Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The one where I try out Chain Reaction 3.0: Final Version

It occurred to me that while I had lamented that Chain Reaction 1.0 /Guns & Girls did not use the same mechanics as the original Six Gun Sound, I had yet to read or try the new Chain Reaction 3.0: Final Version rules from Two Hour Wargames.

Before the Game

On Sunday night, I read through the PDF. I was struck by the workbook like feel. At the end of each section there are questions and exercises that quiz you on the preceding section's main points. As I dislike rules reviews that contain the statement "I didn't try the rules but...", I diligently grabbed some figures - 1/32 Russians and Germans -  and followed along.

In my opinion, this feature makes these among the most understandable set of THW rules I've laid my hands on (excluding the 1st ed. of Six Gun Sound, which I thought was clear). I definitely needed to page through the rules during the game, and would probably still need to ask questions on the highly active Yahoo! group for unusual situations, but the basics are all here. Not to say I got it right when I played (as you'll see below, I didn't), but the exercises let me dip my toe in the water and build my enthusiasm to try the rules in an actual game.

A notable change since I last checked is the way the In-Sight test is handled and resolved. It's more clear to me now as to when to take the test and how, but I find the resolution somewhat complicated, as most other reactions are temporarily suspended during the in-sight sequence.

As with prior versions, also included are the Possible Enemy Force (PEF) rules for creating surprise in solo and cooperative games and a basic campaign structure - although there is no review exercise for these sections. There are no vehicle rules included, but I don't think anyone can complain about that. After all, for infantry only actions, you have everything you need. If you like the rules, buy one of the complete sets.

Combined with the walk through posted over on the THW blog
, I felt prepared to give it a go on Monday night.

Playing The Game

Although the rules suggest a 3' x3' playing area, I opted to go with 2' x 2' since I'm using 15mm figures and I adjusted movement and ranges accordingly.

Per the rules, I set myself up with a Star leader (Rep 5, the female zouave) and rolled up four grunts (two Rep 4 and two Rep 5) and then generated the terrain for the patrol scenario since I didn't have any particular encounter to play in mind.
Here come the co-eds!
The terrain placement rules resulted in a full but not cluttered tabletop - perfect for a small skirmish game where shooting is quick and deadly and cover is a necessity for survival.

A pleasant piece of land to take a stroll through.
 And finally, I generated an enemy activity level (EAL) of 1 and placed my 3 PEFs.

An EAL of 1 is as low as it goes, and the chances of encountering a PEF that's an enemy is just 33%. Wouldn't you know, on turn 4, I came into LOS of a PEF and rolled an encounter of a force equal in size to mine. 

Not seeing any rules as to how to determine the Reps of the enemy, I rolled on the recruitment table for each and ended up with the same distribution as my own force and then rolled the in-sight tests.

Ignoring the fact that the two Rep 5s couldn't have passed 5(they each should have lost 1 die, the enemy for moving and my sargent for the triggering figures being in cover), it's immediately apparent, that aesthetically speaking, using dice to indicate how many successes were scored for the in-sight isn't going to work for me:

The field of battle is invaded by giant dice from outer space!
The next difficulty I have is that any reactions that would result from things that happen during the In-sight tests are held until after all in-sight reactions are resolved. Maybe it's because I get minimal sleep due to Young Lord Shadowmoss going through teething and a growth spurt, but I had a good deal of trouble remembering who received fire. Man-down was easier, as I use markers to show when someone is down or Out of Fight.

Here's the table after the in-sight's and activations were resolved for Turn 4:

The wounded litter the field.
I've lost THREE of my grunts (the two Rep 4s, one wounded and one ran away, and one Rep 5, wounded) and the enemy has lost one wounded.

The enemy advances on my squad in cover (based on how I interpreted their movement roll) and a fire fight in the woods ensues. The enemy is adept at shooting, more so than I, and my star is forced to make frequent use of her star power to avoid being knocked out. 

Eventually it was just too much. At the end of turn 9 she was down to just 3 star power dice remaining and failed on all 3 - out of fight.

Two enemy dead (the peg and the counter) but it just isn't enough for our heroes to win.

