Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Muskets In Action

For some time we've been looking for a smaller scale game than Hail Whoever - a game that could be played with small forces with more tactical detail - a game that would allow us to get into new periods & paint up interesting new troops without having to paint hundreds of them.   We have tried Muskets & Tomahawks and Sharp's Practice but neither of them really appealed.  They have some good ideas but are too slow to play, bogged down in unnecessary detail,  & too often you feel that the cards are in charge not you.   Bolt Action on the other hand, is a rattling good game at the scale we're looking for that's very easy to play & we like the BA command dice system.  I've been thinking about house ruling BA into a brigade level horse & musket game for some time & yesterday I wrote the first draft of Muskets In Action.  Tonight we tried it out in an ACW game. 
The scenario had a small CSA force holding a village.  Two Federal forces attacked the village, one from the left on turn 1 & one over the bridge at the far end on turn 2.  A CSA relief column arrived on the near side on turn 3 & another on the right on turn 6 (delayed by bad dice).
 Uncle & nephew command the Rebels.
The rebel gun on the crossroads did a good job disrupting Steve's deployment over the bridge, but Mark's regiment over-ran most of the village before the Rebel relief columns could make themselves felt. The late arrival of the 2nd Rebel column didn't help.
By our customary knock off time of 10pm only the railway station remained in Reb hands & the Rebs had lost 6 units, the Union only 2.  So a Union victory was declared.

With 15 or 16 units a side it was a big battle by BA standards & it was an ambitious scenario for a first battle with a day old set of rules.  But we have form in morphing rules between periods & as expected it all worked very well.  The experience gave us a few ideas for further improvements, some of which we adopted as we played.  Everyone enjoyed the game & is keen for more of it. 

The MIA rules comprise 2 pages.  They cover the basic things that need to be tweaked to move BA into another era - with a bit of Hail Whoever thrown in.  But as with Hail Whoever we dip back into the Warlords rule book to fill in gaps when they turn up.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Sharp Practice 2 at Barrie's

I wasn't that impressed with Sharp Practice 2 last week, but as Barrie was so keen on them I wanted to give them a fair trial with another go.   Sometimes rules grow on you if you persevere.
Gandalf & Gimli commanded the US v. Barrie & Darren's Brits in an 1812 scenario.
The battle certainly looked good with Barrie's figures & scenery, but the battle dragged on at glacial pace & after 3 hours not really a lot had happened & we agreed to a draw. 

My first impressions last week were that SP 2 was over-complicated & not intuitive to play (as usual with every other Too Fat Lardies game I've tried).  My second go at it did nothing to change my opinion:

- Since last week Barrie had prepared more summary sheets.  Not only do these extend over no less than 6 pages but they were confusing & difficult to use - they really didn't help that much.  A lot of time was spent looking up rules about fundamental things that should have been re-memberable after a couple of games.
- The firing rules are the pretty standard stuff:  So many dice - so much to hit - then re-roll hits for effect. But they manage to make it confusing by it not being obvious which factors affect no. of dice, which affect score to hit & which affect damage.  The handfuls of dice also tend to get a bit over the top (like 20 dice at a time).
- Hits can cause figure removal or disruption counters (like BA pins).  Disruption reduces the no. of dice when firing & when disruption exceeds no. of figs there are morale issues.   Not bad.
- The command system & use of leaders is very complex & un-intuitive.  I'm sure there is a great deal of scope for skill in optimising the chits as they are dealt & using commanders but it's a matter of learning the game system - not simply applying military principles.
- There is a lot of fiddly details that can be tricky to keep track of, eat up game time, & make it necessary to have specific knowledge of the game system to do basic military tasks.
- There is a lot of unnecessary detail like random events that don't appear to add to the skill of the game but slow it down.
- Movement is typically 2D inches with deductions for difficult terrain & an extra dice for road movement or fast movement causing disruption.  Not bad.
- I can't comment on the hand to hand combat system because we never figured out how to use the system well enough to get into contact.
- Some issues I had as the game progressed turned out to be misinterpretations of the rules which were later corrected.  But the fact that the rules can be so easily be misinterpreted is a fault in itself.
- Some of the slowness was due to learning curve, but Barrie & Darren were on their 3rd game & were not improving. 

