Tuesday, December 31, 2013

NQSYW: Anything to declare?

As the convoy approached the bridge that marked the exit from Wentworth Pass and safety, nerves tightened. If the rebels were going to try to stop them, it was now or never. It was now!

To escape the hail of bullets the Hussars  spurred forward leaving the Pandours to deploy and clear the rocks overlooking the road. There was no escape however and the Hussars were met by a charge of the Orleans Light Horse, oldest of the Rosmark cavalry regiments and now apparently part of the Rebel army.
At first the Hussars held their own but soon the weight of numbers told and those not cut down were taken prisoner.

The remaining  Royal troops, now reinforced by the Queen's Regiment and the 2nd squadron of Hussars, pushed to cover the vital convoy from all angles as the old King's Regiment appeared rushing to block the road ahead and an unidentified body of light troops emerged from cover behind the convoy.

Amidst the smoke and confusion the Hussars, pushing their way to the front, suddenly found themselves mere yards from a company of grey coated infantry and drawing sabers, were upon them before they could fire. The infantry recoiled in disorder but the Hussars could not allow themselves the luxury of finishing them off. They rallied back. Behind them, the Pandours having already suffered heavy casualties from Rebel sharpshooters, had been hit by the Orleans cavalry and despite their Colonel taking his pipe out his mouth long enough to personally lay low an enemy trooper, had collapsed and run.

As the Hussars rallied back, the 2nd company of the Queen's pushed forward to cover the front while the 1st company spread out as far as possible to cover the flank and rear. Through the smoke ahead them the ghostly shapes of infantry appeared. It was the 2nd company of the King's rushing to fill the gap. After a short sharp melee, both side fell back  and prepared to resume the fight in a more disciplined fashion.

Although their ranks were much thinned, the Orlean's Regiment gathered it and once again spurred forward crashing into the Queen's men around the carriages. With horses blown and men tired they could make no headway but they had forced the infantry to fall back and rally while they rallied themselves.

To give the Queen's regiment time to rally, the Hussars pushed to the front once again. Passing through the enemy skirmishers before these had time to fire they galloped against the old King's men. Now rallied, these delivered  a shattering close range volley and the Hussars were held. Behind them the sharpshooters closed in on those hated Red Pants from front and rear.At point blank range their fire was deadly and soon the Queen's Regiment joined the flow to the rear.

Surrounded by enemies and abandoned by friends, the Colonel of the Hussars signaled for a parley. While the rebel citizen sharpshooters tended to the enemy dead and wounded the so far unidentified light infantry in their dashing fur caps pushed forward to take possession of the carriage and caissons earning them selves the nickname of Customs Inspectors. With a heavy blow struck against the Royal army and with fresh supplies of gold and munitions the Rebellion is well placed to establish itself.

Full fledged Civil War looms!

Happy New to all!  Here's to toy soldiers  and bloodless battles a plenty in 2014.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Reconciliation and Rebellion

The last time we visited Rosmark, the Dowager Queen had accepted an invitation to rule the break away Maritime Region and her troops had fought  a desperate delaying action at Wentworth Pass.

This action had given Rebel forces time to gather and prepare to meet the King's army. Bloody battles were expected but the King was always reluctant to weaken the kingdom by shedding Rossish blood in civil war. At a secret meeting the two rulers were conciliated and an end declared to the rebellion. For a few months peace settled on Rosmark again but the Queen had not begun the rebellion nor did her secret accord with King Michael settle the burghers' grievances.

The Pandours en route to the troubled area.

Soon a new leader had arisen and again the burgers took up arms and were soon joined by elements of the old Royal army in their white coats. A relief column was quickly gathered and dispatched with money and munitions for garrisons in the rebellious district. The Yellow Hussars, Pandours and Queen's regiments were tasked with ensuring its safe arrival.

Uh oh. Well they knew as soon as the were moved on to the table that this was coming.
First volley, 9 dice, 5 sixes. Might be a long day for the Royal forces.

Friday, December 27, 2013


Oops wrong blog but I'll leave the picture.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A Yuletide Greeting

Wishing a warm, safe and merry Yultide to all.

Thursday, December 19, 2013


That's the sound of me striking while the iron was hot.

After several pleasant hours perusing on line hobby shops, manufacturers sites, PSR with stops at Wikipedia (there are limits to how far I'll go to research imaginary countries) to check who, what and where on various tanks and weapons and on various available models, crossing referencing it all with "the plan" I came to a very odd decision (for me): Stay the Course!

At this point I remembered that 3 years ago I had been thinking about a Post WWII Western Allies vs USSR confrontation as well as fictional 3rd world countries and that all of my existing models (as opposed to actual toys) are of that 1945 - 1965 era. One of my first two Airfix sets was the WWII Russians (the other was ACW Rebs) and while browsing I was surprised to see that these have finally been re-released but I decided to save that treat for later. Stay the course!

So, before branching out into new, exotic equipment and uniforms, I decided to fill out any exiting gaps and at the same time make some rough decisions on unit/game organization/period going forward. Some more experimentation has confirmed my feeling that a  5" grid is the optimum size for my main table.  Hexes are tempting but for ancients and horse&musket squares just seem better and hills are easier to make. I can always throw a hexmat over the top if the squares don't work. I will be able to fit 2 tanks or artillery pieces and 4 infantry stands into each hex or square so I will need to reorganize my existing armies and build with that in mind. In the short term, it is of course possible to play with 1 gun/tank and 2 stands of infantry, the battlefield will just look a little more empty which is not wrong.

This is actually a 6" test grid from 3 years ago but you get the idea. Extra points for anyone who recognizes the make of the grenade tosser closest to the camera. He has a set mate on the next stand as well.

Going back to the tanks on hand, I found the 2 large & very toy looking dollar store T62's which may be safely ignored except as the stop gap measure that they were bought to be, 2.5 Airfix Centurions (how in heck does a tank locked in a box lose its turret??? Must be in the cupboard somewhere otherwise I may have the start of a bridgelayer), and 3 MRC/Easy Model plastic pre-paints; 1 Pershing, 1 T34/85  1 M4A3E8 'Easy 8' 76mm Sherman.

