Thursday, 15 June 2017

4th Cú Chulainn Cup

Once more, the time is nearly upon us for Northern Ireland's favourite, annual, Song of Blades and Heroes event - the Cú Chulainn Cup. 2017 marks our fourth outing of the competition, and we will again be hosted by the delightful Wee Gamers at their bunker in Whitehead, Co. Antrim.

When? Sunday 3rd September 2017, 10.00 for a 10.30am kickoff.
Where? Whitehead Primary School, 3 Islandmagee Road, Whitehead, Co. Antrim BT38 9NE.
The competition, consisting of five rounds, will be run over a single day. 
Entry will cost £7.00. 
Prizes will be provided by Ganesha Games and will be awarded to the Cú Chulainn Cup Champion and, by popular acclaim, to the ‘best’ warband.

Our previous days have been loads of fun, and with 14 entrants in last year's competition, there has also been loads of variety in warbands. From classic fantasy forces such as ratmen and orcs, to Vikings, pirates, zombie pirates, voodoo zombie pirates, Liliputians, Komodo dragons and much much more.

The lads (sadly so far it has been a male dominated affair) always face the day with good humour and sportsmanship. For several of our previous entrants, the competition was their introduction to the game, and new players are always welcome - and usually win!

As in previous years, the following rules will apply:

  • Players must use the same painted 25-28mm scale warbands in each round.
  • Warbands may be no larger than 300 points and must be legal – i.e. no more than 100 points may be spent on models with special rules which define them as ‘personalities’. 
  • Profiles for warband members may be taken the rosters within the Song of Blades and Heroes core rule book or any or its official supplements, or may be customised using the online warband builder software found on the Ganesha Games website.
  • Special rules from any of the following Ganesha Games rules are permitted: Song of Blades and Heroes (the revised rules, not Advanced SBH), Song of Wind and Water, Song of Gold and Darkness, Song of Deeds and Glory, Song of Arthur and Merlin, Song of Splintered Lands
  • Note that only the following forms of the Lethal special rule will be permitted: Lethal against Animals, Lethal against Artificial, Lethal against Magic Users (all varieties), Lethal against Undead or Lethal against a specified race (other than humans). Characters with the Assassin special rule may only be used if their combat factor is 3 or less.
  • Warbands must be submitted to the organisers at least one week prior to the competition (i.e. 27th August), at
Reports of the previous days can be found below:

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Kalydonian boar hunting with Palaeo Diet

This week I decided to play around with the Palaeo Diet rules a little bit and take them to a different setting. From the distant mists of time to the mythical past, I dug around in my box of Greek myth stuff for Of Gods and Mortals and came out with a big pig and three heroes. Welcome to the closing scene of the Kalydonian Boar hunt!

Oineus, king of Kalydon in Aitolia, west-central Greece, has offended the goddess Artemis. Forgetting to honour her at the annual harvest festival, she has sent a giant boar to ravage the kingdom, destroying its crops and vineyards. Desperate to kill the beast, Oineus has sent out to all the neighbouring kingdoms, seeking heroic hunters to bring the beast down. Prominent among the hunters who respond are Meleager, the king's own son; Atalanta, the Arkadian huntress with whom Meleager is besotted, and Peleus, exiled prince of Aigina, soon to be king of Phthia, and future father of Achilles.

Here we see the three heroes having cornered the great boar by the overgrown ruins of a temple. Meleager is in the top right corner, Atalanta among the ruins to the left, and Peleus on the hillock at the bottom left.

Meleager, son of king Oineus of Kalydon. Heir to the ravaged lands and said to be invincible until such time as a sacred log is fully burnt. Luckily for him, his mother knows of the story and keeps the log under lock and key. It'd take some truly terrible transgression (like, killing his uncles for instance) to cause his mother to put the log back into the flames. In game terms, Meleager is a hunter with a club.

Atalanta, huntress of the Arkadian wilds. Abandoned as a baby by a father who wanted a son, she was suckled by a she-bear before being found and raised by rough highland hunters. In game terms, Atalanta is equipped with a bow and has the special Hunter trait which allows her to re-roll one missed shot each turn.

Peleus, exiled prince of the island-kingdom of Aigina. He is still little more than a brooding teenager. In the game, he - like Meleager - is a hunter carrying  a club.

The boar. He's big and mean and cranky. In game terms I decided to use the Apex Predator attributes and reaction table. This meant that while he would not be hyper-aggressive, the hunters would know when they annoyed him. With a tough hide and savage, savage, tusks, the Kalydonian Boar will take some real skill to bring down.

In the opening phase of the hunt, all hunters moved cautiously. The boar's sensitive hearing picked up their approach, but, being a true apex predator, he held his ground before their advances.

As Atalanta came to the foot of the temple escarpment, the boar stirred into action, shuffling forward into the thicket to investigate the huntress. Knowing full well the threat posed by the boar, Atalanta crouched down in the tall grass, ready to ambush the beast should it emerge from the trees.

Meleager, fearing for his beloved's perfect skin, loped forward. The bear heard him, but still did nothing. 

