Saturday, January 28, 2017

Captain Sonar- WTF is this?

Tonight we had a game of a new game I've recently bought, Captain Sonar. Dale, our resident board game junkie put me onto it a few weeks back so I ordered it and have been waiting for a chance to play and tonight we gave it a whirl.

What is Captain Sonar? Well imagine a game of battleships with two teams of 4  where you are trying to locate and sink an enemy sub.  Then take everything you know about Battleships and throw it out the window.

Each player in the team has a different role and their own game board. The captain gives orders and moves the submarine around his board- using a white board marker to show the subs position. Each time he moves the first mate powers up one of the systems: sonar, drones, mines, torpedoes or silent running. Once he's ticked off one of the systems he says Yes or Aye Aye etc to acknowledge he's done so. Each system requires a certain number of moves to be powered up and once they have been used then they need to be "powered up"  again so a few moves will be needed to get the system back online. You can also drop mines and detonate them at a later time too, but of course to drop them the torpedo/mine systems need to be operational which is where the engineers role comes into play.  

One of the 5 game maps the Captain uses to plot the subs course. Both teams use a copy of the same map and there are 5 to choose from.  

If the first mate's role is to power up the various systems the engineer's role is to break one of them! Well maybe not quite fair. On the engineers board (below) are boxes that correspond to the directions the captain is giving. Each time the sub moves the engineer has to "break" one of the boxes on his board that corresponds to the direction the captain called and so take a system off line! The different systems are linked and once 4 that are linked are all crossed off he rubs them out and the systems are good to go and no longer malfunctioning. Sounds simple enough. However as you can see if the picture beneath are 3 other boxes for each direction (North, East etc), if all 6 boxes in any one direction are crossed out the sub takes damage. So after a while the engineer is demanding the sub NOT go in a certain direction for fear of damaging the sub, or else is instructing the captain of directions they need to go to restore some of the systems.  

As well as damage from the engineer not managing their duties the sub can sustain 4 hits in total before it is destroyed. A direct hit causes 2 boxes damage, a near miss (or engineering malfunction 1). 

You can also surface which allows you to remove all damage to your operating systems BUT allows the enemy to know which of the boards nine sectors you are located in. You cannot move again until everyone has drawn around one of the sectors on the sub image at the top of the engineer's board and while you are doing that as it is played in real time the other sub is moving in for the kill! 

Well now we get to the fourth person on your team, the radio operator. As mentioned the game is played in real time. There is a screen between the two teams and the radio operator listens to the instructions being given to the other team by their captain and plots them on his own board. He has a clear plastic cover he puts over his board so he can move it round to try and work out the enemy subs position. Once he thinks he has its position he tells the captain and the captain gives the order to fire torpedoes! This is when the engineer will pipe up quite helpful-like. "Sorry sir we can't, the torpedoes are broken!" And that is the magic of the game. The crew have to work together to get systems up and running, avoid hitting islands, plot the enemy's location and sink their sub before they sink theirs. A doddle really!

It is battleships on steroids. As captain you are moving the sub, instructing the first mate as to which systems you need ready, checking with the engineer to ensure they try to keep the systems you want/need operational, and also taking their advice as to which directions you need to go to remove damage to your operating systems, whilst also checking with the radio operator as to where they think the enemy sub is so you can hunt it down and destroy it. 

It is fast, furious and hilarious. We had 8 of us playing tonight and had 5-6 games in about 3 hours. The first couple we used turn by turn play till we go used to it and then away we went in real time and it was crazy! After a couple of games we swapped the various roles. The last couple of games I was captain and was amazed at how difficult it was tracking everything. 

If you know enough board gamers to play an 8 player game then I say get it. I'm sure it works fine with 6 a side but 8 players is awesome. It one of those simple yet brilliant games that makes you wonder why someone hasn't come up with this sooner, it is elegant in its simplicity and brilliant in its execution. I'd give it a 10 out of 10. If you don't own it, go out and buy it NOW! 

A few shots of the crew tonight- Nigel at the end (trying his best to look like Ming the Merciless) was the umpire/referee to make sure we didn't cheat when drawing round the various sub parts while surfaced- but no ref is needed. We were playing at his place but as he is in a wheelchair he wasn't keen to play this one but we'll give him a a helper and get him involved. He thoroughly enjoyed it though and was positioned to be able to track both teams as to where the subs were and where the radio operators THOUGHT they were.  

Vaughn (blue shirt) and Richard (top right) were the radio operators for the first 3 games or so and both did outstanding jobs- unlike some of us who took on these roles later on. Tony (on the right) was captain in this game.

Here is one of the many review's here.

Here is a review from shut up and sit down.