Now as far as I can recall, the tank that came with my Mini-Marx playsets was based on the Pershing so it had to be "in", being completely authentic for both this period and my past. The T34 & Sherman both saw extensive service post WWII, in Korea and with many minor powers, so they made sense as well. So I ordered 1 more of each of these from Michigan Toy Soldiers to give myself units of 2 tanks of the same type and make. Ooops! Over my original budget already and I'm not done yet!

On to infantry. I actually have more of the figures I used for the Roscians upstairs but they are still unpainted because while there were good figures in every set, I wasn't completely happy with any of the sets for various reasons, too big, too modern, something about some poses etc etc and anyway, with 4x3 man stands per infantry unit, I'll have to more than double the infantry in both armies. I decided to have another go at ordering the apparently tiny CTA re-release  of the Herald Khaki infantry. Since I had had some of the Lilliput version and some of the Giant knock offs as well as the very similar larger Crescent figures, they are again absolutely accurate for recreating my past. (and should allow me to let the 1950's 54mm's go thus making life easier.

A box of Hat British mortars was added with an eye to doubling the number of models on table as well as to provide some heavier, more HQ like, radios and last, but not least, a box of the new Airfix WWII British, partly because they match some of the existing Roscian infantry, partly to reward Airfix for releasing a new set but mostly because I liked the look despite the negative review on PSR.

OK time to put the moderns away for a week or two. Next up, time give for my 40mm semi-flat NQSYW guys to CHARGE! before the year ends.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Boats: Denoument

The last stand of Lion Commando's close assaults the Centurion with bazookas.

Late this morning I managed to sneak away to my games room to squueze in anther couple of turns. The Naryatrians drew a so-so hand, shuffled a few units and took a medium range pot shot with a mortar at the battered remnants of the Mechanized Infantry of the Newpore Lancers who were supporting the Centurion of the West Hantz Horse.  2 dice, 2 hits and another unit gone. 

I drew the Finest Hour card and decided to chance it. I rolled my 4 dice and was able to activate an infantry unit, 2 artillery units and a unit of my choice. I moved an infantry unit forward into command range of the right hand commander so I could use the right sector cards that were filling my hand and then opened fire with the Centurion on the mortar scoring 1 hit and finishing it off. A mortar and the recoilless rifle opened on a damaged Naryatrian infantry unit that had snuck back into the central village. With bonus dice from the card, and no terrain penalties for artillery fire, I had a total of 6 dice with a 50% chance of hitting on each one. I got 1 hit. sighhh

The Naryatrians then launched 2 damaged infantry platoons against the Centurion. The Lions rolled first, 3 dice with a 1/3rd chance of hitting, 2 hits. Game over. 

What? Wait a minute! I want a recount or a rematch or or ...rats!  That was it for Day Two, 3 cards, 10 minutes and the game was over. I lost! Again! Arrghhh!

So what did I do during family time last night? Sit on the couch piled with hounds while I searched the net for T55 and M47 models and browsed Plastic Soldier Review and Hotz mats sites. Oh yeah! 

Overview of the bridgehead at the end of the game.

This is the 3rd solo Roscian game that I've played. The first was with Bob Cordery's Mobat rules, the second was with basic Memoir when I was fairly new to it. Both of those games were enjoyable but each case the armies went away for 6 to 18 months and no work was done on them in between actions. This game had the best feel yet as a solo game and I can see it becoming a regular feature and have an urge to resume work on the armies.

The combination of the movement and ranges vs table size vs scenario layout felt good but I find it hard sometimes to remember that a tank model is a unit, not a model and some of the terrain and models didn't fit well on the 3" hexes. The look of the thing can be improved then.

I had two diverging thoughts on this, the first and less likely was that a Hotz mat with 5" hexes would give me 9 x 13 hexes thus resembling the original board (which may not be a co-incidence). This would allow me to fit 1/72nd compatible terrain into the hex grid more easily and would let me fit 4 infantry stands, 2 guns with crew or 2 tanks into a hex thus  looking more like "units".  I could then go back to the original movement and ranges with a similar effect vs the size of the terrain features and the scenario map. For example on my 3" hexes with doubled hexes a tank can move 18" and fire 18". On a 5" grid and original measurements it would be able to move 15" and shoot 15". Close enough.

The second and more obvious came when the only M47's I could find were 1/87 Roco minitanks which are small enough that 2 would fit in an existing hex but of course to get a consistent look I would want to ditch my 1/72 vehicles and comb the internet looking for bargains on mini-tanks. It was a short leap to thinking about N/10mm/12mm and 15mm figures and armour which would fit even better. If I were starting from scratch I would probably go there but I like my 1/72nd, don't want to start over and I want to maximize the multi-purpose nature of my terrain items so 1/72 is here to stay. Maybe a 5" hex map is in the future or maybe I'll adapt the game to the 4" square grid I'm going to use with the Square Brigadier, or just keep plugging as is.

In any event, I'm at a stage where I want to re-assess the organization  and equipment of my fictional Mid-20thC armies to suit the games I'll be playing. For example my Roscians are organized into 3 stand companies but I'll be using them as 2 stand units + a casualty marker and it'll help to be able to ID stands which are removed.  I also need to make command stands more easily distinguished from combat units. And I need more troops, the Roscians had trouble scraping up enough infantry and the Naryatrian guns were manned by infantry. A good excuse to finally buy some of the Call To Arms re-releases of the old Lilliput version of the Herald Khaki Infantry amongst other things. 

Oh and I need more casualty markers and black smoke for the tanks!

That leaves 3 questions:

A. Why are figures and models for the Cold War era including the Korean, Viet Nam, Indo-Pakistan and other wars so rare in 1/72nd scale???

B. Why are MRC's pre-built T55's $5 more than their JS3's and T34/85's?  

C. Given that I don't like (to be kind) building/painting plastic models, am I really so cheap that I'll buy old Airfix  JS3 tank kits rather than coughing up 2x the money for pre-assembled ones or 3x the money for T55's?  (The only T55 kits I've found are about the same price as pre-assembled ones. Hmmm Downgrading all the way to T34/85 or JS2 quick build kits is another effective cost and labour saving option.

This re-arming defence acquisition plan may well be decided by budget constraints rather than by the army's wish list!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

River Crossing Pt 2

Having laid out the terrain and selected troops, I turned my mind to improvised boats and the scenario rules for  crossing the river and bringing on reinforcements, neither of which were written with a Memoir style card activated system in mind. It was while I was playing about with bits of wood for boats that I looked at the size of my slightly over sized $store T62's and thought "This is a problem!". There was no way my mind was going to be happy floating a tank, that didn't quite fit into a hex, across a river on a little wooden barge. 

