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I'm a bit of a born-again wargamer! I played many of the Games Workshop games when I was in my teens and early twenties, but left the hobby behind when I went to University. Over the last few years I have gradually got back into it and am literally having a ball! I'll play pretty much anything now, ranging from ancient historical to the far future! I think that I get more out of the painting side of things than actually playing, but that might just be because I get more opportunity. Hence the title...this blog is all about the colour of war!!

Monday, 11 June 2012

Artizan Viking Bondi

Just finished a pack of 6 Artizan Bondi armed with spears and thought I'd post a couple of pics (ok, still to finish the bases). The figures are what you'd expect from Artizan - very nice. The tunics flow very nicely and the faces and beards are well sculpted. The poses are quite similar, but that's OK, they'll be mixed in with the Gripping Beast units so they will be spread out. That's also why I just did three of each basic colour scheme, too. Some bits were a bit hurried as I just wanted to get them out the way, but that's fine as they will be bulking out a 30 strong unit. Compared to the Gripping Beast figures, I think the GB ones are a little more characterful and varied. Once the bases are finished and I'm putting them in the box with the GB I might take some side-by-side comparison shots.


Overall, the Artizan are a bit cheaper if you buy from other sources rather than direct from the web site, but not by much (about 20p a figure). A strong showing from Artizan and I would recommend them without any reservations!  

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Fury of Dracula

Played another cracking game of Fury of Dracula last night and it occurred to me that I've never really mentioned it on this blog. Apart from Boardgamegeek I don't actually ever recall seeing a review, so I thought I'd pop one up here!


So, what is Fury of Dracula? It's a boardgame published by Fantasy Flight Games and is set in Europe 8 years after the events of Bram Stoker's classic horror novel. It pits 1-4 'hunter' players (note that no matter how many Hunter players they always have 4 Hunter characters in play) against another player who takes the role of Dracula. The Hunters are a team and therefore have to cooperate against with each other to beat Dracula who's main goal is to evade the Hunters long enough to create enough vampires to allow him to throw Europe under a shadow of evil! Nice guy, huh?


The game board basically depicts Europe from the end of the nineteenth century and shows a number of cities that are all linked by a network of roads and railways. Each turn, Dracula secretly moves from one city to the next and then each Hunter takes it in turn to move likewise and try to find him. And it's the secret movement that really makes this game such a lot of fun. Basically, Dracula has a deck of cards, one for each city on the map and one for each sea zone.

At the top of the board (see above) there are six spaces for these cards forming a trail. Each time Dracula moves he slides any cards on the trail down one position to make a space at the head and places another city or sea card face down. The city he selects must be connected to the city that was just at the head of the trail, of course, so Dracula doesn't 'warp' around the board. Therefore, there is always a contiguous set of cards on the trail. If any Hunter moves into a city that is in the trail then Dracula reveals that card and the Hunters can then see where it is and can then try to work out where he went! Sea zones are the only exception as they aren't disclosed when a Hunter moves into one that Dracula has been in, although there are ways to uncover them. There are a few special powers that Dracula has to move differently (i.e. faster than normal in a wolf form or hide in his current city) but I won't go into that level of detail. Here's a (fabricated) shot of the trail where the Hunters have discovered the trail at Alicante, but Dracula has moved 2 cities since:


Of course, it's not as simple as just finding Dracula's tail! Oh no, the Prince of Darkness gets to leave a wee something for the Hunters in each city. Each time Dracula moves he gets to place an 'encounter' chit on the city, again face down. Whenever a Hunter enters a city that is on Dracula's trail and has an encounter chit on it, then the counter is revealed, resolved and in most cases discarded. These encounters range from mobs of peasants, armed minions to swarms of bats and newly turned vampires. And to add insult to injury, some of the encounters have special abilities if they 'mature', which means if the encounter is on a card that moves off the end of the trail. There are only a few, but they tend to be nasty and the New Vampire one, in particular, is a key strategy to Dracula winning the game. So the Hunters can't just focus on Dracula, they have to also keep the trail clear of encounters. As you can see below, the back of the encounter chits matches the centre of the back of the location cards, which is a nice touch (the bottom right encounter is the dreaded New Vampire!):

Now that we've covered encounters, it's probably appropriate to talk about how victory is assured for either Dracula or the Hunters. For the Hunters it's pretty simply! They have to catch Dracula and beat him in combat! Dracula starts the game with 15 'blood' counters on his character sheet and he is defeated when his last one is lost. There are a few ways that Dracula can lose blood; travelling by sea, using certain special powers and in combat. Some weapons that the Hunters can acquire on their quest cannot harm Dracula (pistols for example), while others are deadly (the ubiquitous stake!). So the Hunters simply need to tool up and catch Dracula! Simple, eh?