Seeing the beast distracted, Atalanta darted forward, firing her bow at close range, but the arrows bounced off the boar's hide and landed with a 'thunk' among the thick foliage.

Now the creature burst into rage-fueled action, savagely swinging it's tusks and goring into Atalanta's shapely calf. Even out of sight beyond the thicket, Meleager died a little bit on the inside. His love's shapely calves were a true marvel to be hold and he was sure he just heard one of them being gored! 

Dashing in to save the rest of her, Meleager entered the thicket and struck the first telling blow against the beast. It's blood pulsed out onto the undergrowth and the rage in its beady eyes intensified.

Hearing the squeals, first from the girl, and then from the beast, Peleus stalked forward in his own attempt to bring the boar down. The giant beast heard his approach and charged, meeting the young prince on the edge of the thicket and ripping a great gash into his princely side. Meleager heard the commotion, but felt nothing...

The boar bellowed in rage and its rank spittle covered Peleus' face, moments before he strategically backed away. Atalanta was not to be put off though and sprung forward, jamming one of her arrows into the side of the predator's thick neck.   

As it squeeled in pain, Meleager advanced once more, swinging his sword to attack but getting it lodged in a tree trunk. As he struggled to get it free, the boar lunged once more, lodging his own tusk, for the moment, in Meleager's thigh.

At this juncture, Peleus moodily stepped forward once again. Every being in that thicket was one bleeding. One more well timed blow from any one of the hunters could bring the beast down, but one more swing of the boar's tusks could likewise leave the hunters' limp bodies for the crows. Threatened by the approach of Peleus, the boar lashed out blindly, catching Atalanta in the small of the back and bringing her to the ground in a crumpled heap. Meleager still though she looked beautiful in a crumpled heap, but the hunt was certainly not going the way he had expected. Peleus looked dismissively at the poor huntress, took one more casual step and plunged his blade deep into the boar's massive body, puncturing its heart and killing it in an instant. 

The hunt was done. The quietly triumphant Peleus went off looking for some palace slaves to collect the boar for tonight's victory feast, while the dissolute looking Meleager knelt, silently weeping for the romance that would never be.

The game mechanics worked really well for a direct transplant into this sort of game. If I did it again, I think I would use the pack predator reaction table for the boar to make him more aggressive and much more mobile, but I'd definitely keep the apex predator attributes. The boar was certainly a tough critter to crack and it could, quite easily, have brought all three of our heroes down. There is certainly potential here to use the Palaeo Diet game engine for all sorts of different scenarios. I think it would work really well in a Song of Shadows and Dust setting, pitching a small gang of thieves or assassins against a city militia or night watch!

Friday, 9 June 2017

'Warhead' beasts from Scotia Grendel

This week I managed to get a bit of paint on my new purchases from Scotia Grendel, all from the Warheads range. The first is this giant deer/stag. I have decided I am not overly fussed on the sculpting with this gent to be honest - it is too shire horse-like really - and it really required someone with a better painting hand to do it justice. Size wise, he is certainly imposing when placed next to poor old Urgg.

Giant deer were rather massive and would have been quite a fearsome prospect - especially during rutting season. Here is a comparative shot of giant deer antlers and a red deer from the Ulster Museum. They became extinct in Ireland just before people first arrived, but there certainly would have been encounters between giant deer and hominids elsewhere.

And here we find Urgg with the two boar figures available from Scotia Grendel. These wee piggies have stolen my heart (much to my wife's bemusement). I just think they are tops! The tribe are going to be extra careful when exploring thickets from now on, because those tusks are nasty.

And finally, a comparative shot showing one of the boars, the giant deer and a bunny, all from Scotia's Warheads range. Love the boar, love the bunny, not so sure about the elk.

The Grey Wolf Clan continue their journey

Mark's journey through prehistory using playtest drafts of Palaeo Diet: Eat or Be Eaten continues with two more hunts:

The Grey Wolf Clan has endured a miserable long winter. The last hunt of autumn was only a partial success and hunger has claimed the lives of the weaker Clan members. Now as Spring approaches some small hunting parties have gone out to scout for game. This report follows the adventures of one such scouting expedition, based on Nic's "Hunger Games" scenario. They have stumbled across a hidden valley, surrounding by high cliffs, never explored before and populated with strange but doubtless edible creatures. Amazingly it is free of ice and snow!

The first photo shows the general table layout. The two hunters (1 x Spear, 1 x Bow) survey their discovery from a cliff top in the foreground. On the valley floor some giant armadillos (Giant Grazers) and some caribou (Herd Grazers) go about their lawful occasions.

Because this is a hidden valley the only entrances or exits from the table are the narrow pass to the R of the hunters, and the far table edge. The two side edges and the rest of the near edge are deemed impassable due to cliffs. The Hungry (character trait) hunters need to kill any one of the beasts on the menu for their hunt to be a success. That will give them enough to eat and enough to carry back to the clan's Winter quarters.

For the first couple of Turns the hunters worked their way towards a flank of the herds, so that any reaction moves by the beasts will be away from the main escape route as far as possible.

The archer tried a shot at the nearest armadillo, but the arrow bounced off its armoured hide and it moved away, scarcely aware of the attack. The hunters are very hungry, and tempted to try a more direct assault. But so far their hunting skills have overcome their pangs.