Some thoughts after the game:
  • Even with group activation and reactions, I felt like I was rolling a LOT of dice. I prefer card draws to activate a side, but those days for THW are long gone. Bob Cordery's MoB uses dice for activation too, so it's not a total deal breaker, as I love that set of rules. But rolling for the in-sights and all of the other reactions, the hit, then vs. the impact to test for a kill, plus NP movement and PEF movement, and it starts to seem like that's all I'm doing, which means I feel less involved in the game.

  • I've never tried the star rules before, but I see now why I should have. In essence, they're saving throws (although some don't require any dice). While combat is quick and deadly for grunts(unless they're in cover and even then they still drop pretty fast), using the various star rules, you can keep your star going. If you're playing something less action-adventure movie and more historical, you'd probably just ignore the star rules.

  • Keeping track of who scored how many successes for in-sight with dice is too ugly, in my opinion. It works fine with just one or two figs on the board, but 5 on a side and suddenly there's a third army, a dice army, on the board. I didn't even get to the point of using markers for hunker down, duck back and the like. I think, if I decide to play again, I'll design a playing mat of sorts for handling keeping track this and tracking statuses like duck back, out of ammo, etc.
All said, I like the reaction system and using the star abilities alleviates some of my objections from previous editions (I can see even having multiple stars on one side). If I could just get over rolling dice so often, and design a way to keep track of all of the statuses off table (a roster system of sorts), I might even consider buying Nuts! or 5150.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Gear Acquisition Syndrome Strikes Again

Guitar players (of which I am one) often suffer from something we endearingly(?) call Gear Acquisition Syndrome  aka G.A.S. (we also have the sense of humor of 12 year old boys).

Now I'm not sure what the miniatures equivalent is, but I just placed orders with Irregular and Khurasan for a total of 65 15mm figures, so whatever it is called, I think I  have it.

It's almost as if the 300 miniatures I already have awaiting attention just aren't enough.

Never the less, I'm pretty excited about these new orders.

I painted up my Mystri Island characters and mantis-men from Khurasan just this month (pictures to follow soon) and they are simply great figures with excellent detail. Even with my clumsy paint jobs they look good.

And, almost from the beginning of my involvement in wargaming, I've been a fan of the chunky-sometimes-crude style of Irregular. I've always hesitated ordering due to the whole currency conversion thing and their lack of an online shopping cart. I just noticed they accept PayPal - and so I decided to take the plunge.

Next time: Either some thoughts on CR3:Final Version or a 2012 goals update.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Can you go home again?

When I first got into wargaming some 6 or 7 years ago, one of the first sets of rules that I really enjoyed was Six Gun Sound from Two Hour Wargames. This is the old version we're talking about - I think it cost $5 for the PDF. There was something about having multiple stats and being able to take multiple hits that gave it a fun, cinematic feel - it was the Old West of legends and Hollywood, where the hero could often take more than one bullet before going to the grave. It also felt vaguely RPG-ish (between multiple stats and what amount to hit points) and having spent a good number of years in my youth playing and collecting RPGs, it was a bit like home.

So, when MG-42 came out, and I was just getting into WWII games, I happily gave that a try, only to be totally disappointed. The new THW system didn't feel at all like home. Gone were the multiple stats and in their place, a single stat called REP. There was a lot of dice rolling and no record keeping, but a lot of little markers on the table to indicate the status of each figure. Combat was, as promised, quick and deadly - while more realistic, I found it decidedly less fun (too much simulation and not enough game perhaps?).

To top it off, I didn't feel like I was playing so much as just handling book keeping. Whereas, when I was actually handling book keeping in Six Gun Sound, I never felt it. The logical consequence was that I eventually tried to play WWII skirmish with Six Gun Sound, but I had soured to the whole idea and I couldn't really get into it. I was not yet comfortable enough writing my own rules/mods (I had some naive esteem reserved for "completed" sets of rules) and the project was abandoned.

In the subsequent years, I've tried a fair number of small scale skirmish rule sets for WWII and in that time I've found only one or two that I liked enough to use more than once. I've even checked back in with THW now and again - Chain Reaction 2.0 became available for free at one point so I tried it out, wanting to like it - especially for the simple zombie rules it included. Chain Reaction 3.0 is more streamlined but it feels much the same when I read it.