Dracula, on the other hand, wins by acquiring 6 victory points, called 'vampires' in the game. He gets these in 3 ways; surviving a whole day, defeating a Hunter in combat (by beating them up or biting them) and by maturing New Vampires. So Dracula can win simply by evading the Hunters long enough, although most Dracula victories will include a defeated Hunter or matured vampire. Winning purely by evasion would take a long time and the odds are that Hunters will find you eventually!
Each turn a counter is moved clockwise round the  day/night track and each time it crosses the 'A New Day'  line , then Dracula scores a VP.
I've already mentioned that the Hunters can get weapons, but they can also draw 'event' cards that are either instant in effect or can be kept by the player and used to trigger certain effects, such as revealing locations on the trail, giving bonuses in combat or moving quickly across the board. There are events for both Hunters and Dracula, although the Hunter events outnumber the Dracula events about 2:1. Unusually, these events are drawn from the bottom of the deck, as the back illustration indicates whether it is for the Hunter or Dracula. This is important as only Hunter players can draw these cards so they can't know whether it will be a Dracula event or not as that would affect their decision.

Some 'item' cards. Dracula has a set hand of these depending if it's day or night, but the Hunters must find theirs in cities by drawing off a deck. They can only have 3 at a time, though.

The 'event' cards. Again, Dracula's are on the left. As mentioned, they are drawn only by Hunters and from the bottom of a single deck, hence the different backs.
And that's most of the game described! I've deliberately left out a description of combat as it is a bit odd and involves cross referencing cards that are played by the players in a sort of 'rock-paper-scissors' fashion. There are dice rolls involved, though, so there is an element of luck. As is the norm for FFG games, the production values are top-notch and all the components exude quality. The miniatures are really nicely detailed and the board is of a decent thickness. And of course the theme is very strong in this game. It's certainly not a thin skin on top of a particular game mechanic!

The plastic miniatures.
The character sheets. Note Dracula's 15 blood spaces and the Hunter's health tracks.

What makes this game really good? Well, it's a game of two very different experiences if you're a Hunter or Dracula! The Hunters get to discuss freely their tactics while Dracula is very much on his own. In some respects it can be a bit like poker with Dracula trying to keep a straight face as the Hunters talk about possibly moving to his location. For the Hunters, it's a lot of fun to talk and strategise with your teammates and try to work out where Dracula went, especially as you start to reveal location cards. The Dracula player's fun is mostly spent trying to outwit your opponents or lay deadly traps while you sneak away. Both sides have their merits, but I would imagine that most people would say it's more fun to play Dracula, although Dracula has the hardest job by far! It can also be very tense when Dracula is encountered, particularly at night and victories are always hard earned!

What's not so good? Well, the fact that only one can play Dracula means that if two really want to play him then one loses out. Also, Dracula can't really ask questions without giving away elements of his plan and it's encumbent on him to keep his moves right so as not to spoil the game for everyone, so it's important that Dracula has read the rules and probably the FAQ. After all, it's a FFG game, so there are a few situations that can arise that aren't covered by the rules, or cards that can contradict each other. Also, the Hunter's victory, in the end, comes down to dice rolling, although the more you get him into combat then the more likely it will swing your way. That said, though, if you really don't like luck in your board games then this is probably not for you! Finally, this is a closed game. There are no expansions, so it's lifespan is perhaps a bit limited compared to, say, Arkham Horror. However, you can mitigate this by just playing it periodically as a change from the more oft played games in your group, or playing with different players. I've had it over a year and have played quite a few games and I'm not bored of it yet!!

All in all, I think Fury of Dracula is a very good game! I wouldn't rate it as highly as Arkham Horror but it I would still highly recommend it for any board gamer's shelf!

