Thursday, December 29, 2011

Whimsical Forest Dwellers 0 - Sons of Odin 1

Thanks to the Duchess looking after the kids for the afternoon I had the rare opportunity today to get a couple of games in with Dr Hotspur.

For our first game, we playtested one of the scenarios from Hotspur's upcoming second edition of his Irregular Wars - a fun set of rules for small actions between 1519 and 1641. The scenario we tried out was the 'Reive and Retrieve' game, setting my Lowland Scots on a sheep stealing raid against Hotspur's Royal English.

Holding off the English horse on their left flank, the Scots make a grab for the livestock.

The game worked well - particularly well for me! Although my force took heavy losses I managed to drive half the English sheep off my end of the board, leaving the Scots survivors full of mutton and the English looking sheepish.

The Scots captain and another company of horse escape with their ovine plunder.

For our second game, we played Song of Blades and Heroes (great game!), setting my Vikings against Pan, a flock of satyrs and a dryad named Phoebe.

Check out the bizarre terrain!

Although Phoebe scored an early success by entangling one of my warriors and setting him up to be finished off by Pan, my hero Harald the Hard Bastard waded in and sorted her out, rapidly dispatching her with a gruesome kill. This unnerved a couple of the satyrs, who ran away, allowing me to concentrate Harald, a berserker and the rest of my warriors against Pan and a satyr with a strong stomach. Despite Olaf the Unsteady being knocked over at one point by Pan, pragmatic Norse steel soon prevailed. Of the satyrs who legged it, one returned just in time to get axed, the sight of which again appalled the survivor to the extent that he took to his little goaty heels. I must confess to feeling a certain amount of guilt about the dryad.

Thanks to Hotspur for a fun afternoon, and for designing a great set of rules in Irregular Wars.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Welsh Levies for Saga

Here's the next unit completed for my Welsh Saga warband. 12 bow-armed levies from Gripping Beast. Enjoy!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Seasons Greetings

I am currently away in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, enjoying Christmas with the Duchess' family, so nothing much is happening on the hobby front. But I would like to wish all of you who read my humble blog a very happy and safe Christmas. I have really appreciated all your interest and encouraging comments during the year. It has been a tough year in a lot of ways, and would have been tougher without the sense of community fostered by the Interwebby. In particular, my thoughts go out to the great band of wargamers and hobbyists in Christchurch, who have just endured another earthquake after an already shocking year. Stay safe - I hope you find something to celebrate with loved ones over the next few days, and may 2012 be brighter for you all.

Best wishes from the Dux.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Wargaming the Italian Wars in 1/72 Scale - Spanish Infantry

This is a project I was working on at the beginning of the year, until other things grabbed my attention.

After painting up some 1/72 Landsknechts and Renaissance Knights from Dark Dream studio (which have already appeared on the blog) I set out to find other figures that could be used for the Italian Wars of the early 16th Century. A more sensible person would look to the many beautiful 28mm or 15mm figures that are available, but I was interested in testing out my ability to convert 1/72 scale figures to fill the lack of Italian Wars stuff in that scale.

So, what did I have to work with? The best resource for making Spanish and Italian infantry and jinetes cavalry are the boxes of Conquistadores from Caesar and Revell. The Revell figures are sadly our of production, although poorly pirated copies of most of the Revell set are available from Mars.

The Caesar figures are quite nice, but there are no pikemen in the set. Lots of pikes are obviously essential for Italian Wars, so I messed around converting sword and buckler-armed Spanish into pikemen. The good news is that the plastic Caesar use is quite soft, and it is easy to carve things like bucklers away with a sharp knife.

Basically, I cut away the swords and bucklers, then twisted the arms of the figures into plausible positions for holding pikes by sticking a pin through their hands. From what I've been able to find out, there was no formalised pike drill in the 1520s, so it is easy to have the pikes in various positions, in contrast to soldiers of the 17th century. To make this easier I cut some slits at points like elbows and armpits. I then dunked the figure into boiling water, while wearing rubber gloves. The Caesar plastic goes instantly very rubbery when you do this. Then I dunked the figures into a bowl of cold water to set them in their new position.

