the colonel stabbed the hag and she fell backwards across the rock, but each time she staggered back to her feet.  Finally, the old soldier thrust his sword deep into her heart and she fell for the last time.

On the other side of the circle of rocks, the soldiers were trying to face down the second hellhound.  Agatha ordered her giant rats to attack the men as well, but this proved to be a bad mistake.  The rodents approached one-at-a-time and the first such creature to come into reach was skewered on a halberd.  It died in agony [another gruesome kill] and its terrible squeals unnerved the hellhound, which then blundered about, trying to flee from the sound.  Escape was impossible: the beast was trapped against one of the standing stones and slain by the exultant soldiers.

Seizing their chance, 2 of the men charged straight at Agatha.  The witch wasn't expecting their fierce assault and fell beneath the repeated blows, never to rise again.

This last loss was too much for the evil side to bear.  Since they were now below half their original numbers, they took a morale test - which resulted in some of the rats running off at top speed.  The remaining ghouls decided that they didn't like the odds any more and slunk off into the night.  Only the ghost was left, endlessly drifting about the hills and fields...

Conclusion

That was a fascinating and very eventful game!  It went very much in the witches' favour to start with, but the humans made an amazing comeback.  When we added up the victory points at the end, we came up with these totals:
  • Witches: 12 VPs for kills + 3VPs for a successful summoning = 15VPs
  • Humans: 15VPs for kills = 15VPs
So, it's a draw!
  • Man of the match was definitely Colonel Brandon.  He destroyed the demon and slew one of the witches personally, as well as coordinating his men in their final attack.
  • On the evil side, the ghost was possibly the most fun.  It scared 2 musketeers so much that they are still running and frightened several more pretty badly.  In return it seemed invulnerable to all the shots that were fired at it.
  •  Most useless: probably Brother Matthew, although the witch hunter John Sterne didn't accomplish much either.  Mind you, the giant rats were worse than useless for the evil side...