When recently I heard Girls & Guns had been made available on the THW Yahoo! group to mark the 10th anniversary of THW and the release of CR3: The Final Version, I decided to give it a look in hopes hat it would be the generic equivalent of first edition Six Gun Sound.

Sadly, it appears to me that it came some time after.

SGS, in the version I have, presents an early version of what would become the method for determining hits and results, as Advanced (but optional) rules. These are already codified in Girls & Guns as the method. In its favor, it still uses the card draw to activate a side( as opposed to the dice rolls that are used in 2.0-era and later games) which I have an aesthetic preference for.

In spite of the fact that 2012 is decidedly (though not intentionally) the year of the big battle for me, I opted to give them a quick go last night, for old times sake and because, as they say, hope springs eternal

I just finished painting and basing some Khurasan mantis-men, thus it was obvious (to me, in that way that such things are not at all obvious to any one) that four unarmed mantis-men (all REP 4) should charge three explorers(two REP 4 and one REP 3). It took all of 5 or so minutes to play out - and ended with all 4 mantis dead a short distance in front of the explorers. That sounds a lot more nail-biting than it was.

A second test had one distinctly Germanic looking officer type leading 3 soldiers (a REP 4 and 3 REP 3s) to capture a rare archaeological find at the table's center in competition with 3 explorers (again, two REP 4s and one REP 3). Again, maybe 5 to 7 minutes to play out - most of the figures had to break out of cover to reach the center of the table and the soldiers got the better of that exchange with only 1 loss, while there were 2 Bad Wounds that resulted in 2 figs down for the explorers. The third explorer (REP 4) engaged the officer in a pistol duel and while he managed to shoot first, he ran away when fired upon by the officer.

Neither test was particularly rewarding or exciting (probably my fault in their quick, but poor, set up) and both were quick and deadly. Which, as it turns out, is still not my cup of tea. It took me longer to set out the cork tiles and felt "forests".

But it has me wondering if maybe I shouldn't return to the idea of making Six Gun Sound into WWII small (1-10 figs per side) skirmish rules. After all, I'm not trying to simulate combat as much as play a game. And, it seems to me, most WWII movie exchanges of fire feel like Old West shoot outs in some sense. Then again, maybe I should just break out the Old West figures and play it properly and find/write some other rules for WWII.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Second Guessing

The other day, for $3, I picked up a PDF of Vol. 1, Issue 1 of The Courier from WargameVault. I haven't read all of it (I downloaded it to my phone to read on the train) but I did read"How to Raise Colonial Armies" by Doug Johnson, in which Mr. Johnson explains both the way war gamers typically assemble Colonial armies and the reality of their compositions. Johnson notes that
"Thus a number of " colonial " wargames are fought between opposing imperial armies with only a few " native levies" thrown in . This is unsatisfactory for it is not historical" (p. 42)

And more importantly for my purposes, with respect to the makeup of an imperial army:
"A commander should thus decide on a formula for his army, of something like two or three askaris (or more) to one European ." (p. 43)

It goes without saying that this set me to considering the composition of forces in my Helvetica game and how I could best meet the above criterion. Then of course, how could I do so and justify it from a narrative perspective?

The latter, it turns out, has a surprisingly easy answer, as the campaign rules I'm using for reinforcements (which I modified only slightly) allows an army return to full strength when knocked back to its area B (Sauvignon-Blanc) or when an army wins twice in a row(Riesling). Thus, I can explain that what it means is that the battered units retired from the front and the new arrivals that took their place are primarily native.

Of course, Helvetica is an imaginary place in an imaginary world, the imperial nations are fictional, the natives are lizard folk tribes - all of which pushes the bounds of historical simulation, to say the least. Never mind that the opposing sides are represented by miniatures in the uniforms of forces that existed about 20-30 years apart.

At this point, I have no idea which I'll pursue - the current "Eurocentric" force (it's in quotes because I'm not convinced there's a Europe in my imaginary world) with friendly native levies or one composed primarily of native troops of varying quality and a limited number of "Europeans" in a 2 -3 ratio. As the lizard folk are armed with hand-to-hand weapons, I have no doubt of the truth of Johnson's statement that "It will produce a different game, rather more like an ancient than an horse-and-musket game, but then , that is what it should be like." (p. 43). The next game isn't for a little bit yet - I need to construct some sort of frontier fort - so I have some time to mull this over further.

