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

Friday, May 20, 2016

Winging it

When I heard that Airfix had released a boxed wargame my reaction was along the lines of "That's nice but nothing to do with me". Its not that I never play WWII. Airfix tanks and infantry featured in some of the first games I played with Featherstone's Battle With Model Soldiers back in '71. Since then I have painted and played WWII in 6mm, 10mm, 1/72nd and 54mm with various rules, commercial and home made. These days though, when I play WWII, I play with my friend Ron's toys. For the last few years we've enjoyed some games with modified Memoir but we have both felt a periodic the urge to add a bit more flavour.


Along came Bob with a review of Airfix Battles and some play tests  on Wargaming Miscellany  and I started thinking that Ron might enjoy this and so might I. So I dropped him a note and we did some searching for other comments, reviews and battle reports and found a very useful video on the Modiphius Airfix Battles page .  We decided to see if we could parse out enough of the rules to play a game to see if we liked the vibe.

Getting under way. Note infantry units tacked onto hexes with 2 small dice to mark the current strength. Note also the cheat sheet with copies of unit cards to show stats. We used little markers to show pinned etc on the table. You can also see Ron's home made fudged cards for the test. They were good but real ones with a rule book to explain them will be better! 
Now, the game was by default going to be "our" kind of game, so, Hexon terrain, existing figures and a  Grant scenario. We went with nice simple Sawmill Village and used dice to mark hits on infantry units. Industrious Ron made rule notes from the web, grabbed some basic unit card images and, having made notes on as many cards as possible, fudged a deck of cards.

It goes without saying that the result was not an accurate play test of the rules as published. We didn't know what the proper mix of cards was, were missing details on many of the rules and had to adapt things like 90 degree turns onto a hex grid. Still, it worked.
My attempt to get in a devastating first strike against Ron's Mk IV soon ended with a brewed up Sherman and a nervous Ross. I decided to leave Ron's metal monsters alone for now and unleash my tank on his isolated infantry, hoping to do some crippling damage and cause delay and distraction before rejoining my main force. I don't care what the game is, its a wild gamble to trust your fate to cards or activation dice........

Luckily we are used to winging things using a "feels right/wrong" compass and the resulting game was good. It required us to think and plan to get the best of resources and to use our forces to their best advantage while minding what the enemy was capable of. There were also enough twists of fortune to get the adrenaline pumping and moment of momentary despair or triumph.

 It certainly didn't take long for me to discover that breaking basic tactical principles in favour of a risky gamble was, well, risky! Mind you my "Stuart born again" tank commander almost survived his ride around the enemy. It certainly cost the Germans a leader and enough infantry that by the time they pressed forward to try to take the village from it, it was too late. Saved by the clock!


End of Game. Ron's surviving infantry has pulled itself together and his tanks are shelling my infantry out of the town despite the periodic support of my last, battered Sherman. Another 2 or 3 turns and.... but wait! ... time's up! Darkness  falls, reinforcements arrive or something and the Yanks still hold the crossroads.  


So will I buy? Yes. At this point I don't have spare cash to waste on maps and counters that I'll never use but as soon as the rules and card decks are available individually I do intend to buy. I suspect that Ron will have the boxed intro set as soon as its available over here.

Will I start building my own WWII armies again? Nope. Post war Roscia and Lilliput are close enough for me and I'm quite happy to do my own unit and vehicle stats for those solo games while continuing  to play with Ron's WWII toys.    



9 comments:

  1. Interesting, do you think the system would adapt to 54mm?

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    1. Brian,

      I think that you would have no problems using the rules with 54mm figures/vehicles, just as long as you make the areas large enough to fit the kit into. The 'maps' that come with AIRFIX BATTLES each have a 7 x 5 grid of 8.5cm/3.25" squares. As 54mm is approximately 2.5 times the size of the 20mm figures/vehicles the rules were designed for, I would suggest that 22cm/8.5" squares will certainly be large enough. (I suspect that you could probably get away with 20cm/8" squares - or even slightly smaller - without too much trouble.)

      All the best,

      Bob

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    2. Brian, we came very close to breaking out Ron's 54mm Western Desert stuff. I think a 5" grid would do but the game can also be played without a grid, just convert the distances to inches (or whatever you like). There will be an official off grid variant but shouldn't be hard to work one out. Great for out side!

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  2. Ross Mac,

    You and Ron seem to have managed to recreate most of the main features of the rules, and I must admit that in comparison with MEMOIR '44, AIRFIX BATTLES is better for lower-level battles.

    I have been thinking about how I could 'convert' the rules to use them with hexes, and I would be interested to read more about whether or not the pair of you found it difficult to adapt them.

    Hopefully you will be able to get hold of a copy of the rules as they contain a breakdown of the Command Cards as well as some simple reference charts.

    I look forward to seeing you use your version of the rules in future battles.

    All the best,

    Bob

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    1. Thanks Bob. As with most conversions to/from hexes it is not a precise translation but rather close enough. All measurement though the sides. Intervening terrain blocking entirely or providibg cover if only partially blocking.

      The biggest issue was 90 degree turns. We settled on my suggestion of 1 hex penalty to turn 1 hexside, 2 hex penalty to make 2 turns however after that game I think a 1 hex penalty to turn up to 2 hex sides would be better.

      Hopefully we will play again next week.

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    2. Ross Mac,

      1 hex penalty for turning 2 hex sides and a 2 hex penalty for turning 3 hex sides was what I was thinking of doing as I felt that penalising tanks to make a minor turn was rather excessive.

      All the best,

      Bob

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    3. Ron was in favor of that since he didn't like having his tanks slowed down. However in the original unless a tank goes straight ahead it is slowed since there is no diagonal move. Based on experience and gun ranges, a tank only very rarely needs to make a sharp about face and would be able to manouver very freely with free 60 degree turns.

      As an example a tank could speed through the crossroad in the town without slowing down if 1 hexface turns were free but would have to suffer a penalty going though any crossroad under the original system.

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  3. Hi Ross,
    It looks really good with Ron's kit and terrain. You said you played it as an alternative to Memoir '44 for some more detail. How would you compare it for solitaire suitability? How long did it take to play?
    Thanks,
    John

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    1. To my mind it is better for solitaire as there is not the same issue of buioding up a hand to match your deployment. I understand the rules include a section on solo play including an action/reaction chart for the nonplayer side.
      I'm not sure how much time the actual playing took since there was so much discussion and I'm not sure when we started. A small game like we played could be quite quick and I hope that we'll be able to handle bigger ones within our usual 3+ hours.

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