So, I took a closer look at the scenario crossing rules. The scenario calls for enough boats to carry 3 units at a time, 1/2 reach the water on turn 1, the other 1/2 have to be carried at 1/2 infantry speed without specifying distance or infantry speed. Once at the water it takes 1/2 a turn to load or unload and a turn to cross. or in other words turn 1 load and move to mid-stream, turn 2 land and debark, turn 3 boats return and the sequence starts all over. There is an added complication of current but essentially every 3 turns, 3 units can cross, or an average of 1 per turn over the length of the game. 

I  hadn't made any boats yet but I already had a pair of small pontoon bridges in the drawer and the decking was just wide enough to hold a pickup truck or a T34/85. I did a quick equipment swap and decided that the engineers would build the bridges overnight, ready for crossing when the game started. Each bridge would be allowed to hold 1 unit at a time. A unit entering the bridge would stop in the middle and on its next move would stop when it stepped off the bridge. Assuming a player had 6 orders available each turn he could, theoretically move 2 units across per turn and expand the bridgehead fast enough to make room for them but, in practice, an average of 4 orders/on the move allowances would be high so he'd be luckily to sustain an average of 1 unit per turn. 

The Lion Brigade commandos (Red Berets) establish a bridgehead in the face of mounting opposition.

Reinforcements are also tricky, the book suggests having the GM roll 2 dice for cavalry and 4 for infantry and artillery with the total indicating the turn of arrival. Assuming an OSW 20 turn game this means the faster troops will arrive at some point and the others probably will but might be too late.  Ron and I have been allowing players to bring on reinforcements using the "on the move" option only. I decided to supplement this by rolling a die with the unit symbol indicating what kind of unit arrived, if any. This actually upped the odds of infantry arriving early but perhaps they are debussing from trucks on the edge of the board? The game isn't over but the method has worked well despite the Roscian commander's alarming knack of rolling flags and crossed sabers for reinforcements. 

One last note, I decided to restrict the NPC to drawing 3 cards each turn to form a hand, 4 cards seemed to always allow a good  card while 3 reduced that to just usually. Since the player side was being played normally out of a 4 card hand it seemed to balance out giving me as player a challenge, several times not having a useful card while the enemy was never without something. Just enough of a challenge to keep my interested piqued.

On to the game. 


The Naryatrian Commander had honour of first card. As he drew his first hand, up popped a Bombardment card allowing each battery to fire twice. The perfect way to start an attack!  It was particularly  useful for the Big Guns  who each managed to register a target on the first shot, increasing the effect of the 2nd shot. Ouch! On the next turn the Naryatrian infantry began to surge across the bridges while the Roscian defenders began to move forward to contain the bridgehead. After some fierce fighting the support of the attacking artillery was key  and the defenders were driven well back allowing  the attackers to establish a bridgehead and start bringing up armour and artillery support to sustain and expand it.

Pershing vs T34/85, a pairing that usually didn't go so well for the T34 in Korea. The T34 has just scooted back to safety.

The Roscians were well spread out and handicapped by having only 2 commanders on board making it hard to make use of some of the better cards in my hand. Reinforcements were slow to arrive and the initial attempts to stem the flow over the bridges were driven back with heavy losses. Initially most units were forced to retreat rather than being destroyed and the HMG units gave an especially good account of themselves in return. None the less, as the attackers kept up the pressure, units began to disintegrate. After about 15 turns the bridgehead was secure, the attackers had almost  secured the farm on the defender's right and with a breakpoint of 9 losses, the defenders had lost 6 while only inflicting 2. Things were looking bleak for Roscia.  

At last though, reinforcements began to trickle in, including the overall Commander and the Naryatrians variously had pushed units beyond their command control ranges or ran low on good cards. (Using those Tactical cards to push ahead does have its downside when they don't include Commanders!) A combined tank/infantry counter attack backed by mortar and recoiless rifle fire began to have an effect but the T34 unit seemed to be adept at shooting and scooting and twice escaped destruction by retreating onto and even over the bridge! (ie the Pershing rolled a lot of flags when shooting at the T34, it didn't help that early on I kept forgetting that the gun symbol was the equivalent of a grenade and was supposed to hit anything.) The 2nd counter attack had stalled.

Air support! The RRAF drives the invaders out of the farm!

Suddenly,  out of the blue came a roar of engines and a smattering of dice hit the farm which the Naryatrians had occupied. Casualties were light but the soldiers panicked a bit and evacuated the buildings. (More flags!)  A pity that the attackers had spread out and were no longer bunched up in the bridgehead!  

Reinforcements continued to pour onto the table though and at last even the trundling Centurion  showed up. As another combined arms counter attack rolled forward and the leading edge of the Naryatrian attack was wiped out or forced back, the Naryatrians seemed uncertain and their efforts dwindled to some long range, cross river fire from the technicals and artillery on their right. (The cards ALWAYS even out if the game goes on long enough, or almost always anyway.)  A sudden barrage from some off table 155 mm guns (barrage card) suddenly settled the tank duel but the counter attack continued, one shot from the Centurion settling the T34.

At 22 turns in, with the score now 7 to 6, still narrowly in the Naryatrian's favour, my time was up! I'll probably finish tomorrow morning unless I can sneak back up to my room for 1/2 hour or so after supper. Victory hangs in the balance!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Boat Over the River Plaztik

Naryatrian   reserves lurk behind a hedge.

If you had asked me which part of my collection would be the first to see action on the  revised table, the Roscian/Naryatrian mid-20thC forces would probably have been my last guess. However, its been over a month now since I cut the table and 6 weeks since my last game upstairs and I have been itching to do something beyond a quick card table game. Today, finally, with a snow and freezing rain outside, I had both energy and free time to at least get set up. A test of the 40's on the smaller table was the obvious choice but I and they aren't ready so I decided to go for something that hasn't been out yet this year. After a quick review I was surprised to see that there were only 2 real candidates:  Not Quite the 7 Yrs War and Roscia.

There have been all these Memoir posts recently and I have been meaning to have another go at playing the game solo so Roscia it was.  Ok so Memoir doesn't actually cover the 1960's but close enough, there's a lot of obsolete equipment in play in Roscia and Naryatria anyway.

