All posts by Mark

Mars Incorporated – New Short Story – Free until Saturday

My new short story Mars Incorporated is out now and will be free on Amazon until Saturday!!

Mars Incorporated by Mark Lord

 

Earth’s colonization of the red planet, Mars, was supposed to be the crowning glory of human civilization. Instead the small colony on Mars is in trouble. After the death of one of the colonists CJ Douglas, hero of the Moon and founder of Lunar Alpha Base is sent to investigate.

Mars incorporated is a 4,000-word science fiction short story.

Available as an eBook from:

Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk – and other Amazon stores!

The Castle of the Counts of Saint-Pol – a little background for Stonehearted

For a Heart Made of Stone CoverIn the fourth volume of Stonehearted, For a Heart Made of Stone,  the action shifts to the chateau of Saint-Pol. The Count of Saint-Pol is one of the villains of the story and is holding a tournament, which provides the backdrop for the action.

When I looked into Saint-Pol, I found that it was difficult to get much detail about the castle (it’s now just a ruin) but eventually I came across some good websites that gave me enough to form an impression of the place – and gave me some ideas that contributed to the narrative.

An article on the Flags of the World website about Saint-Pol is perhaps the best historical description of the town and castle. If you read you will see that the castle is divided into an old and new castle – and its the old castle bailey that I use in For a Heart Made of Stone to locate the tournament put on by the Count. The new castle is the location for much of the action. In particular the Wiki Pas-de-Calais site describes the layout in detail (in French – but you can translate using Google!). In particular notice the large round tower used as dungeons – they play a prominent part in the book! Below you can see a great plan of the castle and also an artist’s impression of the new castle. Only a few ruins remain now.

Remains of the Castle of Saint-Pol

 

Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint-Pol-sur-Ternoise

A l’occasion des Médiévales, le château de Saint-Pol-sur-Ternoise

http://www.wikipasdecalais.fr/index.php?title=Parc_du_ch%C3%A2teau_des_Comtes_de_Saint-Pol

https://www.crwflags.com/fotw/flags/fr-62-sp.html

Solo Wargaming: Battle Report Hundred Years War using Middle Earth Strategy Battle Games rules

This is a battle report of a small Hundred Years War skirmish I played with the Middle Earth Strategy Battle Games rules. I also tried out one of the simplest of solo wargaming techniques to add a bit of AI to the game.

Solo Wargaming method: Random Deployment

In Donald Featherstone’s Solo Wargaming book he recommends a number of different techniques to create a more interesting challenge for the solo wargaming. I’m going to call this a solo wargaming AI method as shorthand in this and other articles (until I come up with something better!)

One of the simplest methods he recommends is to randomise deployment of each force. You roll a d6 for each unit and that determines where they deploy. The battlefield is split into 5 sections:

  1. Right flank
  2. Right Centre
  3. Centre
  4. Left Centre
  5. Left Flank

Each has a number (1-5). If you roll a 6 then that unit is in reserve. The theory with this method is that a lot of the tactics employed by an army will be determined by it’s deployment. For instance if a lot of units are on a flank or flanks then an envelopment will be a good strategy.

I tried this out with the game I played – and will describe how that worked below.

Middle Earth Strategy Battle Games for Historical Medieval games

I used the fan made Age of Trebuchet rules supplement to enable me to play an historical game using the Middle Earth SBG rules. I know the rules well and I think they are great for skirmish level games – nice and simple but with a lot of tactical decisions to make. I found the Age of Trebuchet supplement easy to use and it gave some flavour of a medieval battle.

Battle Report: Hundred Years War skirmish

I didn’t give the game any historical or fictional background. The forces were roughly equal, but I didn’t work out points. The aim was to use the figures I had available. So from the pictures you may notice that many of them are Wars of the Roses or Feudal era – I wasn’t so worried about that. And as it was a quick game to test out some rules and a solo wargame AI method I wasn’t too fussed about terrain – a simple green baize cloth, some trees, bushes and paper buildings sufficed. You will also notice that this is an oval kitchen table – 5 foot by 3 – but some of the flanks are minimal, but it works for a skirmish level game at 28mm.