After getting the arms into position, I used greenstuff to fill in gaps at the armpits etc, and also added some variety to the pikemen by giving some of them bases (military skirts) or slashed clothing.

I also changed some of the heads for variety, and particularly had to swap any heads wearing morion helmets. These are incorrect for the 1520s, so I replaced them with more suitable cabassets and even some sallets from a set of 15th century figures from Miniart. The pikes are broom bristles.

Now that I've based them, I'm reasonably happy with how they turned out. They were a lot of work, but it was challenging and fun trying to imagine figures in different poses - not something you can do with metal figures! I might do some more at some stage, but I do wish someone would decide to put out lots of lovely 1/72 figures for this period.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Making Spears and Pikes - the Dux Homunculorum Way

There has been a bit of discussion over on the Saga forum about how to avoid metal spears breaking and bending on our beloved miniatures. Swords can become ploughshares, but broom bristles can become spears. Here's how:

1. Buy a patio broom. Endure the strange looks you will get in the hardware shop as you gaze closely at the bristles of different brooms, checking them for scale thickness. I bought this one at a local IGA.

2. Inform all your family members that the broom you bring home is absolutely not to be used for sweeping as it is a valuable hobby resource. Rise above the satirical comments directed your way.

3. 'Harvest' the bristles as you need them.

4. Gently squeeze the end of the bristle flat, using flat pliers or suchlike.

5. Use a hobby knife to cut the flattened end into the desired shape.

That's it. You now have a massive supply of flexible plastic rods that can be easily transformed into spears, pikes, arrows, even swords etc with a little care, and they have cost you next to nothing.

Epic Game of Zombies!

Last Thursday night saw an epic game of Zombies with the Duchess, Duxette and Uncle Antonius. Great game that came down to an unseemly scramble for the helipad when the tile finally came up. It looked like the Duxette was going to win, before Antonius sent her back to the Town Square, where she sulked for the final turns. Still anybody's game, Antonius finally made it to the finish line. None of this will make any sense to you if you haven't played Zombies! , but it is a fun 'beer and pretzels' sort of game, enhanced by making zombie noises.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Saga Welsh Warband

Here is the first unit of 8 warriors for my Welsh Saga warband. All figures are from Gripping Beast.

The Danish perspective...

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Montrose Irish Brigade in 1/72 Scale

These are some experimental figures I did up some time ago to see whether it was feasible to make Montrose's Irish in 1/72 scale. The figures are mainly conversions from A Call to Arms Parliamentarian and Royalist infantry, although the well-fed ensign is a Tumbling Dice Covenanter. The Beautiful flag is from the talented chaps at the Project Auldearn blog. I'm pretty happy with how they turned out, and it is tempting to do some more work on the 1/72 ECW project. But then again, those 28mm ECW figures do look nice. Either way (or both!) ECW will hopefully be a big focus for 2012, along with more dark ages stuff and 1/72 Napoleonics for Lasalle.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

A Rant About an Awful Movie

Last night the Duchess and I curled up on the sofa with a big bowl of Eton mess to watch The Eagle, the 2011 movie version of Roseary Sutcliff's novel The Eagle of the Ninth, starring Channing Tatum and Jamie Bell.

Now, to put my reaction in context, The Eagle of the Ninth was one of the best things that ever happened to me as a young Dux. I was completely transported back to the world of the Roman Empire by the book, and by the old TV series that annoyingly has never been released on DVD. It is no exaggeration to say that it, and other books by Rosemary Sutcliff such as Frontier Wolf probably shaped my love of history, and thus the whole direction of my personal and professional life. It is a great regret of mine that I never wrote to Sutcliff before her death to tell her how much her books meant to me.

So, obviously any film was going to have to work hard to meet such powerful childhood associations. Nevertheless, I'd like to think that the Dux is a magnanimous viewer, happy to take a film on its own merits. For example, I largely liked the movie Centurion, which owed an obvious debt to Sutcliff's novels. And there were certainly things to like in The Eagle. The first half hour certainly evoked something of the isolation of a Roman frontier fort and the professionalism of the Roman army. Much of the photography was beautiful.