The next question was of course, "What Scenario?". Ding! I had had a request! So, John, this one's for you! Assault River Crossing from CS Grant's Scenarios for Wargames.

In July last year the Roscians were bested in a small border skirmish and fell back  to defensive positions along the Plaztik River. The Naryatrians with characteristic vigor pursued after a brief 18 month party.

The main on table Roscian force, 4 platoons of infantry (inc a 2" mortar, 2 GPMG 1 bazooka), a mortar, a recoiless rifle (artillery) and a Pershing tank platoon. A platoon of mechanized infantry from the Newpore Lancers holds a farm at the far end of the board.

The Naryatrians have 16 platoons of infantry, 2 of Elite Lion Brigade commandos,  a mortar, a mechanize rocket battery (artillery) and 2 batteries of Big Guns (very BIG), 2 mechanicals and 2 heavy tanks. They are still waiting for boats and for barges capable of ferrying a tank. Hopefully these will be delivered in the next day or so and the game can begin.

The field of battle is a Hotz mat which has been lightly mottled with green spray paint and roads made of traction sand. The river is a piece cut out of a blue recycling bag with flocking sprinkled over the edges - I must be getting fancy in middle age. The figures are various 1/72nd plastics, some from current releases but with a few Giant and Airfix figures dating back to the 60's so right in period. Vehicles include a few model kits but are mostly toys from the dollar store.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Tanks for the Memoirs (updated 17 Dec)

Tank fire updated 9 Jan 
There has been some interest on the modifications Ron Porter and I have been experimenting with for Memoir44 so I thought I would summarize them here so others could try them or adapt them for their own games.  All of these are fairly new with only a handful of tests games and some have been quite changed since first introduced. Most can be used indepentantly of each other and in all cases where not specified usual rules apply.

None of these rule changes are official and I will only list the changes and not go into detail on the rules themselves which may be downloaded from the official site.  http://www.daysofwonder.com/memoir44/en/

The first reason we started to fiddle was that we were playing CS Grant & S Asquith scenarios and teasers on a 5'x6' table but using the Memoir 44 rules, cards and dice. There is always some accommodation to be made when adapting the scenarios or teasers to one's one table and rules but two things caused us especial problems: the zones and the short movement and ranges compared to the terrain we were playing on. Once we started resolving those issues, the box was open as it were and we proceeded to scratch the issue of having a difference between some of the various bits of equipment that we could field. Here are the current house modifications we use.
  1. Hills.  Because Ron has a good collection of Hexon tiles, he can build nice rolling terrain and reproduce the scenario maps reasonably closely.  The first problem was that the rules are designed around single level, single hex hills. After various experiments that had as much to do with "the look of the thing" as anything else, we have adopted the following:
    1. Hills. Hills have 2 components: hilltop hexes and slope hexes. 
      • Hill top hexes are considered flat and a unit may see along any number of hill top hexes of the same elevation. 
      • Slope hexes are considered uneven. When looking along a slope one can see into but not through another hex slope of the same elevation. 
      • Elevation levels. Slopes and hilltops are numbered for convenience with the lowest level being 1, the next 2 etc. (ground level being 0) . Some hexon slope hexes are double height, if so they count the same as other slopes that end at the same higher level. 
      • Deadground. When tracing line of sight between hexes, intervening hexes that are lower than the highest of the 2 hexes are ignored but hexes that are as high as the highest of the hexes will block line of sight. In other words a unit must be on the edge of a hill to see or be seen, if it is more than 1 hex back from the edge then it is in dead ground and cannot see or be seen except by another unit on the same level. In case of doubt, common sense, a degree of familiarity with real life ground, a straight edge and a sporting attitude should be used to make a decision on LOS.  
      • Example. Its hard to make out in the picture up top but look at the stand with the red label next to the destroyed tank and at the ruined building. The building is at ground level, then there is a level 1 slope then the stand is on a level 2 hilltop, the knocked out tank is on a level 3 slope, then there is an extensive level 4 plateau. Because LOS is center to center, the stand could not see the other knocked out tank as the LOS would cross a level 4 hex first. It would be able to see the other tagged stand and could see across the gully to the stands on the slopes and edge of the far hill.
  2. Distance. When playing various Teasers and other scenarios it was soon obvious that most were designed for somewhat longer ranges and movement compared to the size of the table than what we found ourselves with. The reverse was true of the rules which were designed for smaller terrain features and fewer hexes.

    The movement issue could mostly be bypassed by playing more turns although the introduction of "on the move" cards helped but the ranges remained an issue. When an artillery battery doesn't have the range to shoot all the way across a small village, something feels wrong and some of the scenarios became impractical.