Forces:

English

  • Sir Gilbert – hero on foot
  • 8 men-at-arms
  • 8 longbowmen
  • 4 billmen

French

  • Sir Guillaume – hero on horse
  • 3 mounted men-at-arms
  • 4 foot men-at-arms
  • 10 crossbowmen
  • 7 heavy infantry – mixed weapons

Deployment – how did the method work?

Random deployment worked out in an interesting and lopsided way in this skirmish game – there were only 4 units on one side and 3 on the other. The English men-at-arms deployed as a reserve and the other two units were widely spaced as you can see below.

In contrast the French deployed mostly on one flank – with the crossbows in the middle. As hoped this lead to influencing the subsequent strategy quite a bit. Without this random deployment I would have probably deployed most of the forces in the centre and the flanks might well have been ignored.

The French started off by sending their men-at-arms around the flank to see off the longbowmen. There was an exchange of fire – with one longbowman dying. The small unit of English billmen started their march towards the hamlet. The French infantry marched behind the crossbows towards the small wood behind the hamlet.

The French men-at-arms started getting closer to the longbows – who used their half move each turn to retreat and then fire. They only got one of the French cavalry though. The English men-at-arms could now enter the battle as there had been an exchange of fire.

Here you can see the English moving through the hamlet.

Moments before contact. The French men-at-arms are about to charge the longbows. The French infantry are on the other side of the wood from the English.

Sir Gilbert and his men-at-arms decide that the protection of the bushes and hedges might be a good idea when faced with sustained crossbow fire and the French knights!

After a couple of rounds of combat the longbows were seen off by the French knights. Sir Gilbert and some of his men went to attack the French foot men-at-arms and the others went to support the billmen who had engaged the French infantry in the woods. The loss of most of the longbows and some of the billmen meant that the English were now broken (needing to make courage tests as over half had died). Unfortunately Sir Gilbert and many of his men decided to flee the field, leaving only four brave men of St George left to face the massed French. At this point I decided the battle was over! Here’s the ending positions – even the crossbows decided to up sticks and move to get a better position to fire from.

Conclusion

I thought that the Middle Earth rules worked well for a medieval skirmish game – probably with some more miniatures on the field it could have been a better game perhaps. I also felt that I had let down the longbowmen by leaving them exposed to the French knights – they should have found the cover of the hedges next to the hamlet.

Random deployment worked well as a simple method of creating solo wargame AI – I would definitely use it again. It would be interesting to use it for a game with more units.

I will try to look at a different solo wargame AI methods next time!

How to play Solo Wargames

There is no better time to think about how to wargame solo. Unfortunately due to the Covid 19 crisis many people who used to meet up to game – whether RPGs, boardgames or wargames – can no longer do so. There’s a few different alternatives, such as playing computer/console games instead, or trying out various online solutions – for instance Tabletop Simulator, Roll20, Zoom etc. But just because those options are there doesn’t make them easy to use or a replacement for getting a physical game out. In particular tabletop wargaming with miniatures is much harder to do remotely.

So I expect a lot of wargamers are instead having a think about how to play solo. I actually do this anyway, as under normal circumstances I only venture out to a wargames club once a month anyway. I really enjoy playing solo. It’s a great way to try out new rules for instance, but is also great if you want to run your own scenarios and campaigns without constraint from the whims and desires of others. Solo wargaming is ideally suited to creating your own imaginations and narrative games. So far that’s not something I have done a lot of, but I think now would be a great place to start. I am hoping to post some ideas and experiences here on a regular basis – partly battle reports of trying out different rules, but also some tips and advice on how to run a solo game. For instance how do you make things “fair” – and is that important at all or not.

Some subjects to cover will be:

  • Different “rules” for solo
  • Reviews of books/articles on solo wargaming
  • Games designed for solo play
  • Benefits of solo wargaming
  • Battle reports of solo games
  • How to stay motivated (avoiding distractions!)
  • And plenty more …

I usually play one solo game a week – usually early Sunday morning on the dining room table before it is in use by the family. Last Sunday I played Rangers of Shadow Deep for the first time and had a lot of fun with it. Once I have played it a bit more I will post an article about it. This weekend I would like to try a Medieval skirmish using the Middle Earth Strategy Battle Games rules. There are some fan versions available that convert it for use for Medieval games, so I am going to try those out. Hopefully I will post some pictures and a battle report here next week.

