EXERT 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

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Airfix Battles Again

On Thursday Ron & I, armed with a more complete idea of the rules after some correspondence,  had another go at Airfix battles. There were numerous small things that we had gotten wrong but the big one was that we hadn't realised that in addition to playing interrupts, players alternated playing action cards. This gave the game a much more interactive feel. We had also discovered the Valour token which allows a player to reroll a die or set of dice at the cost of passing the token to the enemy. Its a small thing and rerolls can fail as badly as an original roll but somehow failing once is bad luck, failing twice is fate or the powers that be laughing at you. In any event it was fun and it did had a dramatic effect at a key moment as we shall see.

Contact! The opposing forces are now free to manoeuvre off road. To refresh our memories cards are laid by the unit that carried them out until the clean up phase. 
Ron was a busy man during the intervening week and he redeployed the US and German infantry from 2 man stands to washers. Amazingly 10 of the chunky Plastic Soldier Company figures will fit in a Hexon hex. Just. The table was still set for Sawmill Village so we diced for sides and Ron got the Americans.  The premise is a clash between advance guards and both sides must move down the road at full speed until the enemy is spotted. At that point the objective becomes controlling the village crossroad. Given the layout of the twisty road on Ron's board and the rules, The Americans (or whichever player is on that side) are a shoo in to get to the town first but the other player's main body has a shorter cross country march once the enemy is engaged so it is still well balanced.

We used slightly larger forces this time, in fact all the forces from the first two scenarios. This gave us each 1 captain with a unit of veterans, 4 infantry units with a Leiutenant, and 2 (German) or 3 (American) tanks incuding a Lieutenant. We each had a hand capacity of 7 cards and a draw capability of 5 cards. It paid to try and save up to a full hand and try to hang on to 2 at the end of each turn to maintain maximum flexibility. Of course, sometimes there was a moment of desperation or an opening too good to miss and a few extra interrupts would deplete one's hand requiring a pause to recover your full potential or else a risky full press if the time or situation did not allow time to catch your breath.

The town is ours! or wait was that something moving in the house across the street? 
 As anticipated Ron siezed the town with tanks and infantry so I began organizing an all arms attack on one end of the town, expecting him to stay under cover and bring up reinforcements. Wrong. Luckily my lead infantry survived an assault by one of his shermans and was even able to recover some of my losses thanks to one of the cards. I left his tank to my pair who had been moving forward in support and it may be seen burning smokily above. My infantry had an assault card allowing them to move through the town to open fire on his infantry which they managed to pin encouraging me to assault. At the end of a bloody to and fro I occupied the building (note 1 lone guy peeking around the corner in the photo above to remind me that his friends are inside) while the remnant of Ron's unit retreated across the street to cover and I ended up with the Valour chit.

2 Panzers vs 1 Sherman. This isn't supposed to go well for him.
(Oops this is the essentially the same shot from a slightly different angle, I thought I'd uploaded one of Ron's photos, oh well)
Things were looking up. I just had to move up my supporting infantry, manoeuvre into position to take out his wounded command Sherman and then, frig, another Sherman, OK I'll take him out first. or not. Why am I suddenly rolling so many 1's and 2's? I'll use the Valour chit, Oh boy 1 hit! Considering the combined 10 misses including the reroll, I'll take it. OK new hand, new plan, I'll let the little guy live for now and put everything on the command tank who is down to 1 hit.  OK I don't have the movement to get line of sight to him from both tanks but, now what, oh he had one of those cards too, now he's up to 2 hits, Still I've got a Tiger and it can inflict.....1 hit...sigh. Luckily, if he runs I have an intercept that will let me shoot. Ha! Another Ronsen!  Ok this looks good. My squad in town is down to 5 men but I've got cover and he's only rolling 5 dice for 5's and 6's and is unlikely to roll 5 hits. Ok. Well I'm not likely to fail 5 saves....Seriously? Well at least I didn't have to take a morale check.  OK  more units moving up, but is there time?
OK he's still here and my command tank is a bit rattled but that's my infantry about to dive into cover behind his flank and he's lucky its the end of the game. 
I love those infantry triple move cards. Now its 5 units vs 2. The Sherman had been using my command tank for target practice so given its track record, I decided it was worth more generating new cards than it was engaging in a shooting match. I moved up the Tiger. Then all of a sudden, there we were, last card. The infantry rush hadn't quite reached the house and  the panzerfausts hadn't even caused a morale check on the Sherman. In retrospect I should have used a basic command to move into the street and assault the 5 remaining men but I fired instead. 5 hits! No saves! The town is mine. Jubilation!  Then I remembered  that Ron had the Valour token. Honour obliged..... 
HA! Got them all. The town is MIN...what? Audie Murphy? in the house with a brave private? Still alive?! NOOOOOOOOOO!
( Photo by Ron)

So yes, he saved 2 guys then rolled boxcars on his morale!  So a happy and exhausted draw after 3 hours of thinking and rolling and pushing troops around, not to mention checking notes and discussing how the rules were suppose to be played, especially given the hexes. It took us another hour to debrief, reminisce and discuss future possibilities.  I'm not sure how long the actual playing time was, probably less than 2 hours, but the time flew by without us noticing.  I'll definitely be ordering the rules and cards when they are available over here.

7 comments:

  1. "I'll definitely be ordering the rules and cards" me too despite my well known antipathy to grids/squares/hexes... could they be converted to free play/non-grid movement, do you think??

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    1. Steve, according to the website and various interviews the rules were developed without the grid and the full rules will include the non gridded conversion. The grid was added to make it easier to introduce nonwargamers.

      I can't see it being much more difficult than multiplying ranges etc by a fixed distance and working out partially blocked lines of sight.

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    2. Steve-the-Wargamer,

      Ross is spot on regarding the next, expanded edition of the rules, which should be out within the next three months. The separate packs of Force and Command Cards should be available to buy at the same time.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  2. Ross Mac,

    A very interesting battle report, especially as you seem to be further down the road than I am with regard to using these rules.

    As a solo player, I find that some of the Command Cards a bit difficult to use (which may more to do with my reading/understanding of the rules) ... but that is a minor problem.

    All the best,

    Bob

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    Replies
    1. Bob, I haven't tried it yet and may be wrong but I anticipate that playing the rules solo would be less interesting and less enjoyable. As with most card driven games I find the mental game between the players to be an important factor, the whole business of what to use vs what to save or discard, analyzing his moves to see what it suggests about his plans and hand and so forth.
      Some of the cards do make drastic changes to what a unit may normally do.

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    2. Ross Mac,

      It plays better solo than MEMOIR '44! I like the way the Command Cards work, and they are primarily designed for face-to-face battles rather than for solo wargames, hence my slight problems with them.

      I do like the combat system, which harks back to the sort of rules I used back in the late 60s and early 70s.

      All the best,

      Bob

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    3. A split personality would help but I will try their solo rules one day.

      The combat system has a pleasing old school feel, simple but effective. The use of 1 unit quality score for all purposes was a great idea, very easy to remember in battle so speeds things up.

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