    Our solution was to double all movement and all ranges. So far the game has felt more dramatic, terrain has resumed the sort of tactical role that we have been used to over the years, artillery can again cover large chunks of the playing board and generally  the game feels even better than before. (Note this is not recommended for playing on tables that reproduce the game board.)
  3. Command and Sectors. The original game scenarios are all designed to conform to the rules structure of 3 sectors, Left, Center and Right. The Teasers we play often have multiple entry points, sometimes on more than 1 board edge or with sides approaching from the same or adjacent edges, or there is an objective such as a bridge that funnels activity to a degree. We didn't want to give up the cards and structure of the game so we struggled with various options for laying out the sectors but at last we decided on a form of flexible sector that also brought in a use for existing command stands. 
    1. Commanders & Sectors: Each side has an Over-all or Center Commander with a 4 hex command radius and a Left and a Right Commander each with a 3 hex command radius. The designations have no geographic significance but are merely to identify which sector cards apply to which leader. The leaders may be placed and moved as the players require.  A Commander can order any unit within his sector but where sectors overlap a unit may only be ordered once per turn. (example if a card allows All units in the Center to be ordered, all units within 4 hexes of the Center Commander could be ordered, if it was 2 units on the left then up to 2 units within 3 hexes of the Left Commander could be ordered. 
    2. Moving Commanders. A commander may move up to 3 hexes (6 if using double movement) when he issues orders. This does not use up one of his orders.  A Left and Right Commander may also be ordered as if he was a unit if he is within  the command sector of the Center Commander. Any commander may move as if they were a unit on any "on the move" card.  For clarity in these last 2 cases they move instead of a unit not in addition to unlike when they are issuing the orders. 
    3. Commanders and Battle. Commanders do not battle and may not be attacked. If over run by an enemy unit they will retreat. They do not block the line of fire. (We did play with other options but there were complications re the sector cards that we chose to avoid.
    4. ZOC & retreat. Even before we increased movement we didn't  like the ability of a unit to skirt past an enemy and the difficulty of establishing a meaningful "rear" for some of the scenarios has led us to introduce the following:
      1. ZOC. A unit must stop when it moves adjacent to an enemy unit. If it begins adjacent to an enemy it may move normally. It follows that if it moves from 1 adjacent hex to another adjacent hex it must again stop. (Note if using double distance the ZOC extends to 2 hexes but clise assault is still adjacent so we allow units to move from the 2 hex position to adjacent.)
      2. Retreat. Units forced to retreat by a flag may not retreat adjacent to an enemy. Subject to that, the unit may retreat in any direction that is clear as long as each hex it enters is farther away from the enemy causing the retreat. Penalties for not being able to retreat are as per the rules. (When using doubled hexes we allow units to retreat through a zoc but not to end its retreat on a zoc hex).
    5. Tanks. We didn't like the "Roll a grenade to confirm a hit on X" rules and didn't like there not being any difference between say a Stuart and a T34/85. It didn't take long to find that there are too many different guns, speeds and armour thicknesses to cover every possibility and that it was really easy to over complicate things and lose the beauty and simplicity of the game. We ended up with this compromise.  ** After another test wr decided that this version did not have the right effect and was too tedious with theneed to remember which symbol hit what. We decided to revert to a previous version inspired by the original Tiger rule. In practice the diffetence in numbers of dice and hits and the rules around coise assaults and the armored assault dar gave the righteffect. Lighter tanks need to rely on close assaults with their pu breakthrough and in numbers to tank out a heavy tank.**
      1. Tank Weight. Tanks may be classed as Light, Medium or Heavy. Decide for yourself which are which. 
        1. A Heavy Tank (eg Tiger) moves 2 (4 if doubled) and takes 4 hits. fire from light & medium anti-tank or tank guns only hit on a Grenade. Heavy tank/anti-tank guns hit as normal.
        2. A Medium Tank (eg Sherman) moves 3 (6 if doubled) and takes 3 hits. Fire from light anti-tank or tank guns only hit on a Grenade. Medium & Heavy tank/anti-tank guns hit as normal. 
        3. A Light Tank (eg Stuart) moves 4 (8 if doubled) and takes 2 hits. but fire from all anti-tank/tank guns hit as normal. 
        4. Open Topped. AFV without overhead armour are more vulnerable to artillery fire (see below)
      2. Tank/Anti-tank Guns. Guns are classed as Heavy, Medium or Light whether they are vehicle or ground mounted. Ground ones move as artillery.  Light guns get 2 dice, medium guns get 3 dice, heavy guns get 4 dice.
      3.  . All guns have 3 dice at all ranges.
        1. A Heavy gun has a range of 4 (8 if doubled) (eg 17 pdr)
        2. A Medium gun has a range of 3 (6 if doubled) (eg 75mm)
        3. A Light gun has a range of 2 (4 if doubled) (eg 2 pounder)
      4. Examples: A Sherman is a Medium tank with a Medium gun. A Wolverine  (SPAT w 17 pdr) would be a Light Open Topped tank with heavy gun. A Churchill would be a Heavy Tank with a Medium Gun, A Firefly would be a Medium Tank with a Heavy gun.
      5. Infantry AT capability. Weight of tank has no effect on infantry fire. The Winter War infantry AT rules apply to units with bazookas etc. Infantry with effective AT weapons like bazookas hit as usual. Other infantry only hit as normal if close assaulting but only hit on flags from fsther away.
      6. Artillery fire. Artillery fire only hits tanks on a grenade unless open topped in which case tanks or grenades hit. 
    6. Unit Translations.  The following are not really rules changes just how we represent things.
      1. Mortars. 2"/50mm mortars use the Winter Wars mortar rules. 3"/81mm mortars count as artillery.
      2. Artillery. 25 pdr/105mm artillery counts as Big Guns. Heavier artillery is represented by the Barrage card.
Feel free to use or borrow some or any of these ideas and modify to taste. Questions, comments, feedback and suggestions welcomed.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Somewhere in Tunisia

Today's game was Scenario 4 from CS Grant's  programmed scenarios using our adaptation of Memoir. I found myself commanding an American Battlegroup in Tunisia, tasked with clearing a pass.  From available resources I chose a Light Tank platoon with Stuarts, 4 Medium platoons with Grants or Shermans, 2 batteries of 105mm towed howitzers, 1 platoon of Rangers and 6 platoons of infantry including 2 mortars, 2 hmg and 2 bazookas. ( A "platoon" being 1 tank/gun model or 4 infantry.)

Ron's hidden defenders comprised 1 platoon of MkIV tanks, 1 of half tracks, 1 of panzer grenadiers, 2 batteries of 81mm mortars and 8 platoons of infantry.  

This was the second game we played with doubled movement and shooting ranges and once again it really helped to make the scenario work, both terrain wise and objective wise. and made for an intense fast moving game lasting 4 hours. It was also the 2nd time we used our current light/medium/heavy tank rules and the the first time we used any Big Guns.

My advanced force and flank guards (1 Stuart, 2 Grant and 2 infantry platoons arrived 6 turns before my main body arrived on the road. I switched them all to my left and probed forward towards the objective, bypassing the town in the middle. To prevent me from  cresting the hill on the left and seeing the 1/2 of his force laid out there, Ron counter attacked with his armour and opened up on my infantry with his mortars. I suffered heavily to my infantry and tanks but they all managed to pull back and survive and the Pzr IV was left in flames. (or rather was removed from the table). 

With my left shot up, I brought up my main body, sent the tanks left and sent the infantry straight down the road towards the town supported by the artillery. This touched off a counter attack which drove me back out of the town but the 105's pounded the town and as losses mounted, he pulled out. 

The village is clear of the enemy, press on!

I switched back to my now reinforced left and headed back towards the ridge only to be  hit by yet another infantry counter attack! My remaining infantry and tanks on the left  were driven back almost off the table (to Ron's frustration, he wanted kills not retreats!)`Once again I took advantage of the mobility of my armoured force and the range of my Big Guns to switch my attack, this time to the center hill. I managed to drive the last unit to the far right hand corned of the table where it cowered till the end of the game, serving by staying alive!