New Fantasy Fiction Novella: Holiday with the Orcs

I have published a new novella in eBook format. It’s available over at Amazon. It’s a tongue-in-cheek fantasy adventure and collects together all the Holidays in Orkrania posts that I put up previously. It’s been edited and the title was changed to make it a bit more comprehensible! Have fun reading it.

Prince Hardlee has arranged a holiday in the Orkranian highlands. The mountains are supposed to be lovely at this time of year. But there is the added attraction of his favourite actress, half-elven Maegana Vulpon, who is vacationing at the temple of eternal youth in Nstaad. But the King, Hardlee’s father, does not approve of the relationship choices of his only son and heir, forcing the Prince to travel in disguise. There are also traitors about—an uncle who with eyes on the throne has learnt of the Prince’s destination and dispatched a band of cutthroats. Other dangers lurk in the Orkranian highlands. Orc raiders covet the wealth of the village of Nstaad. The Dwarf miners who work there have uncovered deposits of gold, and the Orc chief Grim Bearit wants that gold. Can a mixed band of princely retainers, halfling inn-keepers, dwarven miners, elven priests and actors resist the Orc raid?

For lovers of old-style fantasy and Oldhammer everywhere.

Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.com

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (WFRP) 4e Character Sheet Template for RPGGeek

This is a pretty niche post – so apologies to the rest of the world – but if the two Venn diagrams of WFRP and RPGGeek align for you then this might be of interest!

I’ve played a number of games on RPGGeek – basically its a way of playing tabletop RPGs but by posting on a forum – great if you don’t have the regular time to commit to a face to face session or an online Roll20/Fantasy Grounds/Skype session etc. I’ve had a lot of fun with it and have started GMing a few games as well.

The last one I did was for WFRP 1e, but I realised that not having a character sheet online for everyone made it a lot more difficult to manage – it involved me having to dig out the PDFs people had sent me and then asking them to update them etc. So now I’m running a game for WFRP 4e I decided it was essential to have the character sheets online – and that meant creating a template! That was hard work as formatting stuff for a forum post is not the easiest thing to do, but I had a look at other templates and managed it in the end.

So it’s done – it’s not perfect. But it can be accessed here: WFRP 4e Character Template for RPGGeek

To see some in action check out these real life ones from my current campaign: Starter Set Character sheets

English Civil War and Thirty Years War in 6mm Project – Prologue

A Bit of History

In the late 80s, as a teenager, I was heavily into Warhammer but also started reading Wargames Illustrated and Miniature Wargames and decided it might be cool to play some historical wargames. I settled on the idea of 6mm as being a cheap way to build a big enough army to play with. I collected some WW2 tanks and infantry – which I did finish painting and played a few games with using the old Firefly rules. But I also bought quite a few Heroics & Ros ECW and Irregular Miniatures TYW figures as well. I started painting and basing these, but never really finished enough to have a proper game. At the time the only ruleset I had was the WRG Renaissance one, which required casualty removal of single figures. Needless to way working out a way of doing that with 6mm drove me to distraction and I never really carried it through.

Now thirty years later, I’m back into Wargames again, and looking again at all those historical figures I had. I kept hold of the 6mm stuff and realised that with new rulesets the problem of casualty removal was no longer going to be there. Also a lot of rules nowadays seem a lot less complicated than the old WRG ones. Perhaps I could try this again – refight Naseby (which I did a school project), other ECW battles and the Thirty Years War?!

So I’m back at the start of the process now, thinking about how this project is going to pan out. I thought it would be cool to have a kind of project diary on this blog. I’ll be covering some areas thematically about what I have decided to do, such as which figures I’m going to use (there are some gaps to fill in my old collection), rules, basing, battles to play etc. I’d also like to play a campaign as well.

Or, and did I say, this is intended to be a solo wargames project – I have friends into gaming, but more on the Age of Sigmar and RPG end, so this is my own obsession for the most part!