With wargames rules one man's meat is another's poison.  It seems SP2 has a following, but it does not suit me - for the same reasons that I prefer Bolt Action to Chain of Command.  I believe that a good set of rules should be playable pretty much on basic military principles, have an easy to use QRS, have simple easy to remember systems & be fast to play.  I think SP2 fails to meet any of those criteria.   Muskets & Tomahawks is similar in scope & scale to SP2 but I think it is a better game.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Bolt Action Tank War

Dave's Germans v. Jim's Brits 1500 pts Tank War
1 Tiger, 1 Jag Panther, 1 Hetzer, 1 A/car, 1 Kuber & a truckload of panzergrenadiers (7 units).
3 Shermans, 1 Firefly, 1 Cromwell, a 6 pdr with tow & an M3with vet infantry & PIAT (10 units).
Table 5'x6' with 7 objectives, 2 in each side's rear & 3 along the centreline.
The Germans came on mainly near the farm on their right with their Hetzer & Keber on their left.
The Brits put their Shermans on the right & the rest near the farm on their left.
The Brits initially hid as bes they could from the big pussies & kill everything else. The A/car, Hetzer & Kuber all died.  The Jag took out the M3, but was then pinned down by a barrage of feeble Brits anti-tank fire & por command dice had it retreating for he rest of the game.  When Tiger came out to play it missed its shot & the Firefly popped it first go.  The German force suffered badly from too many eggs in one basket.  By game's end the Brits had all taken but 1 of the 7 objectives, & the Germans had only a pinned down Jag left on the table.  Brit casualties = 1M3 & 2 riflemen.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Modder Fokkers

Game 1:
3 Fokkers (Mike, Steve & Chris) v. a Camel (Mark), a Spad (Mitch) & an SE5a (Jim).
The Germans got on top early when the Spad & the SE5a both had airframe damage to cramp their style.  Mark fought on gamely, but the damaged planes became more intent on getting out of this mess & home to the mess.
The Spad & SE5a copped a heap of damage, but they still had their powerful engine going strong & managed to power away to escape.  My precious 40+ year old SE5a with 4 kills but never shot down was lucky to survive being 2 hits off going down.  This left the Camel with 3 Fokkers on its tail.  It didn't make it & Mike is rapidly heading for ace status.

Game 2: We stepped back a while into mid war.
2 Albatros (Steve & Chris) & a Pfalz (Mike) v. a Pup (Mark), A Neuport (Mitch) & a Tripe (Jim):

It soon became apparent that 2 machine guns was worth a lot more than the extra manoeuvrability of the single gunned British planes, at least it is when one plane gets serious airframe damage on it's first test & another soon after.  The battle quickly turned into a run for survival for the Brits. This time they all managed to escape, but the Germans ruled the skies with 3 VPs to 0.  (We count 2 VPs for a kill & 1 VP for an enemy running away).

Shenandoah 1862 Campaign

We are about to start a Shenandoah 1862 campaign.  Most of the players involved were present, so after the air games the players had councils of war.  First orders are expected within a couple days & we hope to have our first battle next week.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Sunday Bolt Action at Good Games

Darren's US Airbourne v. Matthew's Germans
In Matthew's last practice match before his trip to Cancon his Germans cleaned up Daren's US in a Double Envelopment scenario.

Chris' Japanese v. Jim's Australians
The Austalians are defending on the right in an Envelopment Scenario.  All areas without patches are jungle = difficult ground with visibility 6" inside & 3" into & out. 
The jungle both helped & hindered the attack.  It provided cover, but also slowed it down.  The Japs made their main push in the centre where there was more open ground.  The Australians counterattacked on the left of the village while trying to hold the rest of the line.  The Japanese attacked on their left of the village with one unit breaking through & another initially successful but beaten a counterattack. 
The Australians counterattacked the 2nd breakthrough unit & took it out, but the Japs also disposed of the Australian attack through the village.  At the end of turn 6, the Australians were in front  having destroyed 4 units for 8 VPs while losing 5 for 5 Japanese VPs.   But the dice gave us a turn 7.  Their unit on the far flank over-ran the Australian defenders there & got over the line.  The unit in the village couldn't quite make it over the line, their tank was still pinned down (by the deceased ATR & 25 pdr), their MMG was still deep in the jungle & their mortar missed so the VP count ended at 8 each.