Regrouping, I threw most of my armour up over the central hill, around the far town and wood while the remaining tanks, infantry and guns provided as much support fire as they could while trying to stay alive.  The Germans, as always, kept throwing in counter attacks to throw me off balance and the fighting was intense. With my lead Sherman on the point of over running the objective, one final counter attack came uncomfortably close to breaking my force's morale. With luck on my side, the boys hung in there and I called up the off table heavy guns for a Bombardment and then followed up with a barrage of 105 mm fire. Jerry had had enough and pulled back. 

30 turns (60 cards) played in slightly less than 4 hours without breaks and it still came down to the wire with both sides spending the last few turns with victory in their grasp. That's my kind of game.

Dubbiya Dubbiya Doubled

2 weeks ago Ron and I tried a Memoir game doubling all ranges, moves etc in hopes of a better fit for the terrain and for the Grant teasers.  Wotked like a charm. Today we're going to try it again.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Colonel Hangought and the Village Square.

At last! A call to action! Training a polyglot collection of mercenaries into a battle ready regiment was no easy task but it was done and his lads were in fine fettle and ready to Charge!. Now the call had come from Sir William (or Whirling Willie as the men called him behind his back), take command of his regiment and a battery of guns and march in support of the Cavalry Brigade in a reconnaissance towards the town of New Peedeeheph.

Despite 15 years of campaigning in the Not Quite Seven Years War, the Colonel still had trouble understanding let alone speaking or writing the lingo so it was, perhaps, not surprising that his mind wandered during the briefing and that he thought their force was facing an enemy with superior numbers of infantry. In the face of this supposed infantry superiority, he proposed a quick advance by the cavalry backed by artillery to pound the enemy should they occupy the town, with his redcoated mercenaries in reserve. Whirling Willie quickly adopted the plan and with drums beating and trumpets toodalooing, the army set off.

The view from the Colonel's position. Veteran TT Teaser players will recognize the scenario immediately despite minor differences in details.

Google hangout's video was not as good as Skype but the latter has no chrome book version and a free video conference is a free video conference. Actually it did the job just fine and didn't shut me down for lack of bandwidth which Skype used to do from time to time. I think the sound was better too but with months in between its hard to tell.

The column clattered onto the table and down the road without incident but as the cavalry disappeared  into town, the urgent call of bugles, a clatter of hooves, shouts, a pistol crack or two and a clash of swords announced that enemy cavalry had been encountered. Mystified by the apparent failure of the enemy infantry to seize the far side of the town, the Colonel deployed the guns (one never knows what cavalry will do, of either side) sent A company into the nearest town block and began to deploy the remaining companies against all contingencies.

No sooner had his men secured the town when a scattering of rifle shots announced that enemy Jaegers had crept into the wood and just barely been forestalled by his own men. A prolonged firefight erupted with superior numbers and hard cover balancing the slightly more effective rifle fire. More neighing, trumpeting and clashing of swords announced that the cavalry battle continued to ebb and flow  on both sides of the town, seemingly without end as squadrons fell back, regrouped and charged back in. Suddenly from behind the wood appeared yet more cavalry.

The atmosphere became tense. Were they after all outnumbered? Who were the cavalry?

Suddenly the light and smoke cleared and it could be seen that these were the Wachovian Hussars. The men relaxed and a ripple of laughter ran up and down the ranks at the fright they had had, obviously there were Rosmark veterans amongst the mercenary ranks. As the enemy cavalry trotted forward, the well drilled mercenaries quickly formed a 2 company square then held fire until the Hussars were just beyond their bayonets. A crashing volley brought down men and horses but no had ever denied that the Wachovians always showed courage. The Hussars, who had never encountered infantry in square before,  threw them selves onto the waiting bayonets popping away with their pistols ineffectually while yet more were shot down and then as suddenly as they had come, they were gone.

Through a haze of powder smoke, the square can be seen repelling the Hussars.

The far side did offer to walk the camera around the table but since the town and woods would have blocked my view from the Colonel's location, it seemed more fun to catch glimpses and hear the sounds of battle ("4""3" tie, next) 

As the Hussars retired to join the cavalry melee, their place was taken by more Jagers. Still the remaining town block remained empty. At last the light began to dawn on the Colonel. All the enemy had brought were cavalry and jaegers! C Company was ordered to double over and occupy the rest of the town while B company and the guns remained to support A Company in their fight against the Jagers. As B company formed in column behind a small hill, ready to drive off the Jagers at the point of the bayonet, a horn rang out an urgent recall from behind the wood and the town was suddenly emptied of horsemen. The heavy cavalry on both sides had had enough and pulled back followed by the battered Jaegers and Hussars. The Colonel's little command, barely scathed, was left  in secure possession of the town.

Casualties gather near the board edge as the battle comes to a close. Watch for upcoming reports from the other side at http://sharpbrush.blogspot.ca/ and  http://junkyardplanet.blogspot.ca/  

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Behind the Brigadier Part 2: Movement, Missile Fire, Melee and Morale

Movement seems like the simplest of things in a game yet it also has hidden complications when we start scaling. The devils here are that movement involves time and intent as well as distance and that things do not really freeze while a unit moves. If we have chosen to use an alternate move system and do not wish to get into complicated reaction and command systems then we need a movement rate that gives a sense of relative capabilities and allows a game to progress at a satisfying clip without having each side continuously blind sided  in turn. The slower the movement rate, the more we need rules to restrict the enemy's ability to order his men to move in reaction. The longer the moves, the more we need to restrict the ability of a unit to surprise or outflank an enemy that is watching its maneuvers and is not in fact surprised.

Once again I found my answers by looking at a selection of historical battles and looked at what maneuvers were carried out and what proportion of the length of the battle it took to make the moves and resolve the combat. I then applied these observations to how many turns I tend to play and worked backwards to get some sense of average game moves to get something that 'felt' right. To avoid complex reaction rules I limited the ability of a unit to move around a unit's flank and attack in the same turn and put the rest into the combat rules

One of the things that I grew to admire in Joe Morschauser's original rules was the subtle but key effects of his combat systems and 3" melee range. Traditionally, many rules have separated the infliction of casualties and morale as if they were separate events, the one an outcome of the other. It is a very natural approach but not one that holds up well to investigation. It is a subject that has intrigued me since reading Ardent du Piq's Battle Studies when I was in college.