What I will Cover in the Project

These are the areas that I intend to write about first just to get me up and running again gaming in this area. I think it’s likely I will blog on the following (in no particular order):

  • Basing
  • Figures
  • Rules
  • Armies
  • Scenery
  • First battles to play

For a Heart Made of Stone – now available for Pre-Order

If you have read the three previous volumes of Stonehearted you are sure to want to pick up the concluding part! And it’s only 99c or 99p!

For a Heart Made of Stone Cover“Rich characters and an engaging story”

When the cut from the blade runs deep – You need a heart of Stone

The quest across France comes to a thrilling end for both Richard Stone and Eolande d’Aubray. Will Eolande find her father? Will Richard and his companion Wulf find the resolution they seek? And what Marie, the secret heiress of St. Pol? What scheme is she plotting? All will be revealed in this final concluding volume of Stonehearted.

Set in 1370 during the Hundred Years War with France, For a Heart Made of Stone is the fourth and final volume of the Stonehearted serialised novel.
Readers who like action and adventure in the Middle Ages will enjoy this book.

You can Pre-Order as an eBook at the following sites:

Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk – also available at other Amazon sites

Smashwords | iBooks | Barnes & Noble

Rothgogen’s Tower – Blanca Rothgogen and Franke Kauffman

This post adds some more background depth to my post about the NPC Victor von Ferlangen, and his interest in Rothgogen’s Tower.

Blanca Rothgogen

Blanca Rothgogen is a demonologist and previous owner of the tower. Rothgogen’s Tower.  

Blanca was born over a hundred years ago. She was a wealthy heiress who murdered all of the suitors her father selected for, and eventually killed him, so inheriting a fortune. As she kept trying to run away from her family, she was imprisoned in a tower on a remote family estate. Suitors visited her there. But none ever returned. The father lost contact with the estate – no one came back so visited himself. Blanca had discovered a small warpstone jewel and the tower’s library contained tomes on how to use it. The servants and guards had been mutated by her and turned to her will. Her father was appalled, but did not have time to do anything about it. 

A few weeks later, Blanca made her last trip down from the Howling Hills, visiting Delberz to claim her father’s fortune. With his wealth safely secured, she and her strange adherents retreated to the Tower.  

Rothgogen is a merchant family with the main house in Delberz. It was sold by Blanca as were all of the family’s assets.  

The story got around to avoid the Tower and Blanca Rothgogen in general. Suitors lost interest, but it is said that some bounty hunters and witch hunters ventured into the hills to investigate. None ever returned.  

Blanca continued her studies uninterrupted. She had her freedom at last, but did not know what to do with it. She was perhaps insane—abuse from her father and the proximity to Warpstone had driven her to seek revenge over mankind—men in particular being anathema to her. One of her first acts was to kill all the male servants. She made it seem like an accident—a Beastman and Mutant Gang were invited by her to the estate and did the deed, sparing the women. She recruited them to be her new guards secretly. They and their descendants prowl the hills nearby and intercept any who come near the Tower. Blanca promised the women who remained a sanctuary from men, and when required sent trusted agents to recruit new servants from villages and towns – tempting away women who were downtrodden and abused by their menfolk. In return her favoured agents became initiated into her chaos cults. Those who followed her, treated her almost like a demi-god. All her servants were treated fairly under her rule, and were free from the abuses of men. Those who missed male company were allowed to take men prisoner for a short term to satisfy their lusts in Slaanesh-inspired orgies, or to take pleasure from each other. Blanca had no such yearnings herself, but tolerated those who did.  

But things could not last. Blanca was getting older, and even her pacts with demons could not sustain her. In her dying wish she passed rulership of the Tower and her secrets to a young apprentice, Franke Kauffman. Franke had arrived ten years ago, fleeing an unhappy marriage to a noble from Ostland (Victor von Ferlangen).  Franke knew what she wanted to do—she didn’t want to wait around in the Tower for ever. She had business to attend to in the outside world—a score to settle with her husband.  