But here's the thing. I understand that anyone writing a screenplay needs to simplify novels to make them work as a film. Heck - Peter Jackson's The Two Towers arguably improved aspects of Tolkein's story. What I fail to understand is why anyone would wantonly stuff around with aspects of a story for no apparent reason other than to make the story more stupid and illogical. For example, in Sutcliff's novel, Marcus Aquila heads off North of Hadrian's Wall to find the eagle of his father's legion disguised as a travelling Greek eye doctor. This makes sense - it explains his foreigness in the eyes of the Picts he and his slave Esca meet, it allows him to travel widely and makes him valuable to the peoples he meets. This would hardly have been difficult to include in the film, but instead we just have Esca insisting on doing all the talking, while Marcus sits on his horse in the background looking Roman. As the Duchess asked, what on earth was Esca saying in all these encounters with random Picts? Presumably something like 'oi mate, we're looking for a Roman legion that disappeared here about 20 years ago. Have you seen it at all? No? Ok, thanks anyway. Romans? Us? No, no.' Ultimately of course we find out that Esca knew all about the site of the last stand of the Ninth Legion because his people, the Brigantes, implausibly travelled the length of Britain to take part in it. In fairness, I will point out that the overgrown battlefield they find with fragments of skeletons looked fantastic.

But enough of being fair. When they finally met the Seal People who buggered off with the Legion's Eagle, I nearly choked on my Eton Mess. What were the costume people thinking? Actually, the probably drunken meeting where they decided what they should look like is all too easy to reconstruct. 'In the book they're called the Seal People, yeah? Seals are, what, grey and that? So how about they have grey skin, you know, like seals? And because they are supposed to be dead hard, lets make them look like punks with mohawks. Actually, I saw Last of the Mohicans last week. How about we make them look like the Hurons or whatever from that, but grey, and wearing skulls on top of their heads. And camouflage jackets. Yeah, why not? Another pint? Go on then, I've only had eight.'

As bizarre as this was, the butchery the screenwriter made of the climax to the film eclipsed even whatever the Seal People did to the Ninth Legion. As Esca and Marcus escape with the Eagle, Marcus is finally unable to go on. Not to worry, Esca heads off and returns with a bunch of beardy old Roman survivors from the Ninth Legion, who fortunately have all kept their Roman shields and armour, so they can all give up their lives at last defending the Legion's Eagle and regain their lost honour. In the book, the chase reaches an altogether more satisfying and plausible climax as Marcus and Esca defend an abandoned watchtower. In the final, rushed, scene of the film, the two men, now friends, present the procurator of Britain with the Eagle, and he effectively promises Marcus that the legion will be reformed and he'll be given command of it! The conclusion to the book, which I won't give away, is infinitely superior.

Anyway, end of rant. I think I will read the book again as a form of ritual cleansing. As though having George Lucas to contend with wasn't enough.

Friday, December 2, 2011


Thank you to everyone who follows my humble blog. There are now 100 of you! Who would have thought, 20 years ago, that we would be able to share our niche hobbies with friends all around the world. I hugely enjoy seeing the inspiring work you all do. A special hello to my visitors from Slovenia, where my blog seems to be strangely popular.

In view of this momentous occasion the homunculi threw a little party (shown above), and asked me to pass on their thanks as well.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Dark Ages Fort - Finished

I've petty much finished the fort I've been working on over the past couple of weeks for use with Saga. I sprayed the board with Tamiya Dark Earth, with a light overspray of Tan to tone it down a bit. The palisade was painted with some craft acrylics in various shades of grey and brown. I had originally planned to put a stain wash over it, but decided it didn't need it.

Following the suggestion of Paul at THe Man Cave I added a suggestion of planking on the rampart, just made with strips cut from a cereal packet.

Overall I'm pretty happy with it, although at some stage I may add something to the interior of the rampart - maybe timber supports or even cover it with flock. It looks a bit bare at the moment. I'm going to build a great hall for my warlord to fit inside the fort, but might paint some more figures first. Next time I'll also do a better job of trying to stop the board warping.