When studying various historical battles, it is rare to find units destroyed by long range fire as opposed to being weakened. There are instances but usually they involve prolonged application of superior firepower or very poor troops. On the other hand, it is common that an assault will achieve some form of result fairly quickly whether through point blank fire or moral or physical shock. It is prolonged close quarter fights that are the exceptions though not as rare. It is also not unusual for such assaults to prove fatal to the ability of the loser to carry on unless they had no real intention to stand in the first place but intended only to harass and delay or test the enemy.

What Morschauser's rules did was to make 'no effect' the most common result to shooting even though in the basic game a single hit was all it took to destroy a unit. The use of rosters in the advanced game improved this by allowing shooting to gradually wear a unit down.  On the other hand, once a unit came within 3" of an enemy it had to stop and engage in Melee combat and one or the other or both had to be destroyed before anything else could happen. This struck me as odd at first because the term melee held connotations of hand to hand combat, not possible when troops were so far apart. Once the terms shooting and melee are replaced by long range and decisive range combat, the difficulties disappear although compulsory destruction with no chance of retreat is a bit extreme  for my tastes.

Once again nothing that I have adopted in my approach to combat and morale is unique or even original.  The key is that units have an artificial "strength" that reflects  not just numbers but training, experience, leadership and so on, in short, its ability to fight. Hits from either shooting or melee reflect both casualties and the general disintegration of a unit's ability to fight. The power of ranged combat has been restricted so that a prolonged combat is required to get any significant result. Melee, originally 3" in my pre-grid days but adjacent squares now, represents both close range fire and the moral shock of charges with cold steel. The numbers are purely arbitrary, designed to get the desired result.

One of the minor issues that I have struggled with over these last years is whether it is better to modify the dice score required in various circumstance, thus affecting the odds of a hit but not the absolute number of possible hits or whether to reduce the absolute possible number of hits. The dangers of either system include ending up with too many situations  where having an effect  is not only unlikely but impossible and having situations where the penalties can be rendered irrelevant by merely increasing the number of attackers. In the end the choice is sometimes one of being willing to put up with occasional anomalies in exchange  for a simple, easy to remember system.

Lastly, it is an axiom that one must maintain the pressure on an enemy and not let them rest and regroup. I reflect this not only by a pursuit rule for assaults  but by allowing units to recover some (not all) lost hits if given a bit of space and time. I also allow a unit to give ground to reduce hits if they have room, retreating to stay alive. To gain a decisive victory it is best to push the enemy off the table and to not let him rally and recover his strength.


It will  take awhile to get a properly organized and explained set of rules written up but I hope by tomorrow to have a draft of the basic rules available.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Behind the Brigadier Pt 1 - Grids, Games and Generals.

I suspect that one of the reasons that I've been so interested in exploring gridded miniature games is because they force me to shake off decades of convention and look at things a little differently. Helps keep the little grey cells active.

This explanation could run on for pages but I'll spare everyone.......for now. Suffice it to say that the vagueness of grid areas vs the precise location of units pretty much forces one to drop the illusion of a scale model of processes and instead focus on intentions and outcomes. So less thinking about x paces per minute and precise ranges and more thinking about A moving up to launch a decisive attack on B or just moving up to engage and threaten them. I had been trying to do that already thanks to Joe Morschauser's influence but the grid seems to make it easier.

One of the other issues that I have written about, is coming to terms with the game aspect of wargames, especially solo games. The rule approach that makes the most accurate simulation is not always the one that provides the most engaging and exciting game, especially when playing solo. Its a delicate balance though or the whole thing becomes a parlour game rather than a wargame.

OK on to the rules. I have been dithering over command control and turn systems, trying to balance player decision making, uncertainty and some reflection of how things operate. I like the old written orders and simultaneous moves but it really doesn't work for me when playing solo so the 2 main approaches have been rolling each turn for "initiative" to see who goes first and fixed turns with a die roll to determine how many "orders" may be issued (ie a variation on the DBA pips). In both cases I have tried to include a role for subordinate commanders and tried to make it easier to control a concentrated force.

I rather like the initiative system but in a solo game, the choice is less appealing to me since I am both sides at once and its not always clear what is best. It also poses some issues about one side getting to shoot twice without reply and so on unless reaction rules are introduced. I also like the PIPS system but there needs to be balance between the maximum/minimum number of orders and the number of units. Too many and its too easy, too few and its too frustrating. I think I have that fixed now so PIPS or Order dice are back in.

Each side will get 1 die for the commander in chief giving him between 1 and 6 orders to be issued to any units. Each subordinate commander gets 1 order to be used only on his own troops. An order is required to move or rally but not to shoot or fight in melee. A group of properly aligned units can all be given the same order using only 1 Pip instead of 1 per unit, like a group move in DBA. Units which are detached will roll to see if they receive and act on their order, or not.

The result of all this is that an army that is properly formed with an appropriate command structure should be able to function fairly reliably  but once it starts to engage in combat and loses order, it will be harder and harder to get units to move forward or redeploy in reaction to enemy movements although  they will cheerfully stand and blaze away at whatever is in range. Once an army takes heavy losses it can pull units back and recover to some extent but it won't be able to keep attacking at the same time. This is the effect I've been striving for for ages and I think the current version gets it right.

Next post movement, missile fire, melee and morale.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Flight from the Ford

Along the banks of the St. Lawrence during the summer of 1759 there were numerous clashes between detachments of Wolfe's army and parties of Indians and Canadiens occasionally supported by French regulars. (See http://www.militaryheritage.com/quebec1.htm for some brief eye witness accounts of a couple of such actions. ) My 30mm armies were originally begun with larger battles, such as the Plains of Abraham, in mind but since the armies are incomplete and since I now have a few rangers and Indians, I decided to try a small game to amuse myself and to test the latest ideas for the Square Brigadier including a return to a slightly improved Orders Dice rule and some small changes to the combat rules. This was a smaller game than the rules were intended for but provided two exciting little games of just under an hour each.

The scenario was inspired by vague (not to say completely unreliable) memories of Brigadier Townsend's Memoirs which I read a few decades ago. The table is set up with a small river running across the table towards its eventual plunge, somewhere around the couch, 30 feet down to the St Lawrence. There is a narrow ford in the open, near the table edge, which is guarded by a small redoubt and farther upstream, inside the forest, the river is fordable along its remaining length.