On Turn 5 the hunters pulled off a neat little ambush. The archer worked wide and ahead of the target beast (armadillo at L) and dropped into ambush mode. The other hunter then skulked into position behind the beast and threw a spear, causing a wound. The armadillo fled in reaction, directly away from the attack, and right into the ambush, where the archer caused another wound. The yellow marker shows the archer in ambush, the red markers show the armadillo's two wounds. 

I differed from the PDEE draft rules here. As written an archer shooting always receives a -1 attack modification, and an ambusher receives a -1 as well. And the minimum score (on 1D6) required to wound a Giant Grazer is 5. So it's v hard for an archer to wound such a beast and impossible to do so from ambush. Nic rationalises the ambush modification as the tension arising from this sneaky course of action. 

Anyway ... after a bit more hopeful but fruitless stalking of the Armadillo the hunters turned their attention to the caribou. An initial archery attack achieved only a Flee reaction from the prey ...

... but perseverance was rewarded! A spear attack on the caribou buck wounded it and caused an attack reaction. The hunter was not hurt in the caribou attack and it gave an opportunity for the archer to get in a shooting attack which caused a second wound and killed the beast. In the photo above the archer is out of frame at the bottom R corner.

I had lost track of the Turn number by this stage, partly due to some interruptions, but I'm fairly sure this was Turn 8 which the scenario decrees is the end of the game (failing light). So the scouting party has been a success. Surely a good omen for the Grey Wolf Clan as Spring draws near. 

The final game in this short series is my own scenario, not from Nic's rules ...

Now it is Autumn again. The earlier omen was a true harbinger. Summer has been good to the Grey Wolf Clan. Now, the Clan's inferior hunters, and gatherers, are busy chasing the inglorious snail and the frankly sessile nut [Penguin Atlas of Ancient History (1st Ed 1967) p18] to lay up stores for the coming winter. But the Clan Elders have another task for the crack hunters.

The Grey Wolf Clan's hunting range overlaps the territory of a family of lions (Pack Predators) who are a standing threat. The lions disrupt Clan hunting by chasing the same prey, and mean all resource-gathering expeditions need armed escorts. With the Clan in good fettle after a bumper season, it's time to chase these feline neighbours out of the area.

If the Clan can wound all the lions, or kill 3, they will force the lions off their territory. The Clan can also win by spending 8 uninterrupted actions (hunter and/or hound) searching the lions' home tor to find and kill the cubs. On the other hand if the beasts can cause 4 wounds to the hunters, they will force the Clan to abandon the project and retreat. Wounds to hounds don't count.

And one important rules change: at the end of a Turn any lion who has not made a reaction move must make a free move using the Pack Predators' reaction table but with "predate" treated as "attack" to ensure more furious action!

As usual the first photo shows the table layout, and positions at the end of Turn 1. The four hunters and two hounds of the Grey Wolf Clan started on the near table edge and moved into the hilltop on their first Turn. The lions' den is a cave in the central tor. Two female lions are guarding the new cubs. The two males are on patrol and may appear on any table edge, except the hunters' edge, at the start of any move after the second. The entry time and point are dice controlled. 

The hunters know there are more lions in the offing, the Clan and the Pride are well acquainted. So for Turn 2 the hunters hold their position on the hilltop to see how events unfold. And surely enough on Turn 3 the two male lions enter, behind the hill on the far baseline.

The hunters now move down off their hill to begin their attack. Their plan is to stay together and try to win by ganging up on each lion in turn. The female lions on den guard duty decide on a forward policy to protect the cubs, and move to meet them. The hunters initially display the usual abysmal standard of weapon handling we have come to expect from the Grey Wolf Clan, and score only a single wound, while the lions make short work of one of the hunters. The red markers show the sorry tale. The hounds don't add much. One attacks unsuccessfully, the other refuses to attack and starts howling (green marker). Presciently, as it's master is the hunter killed and now both master and hound are out of play. On the other hand the male lions have to cover a lot of ground to come to the support of their mates, so maybe the Clan can still pull this off.

Turn 4 saw a remarkable turnaround. Because the surviving hunters all started their activations close to the female lions, they were could use multiple activations to attack (throwing or thrusting spears). Both beasts were killed and the hunters were also able to start forming a spear line to meet the now quickly approaching male lions. The bodies have been tidied away for the childrens' version.

In Turn 5 the front male lion was attacked by the nearer hunter (brown hair) who had rolled two successful activations. For the first activation the hunter threw a spear at the lion causing a wound. The beast reacted by attacking the hunter, in turn wounding him. The wounded hunter then used his second activation to stab the lion with a backup spear, causing another wound and killing it. Advice to young hunters: always take >1 spear.

With three of the four lions now killed the Grey Wolf hunters have won a notable victory. The remaining lion will slink off, and the hunters and hound can scour the tor to complete the job by finding and killing the lion cubs. The result was close though - one more wound caused to the hunters and the moccasin would be on the other foot. The hunters were lucky the male lions arrived so far away. If they had appeared (for example) on the L table edge on the hunters' flank it might have been very different.