I played a game of Saga with a friend last Thursday night using the fort - came up with a scenario with special rules for breaking down the gate etc. I enjoyed myself, but I think my mate missed the usual elves and pixies he tends to game with.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Viking Fort Work in Progress-Part 2

Thanks for all the nice comments about my Viking fort so far. I have been steadily chipping away, and finally finished the palisade. I followed Rodger's advice and painted the reverse side of the MDF base with water to try to improve the warping problem. Certainly seemed to help a bit, but the sodding humid Sydney weather is conspiring against me.

Next up, I've added a couple of stairways up to the rampart (that I will neaten up later) and have been working on the platform over the gate and the gates themselves. I was trying to put the gateposts into a sort of bracket so that they would open, but I think I will just leave them loose so they can be positioned open or closed. Note the primitive 'murder holes' above the gate. The doors and platform are made from paddle pop sticks, split lengthways into more realistically-sized planks and then re-assembled. This process attracted some pitying looks and satirical comments from the Duchess, I can tell you. Count youselves lucky if you have a Cave to hide in. I have the dining room table, my nerdiness on full display...

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Viking Fort Work in Progress

Playing Saga has made me want to make some Dark Ages terrain. I've never attempted terrain boards and such, but plunged in on the weekend with the start of a Viking/generic dark ages fort. The twice-poxed MDF base is already warping a little (which I thought they weren't supposed to do?), but otherwise things are proceeding nicely. I will be happy to finish whittling bits of dowel for the pallisade though. Here's how it's looking so far:

Friday, November 4, 2011

Saga Viking Warband Finished!

Just put the finishing touches to my first warband for Saga - four points worth of Vikings.

Here's the whole gang, comprising...

...the warlord with his bodyguard...

...another point of hearthguard...

...a third point of hearthguard, taking the option of turning them into berserkir (well, Ulfednar)...

...and a fourth point spent on warriors (bondi).

Have I mentioned how much I love this game?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


I have been very interested in everything I have read and heard (on Meeples and Miniatures) about Gripping Beast’s new Saga rules. I ordered a set of the rules, dice and starter warbands for the Vikings and Welsh, which arrived a few weeks back. Since then I have had a good look over the rules, played a few games and got stuck into painting up warbands.

This is a review of sorts based on my experience so far. To start with, let me say that I like this game a lot. I’ve usually not been attracted by skirmish games, although I like the look of the Song of… series from Ganesha Games. However, if any skirmish game was going to get me in it would be set in the Viking age. I have always loved reading the Norse sagas, and there is something about the larger than life figures we find in the sagas that lend themselves well to games that emphasise the actions of heroic individuals. For some reason Harald Hardrada at Stamford Bridge stirs my blood more than Tiberius Gracchus going over the wall at Carthage, for instance.

So how does Saga work? There are a few excellent reviews already on the web, but for what it’s worth here is my brief summary.
Saga pits the warband of one (or more) warlord against another. So far the game encompasses four rival ‘factions’ of the 11th century – Vikings, Anglo-Danish, Welsh and Normans. Rules for more ‘factions’ are on their way, and we can expect Scots and middle Anglo-Saxons (c. 9th century?) to be added before Christmas. When mustering a warband the game uses a simple points system. A group of 4 hearthguard, 8 warriors or 12 levies cost one point each, and the warlord is free. The game is really intended for 6-point warbands, although they recommend starting with 4 points. On the tabletop, these groups can be organized into different units, so long as no unit contains fewer than four figures or more than 12, and so long as each unit consists of only one type of figure (so a unit cannot contain warriors and levy, for example).

Work in Progress - a 4 Point Anglo-Danish Warband (well, 9th century Saxons, really...)

And a Viking Warband under construction, led by Harald the Half-Painted.

Some things I like about this system is that it is dead simple and that it only differentiates between the forces of different ‘factions’ in a few small ways in order to draw out different ‘national’ characteristics. For example, Anglo-Danish hearthguard are equivalent to their Viking counterparts in all respects except that one unit of Vikings can be berserkers, and Anglo-Danes can be armed with Danish axes. Welsh hearthguard have slightly less armour protection but carry javelins, and so on.