I deployed a unit of Indians in the woods, a unit of Canadian light infantry in the redoubt, and another at the other ford. Two units of French infantry could arrive at the corner to the left once the British have arrived. The British units had to enter, in column, through the corner square to the right, one unit of rangers, one of Grenadiers, one of Highlanders and two of line infantry.  The British mission was to size a ford, including a safe path to it. The French  mission was to stop the British from getting control of a crossing.

Ross's Rangers and the Highlanders  head for the woods while the Grenadiers, 58th and 28th head for the ford where La Sarre has just arrived.

The first game was a little disturbed by rejection and replacement of some of the new combat ideas but even more so by some dreadful die rolling by the English and Scots troops. 

General Murray, in command of the British began to push for the main ford while sending the Rangers and Highlanders to clear the woods. The rangers proved incapable of pushing back the Indians  until the Grenadiers were dispatched to  support them and even then the Indians managed to pull back. As French reinforcements rushed up, General Murray decided to storm the main ford with his 2 battalions of regulars while the Highlanders attacked through  the woods and over the stream without waiting for the Grenadiers to regroup.  
The result of the attack on the ford. 

The assault by the Highlanders was a complete failure which left them falling back to rally while at the ford Murray was wounded, the 28th routed and the 58th badly shot up while La Reine (having wandered North from Ticonderoga to Quebec, doubtless in pursuit of the Black Watch) continued to calmly man the redoubt. 

Things looked bleak but once Murray had recovered a bit and the Highlanders had rallied and reorganized, he ordered the Grenadiers and Highlanders to storm the crossing again, this time in support of each other. The new assault went better for the British and La Sarre was looking shaky enough that Bougainville was forced to gallop across to steady them. The Grenadiers pressed forward scattering one bunch of Canadians but before they could flank  La Sarre they were attacked from the rear by those pugnacious Indians. Eventually the Grenadiers saw off the Indians then crossed the ford just as the Highlanders were again repulsed. 

A desperate battle followed with the grenadiers caught between La Sarre and a second unit of Canadians but just when things looked most desperate, Bougainville was hit by a musket ball and LaSarre collapsed and fled the field. The remaining French and Canadian troops followed. With his own army all but shattered, Murray had no choice but to abandon the hard won ford and fallback on the camp at Montmorency. 
The climax of the first fight approaches.

A few days later, with his troops refreshed and trained in the revised rules, Murray returned to the ford. This time the French regulars were tardy and Murray threw the Grenadiers at the redoubt, supported by the Highlanders. Once again the Canadians proved stauncher than expected (not to mention luckier) and once again the Grenadiers showed their preference for rolling 1's and 2's.

The odds were too great however and the Canadians broke just as the regulars arrived. As reinforcements came up on both sides, the Rangers faced off against twice their numbers of Canadians and Indians and were outmatched, falling back towards the 28th foot which was forced to turn and face the woods to protect the lines of communication back to camp rather than supporting the main assault.
The French counter attack laps the English column.

At this point, it became evident that the regulars on both sides were equally capable of lousy rolling. In a spiraling race to the bottom, with both commanders wounded, the French eventually ended up on bottom and were broken, leaving the ford in English hands. Shortly thereafter a message arrived calling the troops back to camp. Wolfe had decided on an amphibious assault on the mudflats at the foot of the Montmorency Falls.

So, two short but hotly contested games with a touch and go overtime ending. The  Quebec campaign is going to go back in the box for a while until more new recruits are added, but it will return. My 18th Birthday present is finally bearing fruit! 

Over the last 3 years I have experimented with various approaches to my gridded games but after reviewing not only the approaches but my thoughts on the good and bad aspects of each after test games and contemplating what makes one solo game more engaging for me than another, then re-testing those assumptions recently, the rough notes are now being slowly shaped into a complete set of rules again, or rather 3 closely related sets sharing a common approach. But that is a subject for a future post.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Picnic Preview

Today's game was waylaid by a marathon of Dr. Who specials.  

But there's always tomorrow.

(Until there isn't.)

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Meanwhile back in the forest

30mm Scruby Native American Warriors. 

The first Boer War game is a ways off yet so I decided to tackle the handful of 30's from the Historifig parcel before they got shelved and forgotten. I'm not used to do this kind of backwoods figure in a glossy finish and it was hard to refrain from trying to weather and stain leather and cloth but I managed to contain myself and the resulting figures are pleasingly toy-like and ready to roll (dice).  

30mm generic Rangers, 3 Scruby's + 1 of my Plains of Abraham museum figures. The red toories are suspect but I couldn't bring myself to file them off or leave them blue.

I messed up and ordered 6 Indians instead of the required 8 but I can live with an empty spot on each of two bases until my next order. If all goes well these figures will see action on Sunday before going into winter quarters. In the meantime, the next batch of Boers is already primed.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Hoorah for Oom Jack

The first batch of Scuby Boers are now done. 
Scruby '25mm' (~1/72nd) Boers. 
(My apologies on the pictures, I was going to borrow my wife's camera but now it has gone missing !!?)

I'm still finding the glossy block toy style very difficult to paint convincingly. It is so much faster and easier to use washes to soften, blend, shade, weather and also to disguise little slips but once done, these figures have just the sort of toy look I was aiming for so I will persevere. I know from looking at some of my old figures that the old painted 25mm Marx figures were not as carefully painted as my memory would have it but the feel of these now is much the same as the feel of those figures was back then. 

The Jacklex and Scruby figures are quite different in style.The Scrubies are "finer" and the ones with open arms are softer and more amenable to animating but the Jacklex are hairier with more character. One on one, up close, the different hat/head size makes them less compatible than hoped for but luckily painted up and seen on the table at arms length they seem just fine together. 

A mix of Jacklex 20mm (the hefty guys) and Scruby 25mm Boers.

I can't consistently decide which I like better but I've enjoyed both so much that I would cheerfully buy more of both even though I have enough for the games that I have planned. I do intend to pick up a couple of each of the Jacklex positions that I don't yet have  but that will have to wait a bit as will an equally small Canadian and British force to oppose them. (My apologies to all those Aussie readers who feel left out).  In the meantime, they should see action against Ron's Brits before the end of the year.

Sometimes its a positive blessing to not have spare cash to over buy or this project might out grow itself in a hurry!