Friday, January 27, 2017

Victrix 28mm Plastic Numidians

This morning my order from Victrix arrived. I must say before beginning this post that I am NOT really a fan of plastics. Kent and I both prefer metals miniatures whenever possible. It really annoys me when, for instance, Warlord Games replaces yet another one of their nice metal WWII ranges with some more frigging plastics, most of which are horrible- I've bought a couple of their WWII German offferings, never again! Too damn fiddly so I usually end up replacing them with models from another manufacturer's metal ranges and now avoid all Warlord WWII plastics. Probably the  range of plastics I have bought and used the most are the Warlord Celts, they aren't the greatest figures on the market- some REALLY strange poses, but do well to bulk out German/Celtic hordes. But having seen some of the images of the Victrix Gauls, I can see me adding more plastics to those armies once they are released- they do look good!

One of the short comings of some of the earlier ranges of plastics (especially the Perry's ACW and WWII ranges), has been the soft details of faces and equipment, making the figures a chore to paint.

However, technology keeps improving and so does the quality of plastics on the market. Over the past 2-3 weeks I've been eyeing up the Victrix Numidian infantry and Iberian infantry and cavalry  ranges with an eye to bulking out my armies with plastics. I've a few Foundry metal Numidians but not enough for the entire project so decided to give Victrix a crack. My order turned up today and  I must say that I am pleasantly surprised by the detail of the sculpts- they are as good as they look on the Victrix website. Plastics really have taken a leap forward and it looks like I may be a convert! I am especially pleased with the quality on the Iberian Cavalry, the details really do pop off the figures and will be joy to paint but all the range are well proportioned and will paint up well. In fact, the quality of them is outstanding!

I need four bases worth of Numidians for next weeks game vs Kent so have been working on those, have completed two bases worth today and will do the last two bases over the next few days.

The Victrix Numidians are a tad taller than the Foundry figures I have been using but mix in well on the same base (I'm doing 8x figures per base on my warband bases) and will be fine for this project. The figures are easy to put together and have really nice details and definition- including the faces.

Probably my only concern with these ranges are the spears and javelins. I much prefer the thinner spears and javelins (and use a lot of the metals ones for my armies) to the "armed with tree trucks" that the gripping Beast Saxon and Viking ranges have (not sure of their others), but it does mean that the spears/javelins on the Victrix models are quite fragile. To try to ensure that they don't break I've been coating them with PVA glue. This is an old trick to make paint bind to the old 1:72nd Airfix, Esci etc ranges of figures. As it dries the PVA shrinks and goes clear, creating a nice thin, flexible layer. With the old plastics this meant the paint would bind to the figures and not flake as it otherwise tended to do. I'm hoping the same approach with strengthen the javelins and make them less susceptible to breakages.

Anyway here we go.

Base #1: 3x Foundry and 5x Victrix figures. I wanted to give the look of some light infantry that has looted the bodies of their enemies and taken a few shields- and modified them. The two front shields have LBM Studio transfers on them.

And base #2. Again a couple of LBM Studio transfers added to the unit,

One of the all metal (Foundry & Crusader) bases.

And the four bases all together. Each of my Warband bases are now 12cm wide x 8cm deep "Impetus style" bases. I've only put 8 figures on each base as these guys represent light infantry warbands, for heavier types I'll put 9-12 figures on the same size base to make a more dense, heavier infantry, warband.

When massed together it gives a pleasing effect.


Wednesday, January 25, 2017

HC: Numidians vs Carthaginians

Tonight Kent popped round for our second game of Hail Caesar. I ran the same Numidian force as last time. As my last few reinforcements  have yet to arrive from overseas(I've some Victrix plastic Numidians on the way to finish off another 4 warbands) I press ganged some Gallic allies (warband) into service but ran them using the Numidian light warband stats.

We each had about 350 points.

The Numidian's:

  • Left flank: 3x Numidian light Cav & 1x Gallic Med cav. 
  • Centre: General, 2x Roman trained hewavy inf, 2x light warbands, elephant, 2x skirmishers
  • Right Flank: 4x light warband & 2x skirmishers

Kent ran the same army as last week in two commands including a leadership 9 general.

  • 2x Libyan Spears
  • 2x large Gallic Warband
  • 1x Spanish med infantry
  • 1x Spanish light infantry 
  • 2x Spanish Med Cav
  • 1x Numidian light Cav
  • 1x elephant
  • 3x skirmishers
Deployment: The Carthaginian's arrayed for battle.

The armies deployed. I wonder what cunning plans Kent has in store for my army tonight. 

 Turn 1, the Numidians advance on their right flank but refuse everything else- due to woeful command rolls.

The Gallic Warband hold the Carthaginian centre.

I send forth all my skirmishers to harry the opposing skirmishers, and start by rolling well and forcing a few break tests.

Turn 2 or 3. I thrown my elite cavalry in vs the Gallic Warband- they hit me with 11 dice + supports last week, this time I intended to give them a bloody nose. But once the dice had been rolled my Cav lost by 1, rolloed 3 for my breaktest and so broke! There goes my best unit. Meanwhile the Numidian light cavalry refuse too throw javelins anywhere near the elephant.