The mechanics of movement and combat are very straightforward. All foot figures can move a set distance unless they are mounted (in which case they move further) or unless they touch rough terrain or an obstacle (in which case they move less!) Melee and shooting is resolved by a simple system of rolling a number of dice (D6s) depending on the type of figures engaged and scoring hits when the number rolled is equal to or greater than the enemy’s armour (eg 5 for hearthguard, 4 for warriors). Your opponent then has a saving throw for each hit with 5-6 cancelling a hit scored in melee, 4-6 cancelling a hit by a missile.
Sounds pretty dull so far, doesn’t it? The real meat of the game are the Battle Boards. At the start of each turn the player rolls a set of special Saga dice (see below) and chooses how to allocate them to their Board to be able to activate their units or to activate special combat modifiers or other abilities. Clearly a lot of playtesting and thought has gone into devising abilities on the Battle Boards that try to capture some of the essential differences between, say, Viking and Welsh warfare. For example, the ‘Saga Abilities’ on the Welsh Battle Board emphasise rapid movement and use of rough terrain, whereas the Viking Saga abilities encourage aggressive closing to melee as rapidly as possible. As just one example of a specific ability, the Welsh Board includes a ‘Taunting’ ability. This allows the Welsh player to target an enemy unit (in the enemy’s turn) and force it to charge a Welsh unit of the Welsh player’s choice. Clever game play can use an ability like this to draw an enemy unit out of a strong position and force it to fight on disadvantageous terrain.

Trying out Saga at Southern Battle Gamers last Friday.

The Battle Boards create a highly interactive game that reminds me at times of a game like Magic The Gathering. Having dice on Saga Abilities on your Battle Board is a bit like holding Instants in your hand in a game of Magic. You can play them during your opponent’s turn to upset their strategy. The other very interactive aspect is how the game handles fatigue. Although units can be activated as many times as the Saga Dice allow in a turn, this comes at the cost of accruing fatigue. In a nice game mechanic, the fatigue of a unit can be ‘spent’ by their opponent to decrease their effectiveness in combat, or the player can try to increase an enemy unit’s fatigue in order to exhaust it, thus in many cases providing opportunities to use specific Saga abilities.

Anyway, this might give you a bit of a feel for the game. I love it, and one of the things I love about it is that it will prove very successful in getting people into historical wargaming. In the club I run at school it has gained an instant following, and there are currently about 8 boys (and a couple of other teachers!) busily painting up their warbands. The small number of figures involved make this an accessible game to get into, and particularly when boys come from a background of playing games like Magic or that unaccountably popular game with hammer in the title, the mechanics are easy to pick up. I really must thank Ian from War and Peace Games for his support for the school club, and for his enthusiasm in seeing kids get involved in the hobby. Buy stuff from him - he's a brilliant bloke.

The rulebook also contains some extra bits and pieces – some good scenarios and rules for named heroes as warlords for example. The game is also supported by a good forum, where we can expect to see new scenarios and faction rules developed enthusiastically in the weeks and months to come. A PDF of the Saga Dice symbols is also available for free on the forum, so don't be put off by the cost of the dice - make your own. To be honest, I played a game last Friday just using D6s instead of Saga dice, and there was no problem. See the dice as attractive and adding flavour to the game, but they aren't necessary.

Suffice it to say that I am hooked, and busy painting. This is a really clever little game that is, most importantly, damn good fun.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

MOAB 2011

On Saturday I got to spend the day at MOAB, the annual wargames convention put on by the Southern Battle Gamers in Sylvania, Sydney. Despite my long standing hobby interests this was the first time I've ever been to a convention, and I had a blast. I picked up a Langton Danish frigate, a box of Gripping Beast Vikings and some bases, but the highlight was definitely the DBA competition. I played 5 games and won 2, which I was very pleased with, having never taken part in a competition before. A big thank you is due to Stephen Webb for organising the event and supplying terrain etc. I'm only sorry I couldn't hang around for the Sunday DBA campaign set in 1067. Most importantly, the homunculi were quite pleased with me, as I failed to have them massacred in my customary style. The dice blessing obviously did the trick.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Hac alea vincam!