Franke fell in love with the handsome Victor when she first met him, but his pleasant and dashing personality was all an illusion to win a pretty bride, and her fat dowry from her merchant father. Through further tricks, Victor conned her family out of all their wealth in order to sustain his own extravagant and curiously expensive lifestyle. This drove Franke’s father to drink and early grave. When she took issue with Victor, he verbally abused her and told her to be quiet. Eventually she had enough and fled. Her only regret being that she could not take her sons with her.  

Franke knew that Victor dabbled in magic and decided to use that as a way of tempting him to the Tower. He didn’t care anymore about getting her back, but when he received her letter he was interested. However, Franke did not reckon with her husband’s powers. He came and soon defeated her in a magical duel, leaving her suspended between death and life (her body is sustained only by a powerful warpstone force—Victor thinks she is dead). Victor left the area when he realised a chaos creature was in the tower –doubting even his own powers, which had been sapped by the duel. Instead, he decided to send a company of mercenaries back to the Tower to salvage what they could—hopefully avoiding the creature. However, if they can defeat it that would be even better as it means he could take ownership of the place.

Victor von Ferlangen – a Wizardly NPC for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay

I have been working on an NPC for a homebrew WFRP adventure. He is a major patron for a party – especially if that party has a wizard’s apprentice or scholar in need of a tutor. I will provide some more details about the adventure on this site soon!

Background

Victor von Ferlangen originates from Ostland, a scion of a baronial family with holdings near the town of Ferlangen in Ostland. 

Victor is young for a Wizard. He learnt quickly from a powerful master when only a young teenager. He had an uncle, Berat von Ferlangen, who was an Illusionist of great power. This uncle took him under his wing after seeing Victor’s natural aptitude. Victor is grateful for what his uncle did for him and feels the same desire to take on his own pupils. 

Yet, his uncle also tried to teach him to use his gifts wisely and to hide his powers – that’s why his uncle chose to be an illusionist.  Victor resented this restriction as a boy – why should he not use his powers? To become rich for example? His family is poor by noble standards – their estate being inadequate to support them. 

He argued with his uncle and went his own way. His uncle retired – some think he is dead – but he’d had enough of his precocious student. He’s hidden away in the Middle Mountains. His older sister, Magritta, inherited the family’s holdings, but control of it went to her husband, Hermann von Blödhofen—an arrogant knight. Victor hated him and used magical powers to do away with him—his sister has never spoken of it but she knows that he did it for her. As a widow she runs the estate and looks after Victor’s sons. 

Victor’s wife, Franke Kauffmann—a fellow student (and Noble) he met in Altdorf—died of a chaos plague – her death lead Victor to have an interest in the forces of chaos and how they might be harnessed. He wishes he could have saved her–perhaps he can bring her back even? Does she still live in some afterlife? These mysteries interest him and he’s obsessed with finding out the workings of magic and the gods. So much so, that he’s willing to use any means to get to that knowledge and holds others’ lives in low regard. After all chaos will take us all eventually, so what does it matter? But some people (his close family for instance) are more important than that—they can transcend the forces of chaos. He knows that magic is a powerful thing and believes that the chosen can resist chaos—maybe even bend it to their will. 

But to do this he needs to get out of the mainstream of Empire life – somewhere like Rothgogen’s Tower could be an ideal place. He knows that it holds a repository of books and also, he hopes, magical items. It might be just a tad dangerous though, so if someone else can clear it out and do the dirty work, that would be ideal. If there are any scholars amongst the PCs he encounters, then he would consider taking them as pupils, if they seem pliable enough, and talented enough. His hunger for knowledge is so insatiable, he will take whatever scraps he can, however small.  

Personality 

Young and handsome, and appearing like a rich Imperial noble, at first glance Victor might appear to be a spoilt, vain young man. But there is a deeply serious side to him. He cultivates a flippant personality on purpose so that he’s not taken too seriously or perceived as a danger—his sister’s husband just thought he was a vain idiot, and look what happened to him!  

In reality he is very sharp-witted and focused on what he wants, and it excites him to come up with intricate plots to lure others in and to get his way.   

For WFRP 1st edition, Victor is a Level 3 Wizard and Level 4 Illusionist. I will add stats and spells at a later date – probably as a download, and also work out his stats for 4th edition as well!