Battleshed Diaries

Sunday 7 February 2016

A good day to game

Yesterday I was back for my second visit to Common Ground Games in Stirling. Being very impressed with this Gamers' Haven on the first visit, it was inevitable that I was back a few weeks later, this time armed with Sails of Glory. Sort of.

I was meeting up with one of my regular gaming friends, Jamie and his two sons, at Common Ground and was asked to bring along Sails of Glory and my Pan Oceania Infinity list. Whether it was just down to serendipity or Jamie noticing my schedule on this blog, I'm not sure; I'm due to demonstrate Sails of Glory at the Falkirk club tomorrow evening. Whatever the reason, it was a perfect opportunity to reacquaint myself with the rules.

For those with a historical interest, Common Ground Games is based only a few ancient, winding streets away from Stirling castle, one of the most important and influential castles in Scotland. Its seen it's fair share of action and intrigue over hundreds of years. Highly recommended for a visit if any of my readers are in the vicinity.

Anyway, back to the present day. It was raining. And I forgot my Pan Oceania Infinity army. Doh! I did have my printed faction lists but no miniatures. What a Muppet! So it would have to be all 19th century naval warfare for the afternoon!

GW Dreadfleet cloth mat, evidently with a tidal wave approaching from the south-west!

With Jamie's lads all set up for Infinity next to our section, I laid out the brilliant GW cloth sea-mat from the old Dreadfleet game. It always draws out a few appreciative onlookers, although mutterings like, 'Best thing GW ever produced,' was a tad unfair!

Common Ground was busy with various competitions going on, mostly a plethora of fantasy or SF games. So I was quietly satisfied that Sails of Glory stood out from the crowd a wee bit on this occasion.

It was also great to see a couple of gentlemen gamers I knew who were also visiting on the day. Alan Kennedy, an old gaming acquaintance of mine who was a regular at the Battleshed in the early days - especially when we were both into Warmachine 

Whilst my interest that competition-orientated system waned eventually (although I still have a hoard of painted and semi-painted miniatures), Alan  went on to do a stint for a while as a Warmachine 'Press Ganger', promoting and organising competitions. Alan was also one of the group of reprobates that was involved with my brief introduction to 'proper' fantasy role-playing, a game set in the Warhammer world a few years ago now. In the original Samshed too.  

John Ewing, a more recent acquaintance from the Falkirk club and the person I'm holding personally responsible for the unit of 18th century French & Indian Wars British regulars currently on my paint-table was visiting Common Ground for the first time. And from what I can tell he too was impressed with the venue. Although, after cautions warnings, he did venture into the attached wargaming shop and I never saw him again that day!

I've gone over Sails of Glory's particulars in previous posts; suffice to say it's a game of Napoleonic warfare from Ares games, the Wings of Glory stable. 

It's the equivalent of a small-scale skirmish game, where you take command of individual historical warships rather than a larger-scale fleet actions. The emphasis is simulating warfare at the ship-to-ship level with scalable complexity, as you prefer, using the Basic, Standard, Advanced and optional rules and best played using scenarios.

For our game we played the Against the Outpost scenario for two games over the four hours we were at Common ground. A 'small British squadron is sent to force an enemy outpost to surrender'.   

Four ships for this action; the British with HMS Terpsichore and HMS Defence and for the French, the Courageuse and the Généreux. The French were protecting a small island with two rocky outcrops nearby. The British had orders to force the small garrison to surrender or destroy the garrison building, preferably sinking the French ships too!

We used mostly the standard rules and the optional variable wind direction rule, just to make things a bit interesting! We did toy with using the Boarding rules, should enemy ships get close enough, but unfortunately this didn't happen.

The first game, after a bit of rule thumbing whilst we reacquainted ourselves with the game mechanics, ended quite spectacularly. After a few exchanges of fire and damage inflicted on all ships - although I have to admit some of the damage was self-inflicted by Captain McDowall managing to ram his own ships! My defence of "but the wind changed!" was met quite rightly with disdain.

However, HMS Terpsichore did manage to navigate around the outcrops (somewhat alleviating my earlier blue-on-blue collisions!) enough to allow it to let it's forward (stem) guns to open up on close range. It must have been a lucky barrage as the building on the island exploded with a deafening eruption. 
HMS Terpsichore attacking the small French outpost
Although, had the cheering sailors of the Terpsichore looked in the opposite direction they might have seen HMS Defence being simultaneously broadsided and sunk by the Généreux! The British had the objective, minus one ship and crew.

HMS Defence being broadsided by the Généreux!
For the second game we swapped sides and played the same scenario. This time it was the British ships defending and they raced off to try and intercept the French before they could get anywhere near the island outpost. The two sides were soon in range and opened fire, with varying amounts of damage from ball and musketry. 

However, the British then had to turn around to chase the French now heading towards the island. No mean feat when turning into the wind! Whilst the British struggled to orientate their ships, the French were also having their own problems.

Both the Généreux  and the Courageuse had managed to run aground on the outcrops! It was a close run thing as they desperately tried to heave off, taking damage as result. The British, now finally turned around, were once again bearing down on the French.

Courageus Ship Log in action
However, the heavily damaged Courageuse eventually managed to get into range of the outpost and gave it a broadside. Once again the building disappeared under a shower of masonry and billowing black smoke. 

Although the game objective was taken by the French this time we decided to play on for a few more turns, trying to sink each other ships before it was time to depart. The Généreux was eventually taken out with the British ships still afloat - just - by timeout.

Its really great to be in a gaming environment where you can easily forget all the myriad of daily worries and just concentrate on few hours of pure gaming. And Common Ground games is perfectly set up to make that possible. Explains why it's so popular! My thanks to Jamie and his lads for their good gaming company as ever!

For me, it was a race back down the M9 to get back in time to watch the Scotland v England game at Murrayfield for the Calcutta cup. I wish I hadn't.

Luckily, there was yet more gaming to end the day as my wife and I headed down the hill to Sam Pate's house where we joined his family for an evening of chat and a couple of very convivial games of Dixit and The Really Nasty Horse Racing Game over a beer or two.

Dixit is a rather surreal card game where players take turns (the Storyteller) to describes one of the image cards in their hand in a sentence, or anyway they like. The card is then placed face-down, the other players placing a card from their hand which they think is the closest match to the 'Storytellers' description.

A random card is also placed from the deck. Once the cards are turned over, players place a counter against the card they think the Storyteller was describing. The Storyteller has to guess the random card. The players and the current Storyteller are then scored for correct guesses, using a rather cute set of coloured wooden 'bunny' tokens on a kind of race track. It's a simple but really nice, family game. With some lovely artwork on the cards.

The Really Nasty Horse Racing Game is just what it says on the box. A horse racing board game where players move their horse tokens using a D6 over a set number of races, betting on the outcome and doing their best to hobble the opposition in the race to accumulate the most 'winning's after the racing season.

It certainly makes for some tense racing, especially in the latter races where I noticed each of the others trying to guess how many Nasty cards their rivals were still holding!  

Thanks to Sam, Karen and Angus for great hospitality and introducing me to two new games. Although it was an awkward walk home for myself and the wife, with me still smarting over her playing a Whip Round Nasty Card to scupper my best horse right at the start of a key race!

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