This was a most enjoyable battle with a plethora of close combat & high casualties on both sides. A draw was a fitting result.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Modder Fokkers

3 Fokkers (Mike, Chris & Renfrey):

2 Camels (Mitch, Mark) & 1 Bristol Fighter (Jim):

It soon got up close & personal with damage rising slowly but most planes avoiding critical damage. 

The first to go down was Chris's  yellow Fokker having attracted fire from Mike's Fokker (if firing too close to one of your own planes 1's hit it) as well all the Brits, before being finished off by the Bristol's tail gunner.  But the remaining Fokkers fought back & both Camels followed the Fokker to earth.  Now carrying a lot of holes, but no serious damage the Bristol put her nose down & ran for home.  The equally damaged Fokkers were happy to let it and its nasty twin tail guns go.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Sharps Practice 2 at Barries's

I had a go at at Too Fat Lardie's Sharps Practice 2 at Barrie's Sunday School.
As always at Barrie's the figures & scenery were beautiful, the company good & yet another new-fangled set of rules.  SP2 can be used for small actions in any Horse & Musket era.  In this case it was  French & Indian Wars - the same figures & scale of action as Muskets & Tomahawks which I have also played at Barrie's. 
SP2 uses special cards drawn from a deck (like M&T) or equivalent numbered disks drawn from a bag (like BA) to determine the order in which units are moved in a turn.  In BA the command dice allow you to choose which unit to apply it to.  In M&T a card tells you which type of unit you can action & you can action all the units of that type if their card comes out.  In SP2, the card/chit tells you specifically which unit you can activate.  In SP2 the turn ends when a certain card/chit is drawn (so not all units get to move in a turn) & there are some special chits that can be saved & used for specific purposes like interrupting an enemy action, enhancing a unit's fire or moving a unit at the end if it did get an action due to its own card/chit.  All three systems break the traditional system of the players taking turns to action all their units.  In both M&T & SP2 it's pure luck whether you activate the unit you really should activate tactically.  In SP2, a lot of the skill in the game is in using the special cards/chits well, so success largely depends on knowing how to use the system rather than simply applying good military principles.  In BA, choosing which unit to activate adds a skill element to the game with choices that can be made purely on military principles rather than knowing how to use the system.  In this regard I think BA has the best system.

Movement distance is randomised by move distances being the number of inches in the sum of 2 dice.  In difficult terrain you use the best or worst of the 2 dice depending on how difficult. You can use 3 dice at the risk of disruption.  As a Hail Caesarian, randomised movement is a feature I'm familiar with & this isn't a bad way of doing it.

Shooting is by throwing a handful of D6 with a score to hit & then another D6 roll to kill or add disruption markers (like BA pins).  So very similar to the BA system, but seems more complex - it  may just need a good QRS to demystify it which we didn't have. 

Like M&T, there are random events provoked by certain draws of cards/chits which some people might like, but I think these are a Mickey Mouse distraction from the main game.

It's not fair or wise to rate a game on the basis of one game played without oversight by someone who knows the rules well & without a good QRS (& without a copy to study).  All games are so much better when you know the rules.  Inevitably it was slow to play & my side suffered some unfortunate surprises.  A devastating first volley on the British lead unit pretty much decided the game - the chit draw gave the French first fire, the British players' lack of knowledge precluded them using a saved chit to mollify it, & a whole bunch of sixes really topped it off.  But the French players sure enjoyed that.  With a bit of practice SP2 would certainly speed up & become much less of a lottery.  I need to get to know it better to make a definite judgement, but I suspect it might be better than M&T - so it's worth playing some more. 