A brief aside, back issues of The Courier and MWAN are now available at WargameVault.com. For $3.00 each these are definitely worth the price!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Reflections on Campaign Week 2: The Bridge Over the River Qui

What worked:

  • 1 playing card per company (a company here is 2 bases, rather than one per platoon - each base- as last time) and then 1/2 as many assigned to "blank". 
  • Officers started on the table and they could turn over one card in an adjacent square per turn in place of a move action. This made moving the officers more purposeful.
  • Generating several plans for each side and rolled to decide which to use.  
  • Using Mythic to build a case for each side's scouts.
  • the house rule that Lizard folk are unaffected by water: It helped differentiate them further from the imperials and it allowed them to engage in battle sooner.

What didn't:

As I mentioned in a response to JF in the comments on the game recap post, the find-a-ford rule didn't work quite like I hoped.

I decided a roll of a 6 on a 1d6 would indicate the river was passable at that grid space. Only 1 check per space allowed and it cost the unit one movement action. In retrospect I might have made it one check per unit per grid space, to increase the chances.

Then again, it did force Riesling to reconsider their plans - unfortunately, from a game point of view, it funneled the majority of Riesling forces into the center of the board to cross the bridge which made any flanking maneuver on their part difficult at best.

I gave Sauvignon-Blanc two fieldwork locations. Again, because the Riesling forces were forced down the bridge in the center of the table, and because range was limited to 1 square by the weather(or 2 at substantial penalty) the fieldworks were rendered superfluous. While it certainly reflected Baudrillard's inability to re-deploy his defense, it wasn't all that fun from a game perspective. Sure, they took 15 minutes to make, but I really hoped they would play a role.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Helvetica: Bridge Over the River Qui (Campaign Week 2 Battle)

Victory conditions: 
Defender wins if holds for 10 + 1d6 turns and prevents attacker from breaking through, Attacker wins if gets 2/3 of force over bridge and at least 2 units are within 2 grid spaces of defender baseline. Either side loses automatically if they reach their army breakpoint and fail a check against it.

Without sufficient time to adjust his battle plans, Baudrillard was forced stick to his decision to deploy 3e Compagnie to the field works while sending half of his remaining force to delay the Riesling advance, keeping the rest to defend against the possibility of their breaking through, and finally 1 company in reserve to deploy where needed. The steam walker is to be held back for use against any attacking force that manages to maneuver past the field works.

3e Compagnie Deployed to Field works
Dietrich will send his strong left flank to cross the river and attack the field works, while his right and center combine to force their way across the bridge. His lizard folk units are assigned to find a ford where the rest of the troops on the left could cross. A single company is to be held in reserve and the steam tractor will be held back to cross the bridge once a path is cleared.

Riesling left and center advance - but no ford has yet been found! 

On the far right of the picture above, the national flag of Riesliing can be seen: A single ant on a golden wheat field.

Two lizard units move towards each other only vaguely aware of the other's presence (Due to the weather, LOS is limited to adjacent squares).

In the background, the two sides prepare to meet at the bridge
At the bridge, a slogging match unfolds!

On turn 10, after failing to find any fords, and the bulk of the human forces  at or over the bridge  I use Mythic to check and see if Dietrich changes his orders for the lizard folk and get an exceptional yes - he orders them to cross the river and engage the nearest enemies.

The Riesling forces push across bridge and through the river!

In the background, upper right, the black flag of anarchy proudly flies over the Riesling army

The same turn, I realize that Baudrillard could conceivably win if he can hold out for however many turns might remain and keep Riesling at bay. It seems to me, now is the time to bring up the baseline units, particularly the walker which is highly mobile artillery. I ask Mythic, "Does Baudrillard send up his baseline units?" and get  yes.  

Sauvignon-Blanc units advance while others retreat to the safety of the field works. The steam walker, meanwhile, stands quiet, save for the muffled sounds of the swearing of the crew members inside as predictably, it fails to start.

