EXCERPT FROM APPENDIX 1 from Don Featherstone's Battles With Model Soldiers
(The book that got me started.)

"Nothing in these pages is a dictate, no word says you must or you shall do it this way. On the contrary, the book sets out from the very beginning to stimulate the reader to think for himself, and to use what he has read merely as a foundation for efforts and ideas which reflect his own temperament and character. Only in this way will he obtain maximum satisfaction from the hobby of battling with model soldiers."

-Don Featherstone 1918 - 2013

Thursday, January 30, 2014

A Hasty Attack (with tanks)

Winter has been dragging on, as it does, and to dispel the looming threat of cabin fever I decided a quick, minimal preparation game was in order, preferably something using at least something from my Christmas present.  The Green infantry aren't quite ready so the Naryatrians were up again with a shiny new T34 and a new Pershing. Since they won the last two games, they are pressing the attack and the Roscians are dug in on the defence.

Last year I built a portable, gridded, game board so I could play downstairson occasion. Due to various things including uncertainty about the sort of games I wanted to play and the size of grid, leading to a lack of portable terrain, I haven't used it much this winter but I'm hoping to fix that. The previous "modern" (aka 1950's/60's)  games have been played on the upstairs table partly to  gain maneuvering room, partly for optics esp range vs model size. This was leading me towards 8 infantry or 2 vehicle/gun platoons. With my decision to refocus and keep the sideshows small, I decided to try downsizing the 1950s onto the small grid using 4 man or single vehicle platoons. It'll mean a surplus of unpainted 1/72nd plastic figures for now at least but they are cheap, they keep well and  don't take up much room.

The armies deploy. 
I wanted to play, not work on figures or terrain and certainly not muck about with rules so I made a few quick decisions in my head and improvised as I went. The cards worked well enough last time but not well enough to warrant planning on taking them downstairs and finding room for decks and hands. Instead I grouped up to 3 platoons into companies and rolled 1d6 per turn to see how many companies could be activated. I basically used the movement and combat  from Memoir but counting diagonals as 2 for shooting with movement being orthogonal only.

The Roscians were dug in with 2 pillboxes and 2 trench lines (aka old 15mm horse and musket redoubts) in lieu of not yet constructed foxholes. They had 3 platoons of militia (3 figs), 6 of regulars, 2 mortars plus an HMG platoon and a recoilless rifle manning the pillboxes.  There was a platoon of Centurions off table  which could be activated on a roll of 5,6.  The Naryatrians had 3 platoons of elite Lion Brigade Commandos (5 figs), 6 of regular infantry, a mortar,  a truck mounted rocket launcher, 2 mechanicals and 2 off table tank platoons in reserve, 1 of 2 T34s, 1 with a single Pershing.

The tanks arrive as the Roscian right flank collapses.
The game rolled alone at a good pace with a good mix of player decision and random frustration for command control and the usual no guarantee combat results so with a bit of tension and excitement.

The end of the prolonged tank battle. Black 'smoke' marks each hit. Destroyed tanks are flipped over until they get in the way. 
To sum up, it was a fun game taking a little over an hour to play a very simple situation. It left me wanting to play more but also wanting to fix a few things since I'm not really playing Memoir any more. I liked the way the company activation worked and I have an ample supply of officers and radio men now. I've never liked the short range and the 'diminishing with range' effect of the artillery. I suspect it has to do with the flex-scale of the original game but artillery that only has twice the range of a rifle platoon and has to get with rifle range to be effective but against which entrenchments are of no value, just doesn't feel right to me. I also don't like the ability of long range infantry  fire to chip away at tanks and the possibility of moving up and close assaulting someone with no defensive fire.  The ranges look a little short when the tanks engage, but keeping ranges down helps make the board feel larger so I'll think about that one. All easily fixed but I think I'll start with looking at my Russian Civil War rules and see if I can make them compatible to ease the strain on my brain.

 Over all, I think this has good possibilities for a quick evening's game in the wreck room but I will need to rethink the Lital front.  The lower number of figures is good but I need to work on a back story that will let me play over green but open fields. Too many tall trees on a small, portable board are a nuisance, especially when the ones on the edge look tasty and fun to chew (to the dogs not me).  Terrain that is easy to store and  transport is what's needed so production needs to resume on matching roads,streams and hills plus buildings and woods etc. The question still needs to be resolved though, do I work with the 3" grid and flocked terrain.meaning the figures for the portable game should be flocked to match, or should I see if I can make a board big enough to work if using 9cm squares, painted to match the table upstairs for maximum flexibility of terrain pieces and figures.
The situation at the point where the Roscians were forced to retreat. A narrow victory for the attackers, only a few more actual hits vs retreats would have stopped them.


  1. Ross Mac,

    It sounds like a fun little action ... but I agree with you that the artillery rules don't sound quite right and that infantry should only be able to deal with armour at short range unless they are specifically armed with AT weapons.

    I think that you have managed to achieve quite a lot with what is a relatively small table top (a 36" x 30"/12 x 10 grid I understand) and that there will be many people who will envy your ability to fight wargames in such a small space. Not everyone has a 6' x 4' table available all the time ... but then bemoans the fact rather than doing what you have done.

    More power to your elbow!

    All the best,


    1. Thanks Bob, when I reflect on it, of the last 35 years there have been barely 10 when I had access to a full size table at home. The permanent 6x10 I had for a few years certainly gave me options and a different feel but while there were some great games on it, looking back over the years, the big games were not necessarily more fun than the small ones though perhaps the time and effort involved usually makes it easier to remember that they happened.

  2. And here's me thinking my 6ftx4ft table a bit on the small side... :-) But there again, I have a roughly 3ft square of 5-ply in the shed that looks adaptable to this sort of action. Which, by the way, looks pretty similar to the sort of thing that might have occurred on the border between Orotina and the Pan-Andean People's Republic.

    Looking at this action specifically, reminds me of a comment of Clausewitz, to the effect that occasionally the cost of a victory is such as to compel a retreat. One feels that though forced out of their lines, the Roscians might well have set a term upon the Naryatrian run of successes.

    1. Its odd to me that my 5x4 is now my Big board when a few years ago the 9x5 was too small.

      I think you may be right about the losses. This has been 2 very costly victories in a row and they are getting farther from home and support with each one.

  3. I liked this, it has a nice AK republic feel to it. I would underscore BobC's comments. Either that or assume that everything on a table this small is in range of everything else, provided that the weapon is effective (eg, infantry AT weapons are effective vs tanks but infantry small arms vs tanks are not). I'm glad you clarified that it was the dogs that found the trees tasty. My game room has no door, but fortunately our cats are too lazy to jump up on the table and trash things.

    1. Thanks Mike. AK47 is what dragged me into post wwii. After a bit of musing I've decided my first priority is to figure out what scale/level I'm working at.

      As for the trees, I had a friend at work who chewed plastic pens regularly, luckily he wasn't a wargamer, I'm not sure the palm trees would have been safe.

    2. It might have been a titch longer but it was a fast paced game, simple situation and small table. Set up was extra time.

  4. Hi Ross,
    Looks like fun. A game in an hour. I can never do that, I dither too much. The schizophrenia I suppose. No it isn't. Yes it is!
    My cats used to eat the flock off my Woodland Scenics trees if they were left out. I still miss them, gone 8 years now.
    Looking forward to your next Memoir tweak/variant/revision.