In preparation for the DBA competition at MOAB on Saturday the homunculi held their Dice Blessing Ceremony today. They are usually very secretive about this event, but I was fortunate to be able to capture it on film. A simple, but very moving ceremony.

Monday, September 26, 2011

First thoughts on Kiss Me, Hardy

Having painted up four Langton ships, and with more on the way, I've been wanting to find a set of rules I like for Napoleonic naval warfare. Last night I had a go of Kiss Me, Hardy (KMH) from Too Fat Lardies, just having a solo game to see how the mechanics worked. So here are some initial thoughts.

The set up at the start of the game. Note the incredible terrain.

The Rules
KMH is the first game by Too Fat Lardies that I have played. It is available from their website as a 49-page PDF download for 7 quid. The rules are generally easy to follow and clearly written, and include templates for the turning circles used by ships during the game. The basic mechanics of the game is explained well by the Last Hussar here, so I won't repeat his comments. Instead, this is how I found the game after playing a few turns.

The Game

I played a simple encounter between the French Hortense (40) and Scipion (74) against the British Phoebe (36) and Orion (74). Before playing I filled out a record sheet for each ship, recording such factors as the number of points of damage the ship can take (which is the same as its number of guns). It is also necessary to roll for each ship to determine the quality of the crew. This then gives the ships different abilities depending on whether it is British or French (KMH divides all navies of the Napoleonic wars into three groups - Jolly Jack Tars, Sans Culottes or Landlubbers). So for example, I rolled well for the Orion, giving it an elite crew. As a British ship the Orion is naturally crewed by Jolly Jack Tars, and as they were an elite crew they were able to fire double shotted at close range, were fervently determined (making them less likely to strike) and so on. In contrast, I rolled badly for the French Hortense (crewed by Sans Culottes), with the result that its crew were poor gunners and sailors, and also more likely to strike. This is a simple system that allows ships to have very distinct abilities in the game, and an optional rule allows a commander to 'buy' additional abilities.

After determining the characteristics of each ship, I set up the French and British squadrons on opposite corners of the table and diced for wind direction. The game started with the British having the wind on their quarter, able to crack on like smoke and oakum, while the French would have to beat up against the wind, which was on their bow.

The turn sequence is card driven, meaning that there is a deck of cards for different stages of the turn (British player fires, French player moves etc) as well as for events like changing wind direction, checking for fires, fighting boarding actions and so on. Card driven mechanics are central to Too Fat Lardies games as they introduce a degree of uncertainty and inability to meticulously plan all the stages of action. Richard Clarke, the main Lardie, gives an excellent explanation for his thoughts about game mechanics in episode 58 of the Meeples and Miniatures Podcast.If you don't already subscribe to this, by the way it's great and free. I get Meeples and Miniatures through iTunes, and there is nothing so nerdy as painting figures while listening to a podcast about painting figures. Anyway, Richard Clarke is very keen on building the Clausewitzian notion of friction into his games, which can loosely be defined as all the factors that mean that war never goes to plan. Personally I'm very drawn to this notion, and like unpredictability in games, but it isn't everyone's cup of tea.

So, in my game, the British move card came up first, and the Phoebe and Orion went straight for the French. I decided in this game just to get the ships into action as fast as possible and see what happened. When the French card came up, the Scipion and Hortense tacked to get the wind on their opposite bows. Tacking is accompanied by a simple die roll to check its success, depending on the quality of the sailors. In this case, the Hortense made a perfect tack, meaning that it could continue its full move after tacking. The Scipion made a successful tack, but wasn't capable of any further movement.

In Turn 2, the British move card came up first again, so the ships continued to close with each other.

Turn 3: The Phoebe prepares to open fire on Hortense.