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Near the Danube in the 17th century

Poles v Turks
The Turks (Mark, Chris & Jim) are deployed on the hill with their levy in the centre behind their guns, Janisaries in reserve behind & cavalry on the wings.
The Poles (Mike & Mitch) deployed all their cavalry on their right.
The Poles got good command dice with their cavalry & their 2 cavalry divisions were onto the sinhle Turkish division on that flank on turn 2. The Turks attempted to move their right behind the foot to support their left but they refused to move.

 The pic above are from behind the Poles.  The rest of the pics are from behind the Turkish left.
The Turkish cavalry are outnumbered as well as outclassed, but still put up a stiff defence.
The Polish infantry have now advanced & are attacking the levy on the hill. The Turkish cavalry from the right flank have finally come across the Turkish rear, but the left flank is about to break.

The counterattack by the Turkish right flank cavalry has failed & when that division breaks the Turks fail their army break test.

The battle was won when the Poles rorted the blind deployment to put all their cavalry on the one flank.  They had a division of 4 Heavy Cavalry & a division of 4 Winged hussars, each with 2 dragoons.  6 Gonallu & 3 small horse archers were no match for that.  The Turk's attempt to reinforce their left before it was beaten was compromised by bad command dice & the Poles destroyed the Turkish cavalry divisions one after the other.  Perhaps the Turks shoull have attacked on the other flank, but they thought their cavalry had little hope against pike & shotte hedgehogs & the prospect of attacking with the levy didn't appeal either.  A feeling vindicated by the fact that when the Polish foot attacked the levy was being pushed back even with the advantage of artillery & the hill.

Thursday, January 04, 2018

Bolt Action in the Desert

John Mumford's British Commandoes v. Jim's Italians.  1,000 pts Demolition Scenario.
The Brits are on the near side, the Italians on the far side.  The tent os the Italian objective.  The Brit's objective is hidden behind the village. The Italians deployed all their force at the start, the Brits left a Buffalo loaded with more infantry & a PIAT on flank march.

The battle was a bit of a fizzer in that the Italians simply rushed their armour down the road, successfully risking the a/car's fire, pushed through the infantry on the road, & took the objective on turn 2.

So to make John's trip over the river worthwhile we backtracked & the Italians made a more measured attack, trying to knock out the a/car before charging.   Despite having an a/car, a tank & an ATR v. 1 a/car the Italians lost the duel & their infantry attack couldn't reach the objective before time ran out.   The British flank attack of a Buffalo full of troops was late coming on & it too couldn't reach the objective in time.  So the re-run was a draw.

It's probably not a good idea to put the objectives next to a road across the table in this scenario. This can mean the game can finish too soon if a risky attack succeeds, or else peter out to a draw if it doesn't.  

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Napoleonic Naval

Tonight we got out the old Victory models for a change from CW & BA.  The Brits had 2 squadrons of 4 ships, the French 3 squadrons of 3 ships - mainly 3rd rates with some bigger squadron leaders. The Brits had elite crews, the French, regular crews.
 Both fleets are reaching (wind abeam) on opposite tacks.  The French have an slight advantage with the weather guage.
 Both sides send a squadron upwind while the others go for each other.
Father & son command 2 of the French squadrons.
Chris' squadron takes on the Oakford's two as Mike's heads for Steve's Frogs.
Mike & Steve pass each other at a sensible distance while the other squadrons get in close & personal.
Several ships close in for boarding & 2 French ships are captured in the melee.  Mike has turned about is coming to help Chris, but Steve has got there first & Chris is under pressure. 
French counterattacks result in 2 of Chris's ships being boarded & 1of their lost ships retaken.  Another of Chris' ships is surrounded & strikes it's colours.  His remaining ship is escaping with its prize (on the LHS of pic).  One of Mike's ships has sunk & the lead ship hasbeen pounded from both sides & has struck it's colours .  The French are content to sail off downwind with their 4 prizes having lost just 1 ship captured.  The Brits have just 3 ships left plus a prize & can only let them go.

A rare French victory at sea!