 A close up of the action just prior to the Gallic Cavalry being destroyed.

Any thing you can do I can do better. On the right flank Kent throws a unit of Spanish medium Cav into my warbands but the outcome is indecisive and we are locked in a swirling melee that soon attracts more units, including the Numidian elephant.

Having lost my cavalry my centre was in danger of being outflanked and overwhelmed so I pulled back to reduce the exposure of being overlapped on my left flank- and to buy time to try to win on my right flank.

Kent threw his Libyans and Spanish medium infantry in to support his cavalry against my "Numidian" warbands...

However, luck went my way and somehow we broke the cavalry and they swept away the Libyan heavy foot unit supporting them. Suddenly the Numidians had some hope! The warband at the top of the picture was about to die though, in a hail of javelins from Kent's skirmishers.

Yep, those warband have now been taken care of.  If we can destroy that unit of medium Spanish infantry then we are in with a chance... as long as we don't lose too many more units.

Hmmm. Things not looking quite so good in the centre. Speaking of which. Where the hell has our centre gone?

There appears to be a rather large gap where the centre should be.

On the far left over 5 turns my "elite" Numidian cavalry has refused to advance, while Kent has managed a single move forward!

My two "extremely tough" units of warband do their utmost to halt the Carthaginian juggernaut- oh that's right we are LIGHT warband. Oh crap.

This ended up being the critical battle of the game. Although outnumbered the Spanish refused to die and held off all attempts to break them. Had they been destroyed then one of the two Carthaginian commands was broken and would have given us the game.

In the centre, I'm running out of warband as the Gauls rip though my units!

Finally though our cavalry starts to obey orders on the far left flank.

The final clashes as the now heavily outnumbered Numidian's try to snatch an improbably victory from the jaws of defeat. My Roman trained heavy infantry use the "close ranks" special rule to avoid taking some damage and keep us in the game.

But it is not to be. Kent is not to be denied his well earned victory. On the bright side though the cavalry finally clash, we destroy the medium Gallic unit for the loss of one of my Numidian light units.

A sorry looking end of the game for the Numidian's as our centre too crumbles.

Well that was a lot of fun.The game flowed a lot better than last week and ebbed and flowed nicely. None of my skirmishers managed to evade any units charging them and were slaughtered as a result but it was a game with lots of drama and what ifs. We still made a few tactical errors- throwing in supports when maybe it would have been more prudent not to, not to mention sending my medium cavalry into the heart of the opposing battleline unsupported- oops, but we had a much better handle on the rules and were both much happier with how the game played.

It looked one sided at the end but I had very nearly shattered Kent's right wing and was close to breaking his army as a result so was close and could have gone either way. Most of my units are less powerful than Kent's but was really happy with how they worked together. I've still some work to do refining tactics etc but like the way the "brittle" Numidian's play and was really happy with the game and am keen for a rematch.


Saturday, January 21, 2017


I've completed the core of my Gauls/Galatians and am ready for a game vs Kent next week with them.

The aim is to use this army as the core of various armies- Galatians, Spanish, Gauls, Carthaginians, Republican Romans, adding specialised/flavour units to this core. For example adding some Spanish Cavalry, a few units of the new Victrix Iberians will morph it into Ancient Spanish or Celtiberians. Add some Libyan Spearmen and Numidians and it is the core of a Carthaginian force.

So far I have:

  • 8x warbands 
  • 4x Skirmishers
  • 2x Spanish light infantry 
  • 2x Medium Gallic Cavalry
  • 3x Command stands 

 The army assembled.

The left wing- 1x Med Cavalry, 2x Warband, 1x light infantry, 1x skrimishers.

One of the warband units.

The centre. My centre will be held by the General's Guard warband and 3 other standard warbands and a unit of skirmishers.
 The general.

My right wing. A Mirror of the left: 1x medium cavalry, 2x warband, 1x light infantry, 1x skirmishers.

I'm looking forward to their first outing vs Kent's Carthaginians' this week.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Some more Gauls/Galatians

I finished another few stands of Galatian's today so Ican now field a division's worth. A unit of cavalry, I'm toying with the idea of using two bases deep for cavalry, usually we only use one.  A mix of figures, some are Warlord, the rest? I've no idea!

If I do the same again (rebase 4x stands worth of infantry and anothr stand of cavalry) I'll almost be able to field a Galatian force- which is one of my aims.

A couple of stands of skirmishers.

This one is the new one and represents the general's guard unit. Again a range of figures, a Warlord chieftain, and several Black Tree Design (I think) as well as some Warlord plastics to fill the back ranks.

Tonight's job, finish my Numidian elephant stand and a couple of units of trained Numidian infantry and then I'll be  able to field an entire force with this new basing.