Turn 3 - it all happens. The British again moved first. The Phoebe (armed solely with carronades) moved alongside the French frigate Hortense at close range, using the frigate turning circle template to turn alongside. The slower Orion was still bringing up the rear. Unfortunately, the French move card then came up, so the Hortense moved ahead and turned, ending up on the Phoebe's front starboard quarter, while the Scipion moved alongside the Phoebe.

Phoebe opens fire, but with Scipion as its unintended target.

The next card allowed the British to fire, so Phoebe let fly at the much heavier Scipion. Combat in KMH is simple, fast and fun. Basically, a number of dice are thrown depending on the number of guns, and dice are added or subtracted depending on a various factors. So, as a 36 gun frigate the Phoebe would roll 4 dice, another die was added because the crew were Jolly Jack Tars firing at short range, and another because this was the initial broadside. This was then doubled as the Phoebe was firing carronades at short range, to a total of 12 dice. As this was short range, I needed 3 or more on each dice to hit. 7 Hits! At the same time as rolling the dice, I also rolled a D10 for special damage. I needed to roll less than or equal to the number of hits (ie 7) to inflict additional special damage, but rolled a 9. So, 7 boxes were marked off the damage boxes on the Scipion's record sheet, and it also lost one gunnery die as the Phoebe was firing at its hull (1D6 is removed from the gunnery dice for each 5 hits).

Phoebe suffers full broadsides from both French ships.

This probably gives you some idea of the sequence of play. In brief, when the French fire card came up the Phoebe was hit with punishing broadsides from Scipion and Hortense, including special damage resulting in a fire and high officer casualties. The Phoebe's damage points were reduced below 50%, requiring he to make a strike test, which she failed. At the end of Turn 3 Phoebe therefore struck as a more powerful enemy ship was within close range. A devastating turn for Phoebe, which is pretty much what one would expect if a frigate received a full broadside at close range from a 74 and a heavier frigate.

What I like about these rules

They are simple, fun and cheap! (Compare the price with the much more lavishly produced Warhammer: Trafalgar).
Personally, I like the card driven mechanics, especially since the use of cards allow a great deal of flexibility in adding special cards for different scenarios.
Although I didn't play them, the rules include pretty much everything one would want from a Napoleonic game, with rules for boarding actions, slipping anchors, running aground etc.
The national characteristics give different players very different tactical challenges. For example, the French propensity for firing at rigging is represented by giving the French a bonus if they do so at extreme range, whereas it is in the British interest to close to short range as quickly as possible.
The combat system is simple, and does away with having to compute multiple modifiers by simply adding or subtracting dice.

What I didn't like
It is a shame the rule book does not include a single page Quick Reference Sheet. I found myself flicking backwards and forwards a lot. However, there is a good QRS on the Too Fat Lardies Yahoo Groups site.
Filling out all the record sheets before a large game would take a considerable amount of time, although again there are various files on the Yahoo Group, eg giving record sheets for all the ships at Trafalgar.
Some aspects of the rules could be much clearer with just a little further explanation. I found myself confused about some issues, particularly:

1. Do bow and stern chasers have a firing arc, or only fire straight ahead? This also needs to be resolved for gunboats and galleys, and gunboats are not addressed in the rules at all.
2. What bonuses or penalties do bow chasers suffer? For example, crews classed as Landlubbers reduce 1D6 from their broadside dice. However, frigates only roll one die for chasers, so does this mean that Landlubbers can't use them?
3. The rules do not clarify whether a ship can change direction during its move, eg turning several points to larboard, going straight, then moving to starboard. Also, it is unclear whether a ship can tack at any point in its move, or only at the start. I asked both these questions on the Lardie Yahoo Group, and Richard Clarke sent a rapid response saying yes to both instances, so the support for the game is very good.

Would I play this again?

Definitely. I think rules lawyers and overly competitive types would baulk at some of the grey areas and unpredictability in the rules, but I think they offer a fun, simple and realistic-feeling system that would probably work equally well for anything from frigate actions to Trafalgar. I do think that some rules clarifications are probably necessary before a game in order to avoid misunderstandings. I'm impressed, and look forward to playing it against someone who isn't me. I would also look seriously at other Lardie games on the basis of this. So, an enthusiastic huzzah from the Dux.