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Midway

Remember a few months ago I posted about creating a CY6! scenario for the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Midway? Well, I started building the ship and buying the planes ages ago, but I got bored of it and started painting other things like the supers. I didn't forget about this project, though, as it was booked into a First Tuesday slot at the Phoenix club. So, over the past couple of weeks I knuckled down and got everything finished just in time and the game was played tonight. We had about 12 or so players evenly divided between Japanese and American pilots. I refereed the game and moved the bombers. The scenario was based on the Japanese counterstrike against the Yorktown, but with some concessions to playability and decision making.
Historically, the dive bombers hit the Yorktown about an hour and a half before the torpedo bombers arrived. They hit it with 3 bombs and caused some fires to breakout, such that they thought they had crippled her. However, American firefighting and damage control techniques were up to the task and an hour later the fires were out and she was back under way. The repairs were so effective that the torpedo bombers actually thought they were attacking a second, fresh carrier. So, as far as the scenario goes, I decided to compress time and have both the dive and torpedo bombers attacking at roughly the same time. The dive bombers (D3A1'Val') were placed closer to the target, though, to ensure that they would arrive a few turns ahead of the torpedo bombers (B5N 'Kate'). The numbers were:

6 Vals
6 Kates (3 in the clouds)
6 Zeros 
12 Wildcats

The bombers were placed on the table and then the Wildcats were placed around the carrier. Finally, the Zero fighter support was placed. Three Kates began off table and appeared from a cloud bank to the north of the carrier on turn 3 (roughly as it occurred on the day).  The Vals were placed in a wide arc to the south, basically all coming in individually. The American players decided to weight their forces against the closer dive bombers and left only 4 Wildcats to take on the 3 visible Kates. The Japanese players then decided to escort the Kates with all 6 Zeros.
The Wildcats mob the Vals while a deadly wedge of Kates and Zeros approach from the north.
The initial pass of the Wildcats bagged 3 of the Vals, but their head on tactics meant that they lost too much speed turning and only one more Val was shot down, leaving 2 to dive on the exposed carrier.
Two of the 2 Vals slips past the Wildcats. The rearmost is shot down by the tailing Wildcat, but the furthest begins it's run amidst the flak.
The first Val to dive misses. The second can be seen off the starboard of the island about to tip over. It  is pursued by a trail of flak, but the Wildcats are too far away.

The last Val sores a direct hit!
Meanwhile, the 4 Wildcats to the north engaged the Kates in another head on pass, but the resulting furball only sees one carrier attack plane in the Pacific. The Zeros pounced from behind the formation and summarily destroyed over half the enemy fighters, but not before they emptied their magazines at the Japanese torpedo bombers. Somehow the airframes were up to the pounding, though and they slipped past the defenders and on to the target with their deadly Type 91 torpedoes. 
As the Vals begin their dives the Kates press on past the Wildcats and through the ever  present flak.
The critical point of the game! The first Kate delivers it's torpedo and the Yorktown  is heavily damaged.
After the first torpedo struck home a second Kate managed to drop its payload, but that missed the carrier by a whisker. A third plane was also inbound and may have managed to drop it's ordinance, but we had to call it a day as we'd run out of time. I called this a Japanese victory due to the torpedo attack. As per the history, the Yorktown was damaged enough to remove her from the fight, but not finish her off and I think that was probably all that could be hoped for. The Japanese carrier fleet was soon to be finished off and the Yorktown would meet her demise in a couple of days at the hands of a Japanese submarine.

Final thoughts! I think this was a really good game. The players all seemed to have fun and the focal point of the carrier gave a real excitement as the Japanese planes started to break through. The flak was simplified for the size of the scenario, to speed things up a bit. Rather than rolling for every battery I made some flak markers (mostly for the aesthetic of the puffs of black) and if any plane flew through them they would roll to be hit. Throughout the game, though, not a single Japanese aircraft was hit. There were plenty of rolls to hit, but even when the 1" guns came into action no hits occurred. I think this was slightly down to bad rolls, but when I run this game again I think I'll adjust the rolls to make the flak a bit more effective. Overall, though, I was very satisfied with the scenario design and look forward to trying again at some point!

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