Center left, the immobile steam walker

At the end of turn 10, Baudrillard has taken 30% losses and the army has a break point of 40%. I roll a d6 to see how many turns remain - I figure if he gets a 1 or 2, he'll win, anything higher and it'll be close. I roll a 5. Looks like close it is.

After much kicking and banging, the Sauvignon-Blanc walker advances to fire upon a Riesling lizard-folk unit, to no effect. Baudrillard utters a not so silent curse upon the manufacturer.

The Riesling steam tractor advances to take on the walker in a battle of technology as the Sauvignon-Blanc reserves arrive.

The tractor advances, spins and fires it's rear facing cannon at the walker at near point-blank range

and misses.

I'm starting to wonder why I bother to field vehicles for either side. Maybe both sides need to bring on new crew members.

At the end of turn 13 Sauvignon-Blanc is down 40%+. They win initiative on turn 14 but fail their break point test. They retreat in disorder.

Victory goes to Riesling!

8th Kompanie poses with national flag

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

WWII Island Assault Project Progress

With  young Lord Shadowmoss going to bed by 8:30pm and Lady Shadowmoss playing D&D Online the last two nights, in addition to the campaign game, I had a chance to do some painting.

Here are the first attempts at the Japanese force for one my three bigger 2012 Projects:

WWII Japanese "grenadiers" 
I did way too much stressing and a ton of research online to figure out the right colors, and then which paints would get me there, before settling on:

  • Uniform and helmet: FolkArt Rusted Pipe (the helmet isn't exactly the color I want. I really wanted to use Fawn, but I don't have any. I mixed some brown with the Rusted Pipe for a darker shade, and while I liked it, I'm not keen on having to mix up a batch every time I paint. Then again, I could probably mix and store more than enough for the 44 remaining figures)
  • Puttees: FolkArt Rusted Pipe then a light brushing of Americana Desert Sand leaving spaces for Rusted Pipe to show through
  • Leather bits: Americana Honey Brown
  • Rifle: CeramCoat Dark Brown, GW Boltgun, an old bottle of Gun Steel craft paint
  • Flesh: CeramCoat AC Flesh over CeramCoat Dark Brown base coat. I tried CeramCoat Tan Flesh but didn't like it - too light for all but elven princesses maybe. 
  • Base: Leaf Green (not sure of the brand). It's going to be covered up anyway.
I know the black lining is not to everyone's taste - most vocally, Lady Shadowmoss (and I quote "They look cartoon-y"). 

But I just really prefer the look of the black line over the shading options I considered  - maybe because the result is somewhat "cartoon-y" in comparison. I also think it looks great on the table - the high contrast helps the miniatures stand out from the table top, at least to my aging eyes (new glasses might also help there).

My technique is not terribly good yet, but with another 44 Japanese and 48 Marines to go, I'm sure I'll get better.  For examples of what I'm aspiring to with the lining, please check out the painted minis on Two Up, One Back  and The Clash of Spear on Shield.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Campaign Week 2: The Setup

Last night, I managed to get in the second game in my Helvetica campaign. What follows is the prelude I generated during my lunch break yesterday.

Prelude to the encounter:

Having fallen back in good order, and in spite of rainy weather impeding travel, 
Baudrillardwas able to organize his forces to maneuver them to reach and cross the bridge at the river Qui ahead of his opponent.

Oberst Dietriech, victor of the Poirot Pass engagement, was stunned to find not one able bodied scout available to trail the Sauvignon-Blanc force. By a stroke of luck, one of the lizard folk tribes in the region was of a friendly disposition to Riesling and offered information about the direction and state of the Sauvignon-Blanc army. 

Only the efforts of the Sauvignon-Blanc scout managed to prevent his pressing any advantage. 

The  scout (a Soldat Vendredi) had succeeded in tracking the movement of the Riesling forces but relayed the information only just too late to be of use in Baudrilard's battle plans. Fieldworks were constructed, and a reinforcement of 9e Section, 5e Compagnie, fresh from the fort at Guillaume Le Roy would be his only advantage.

And so, when, on Monday, the rain of the past week turned to torrential downpour and high winds as a tropical storm hit the island, Dietrich was descending into the river valley to cross the bridge at the river Qui. Baudrillard, still stinging from his defeat at the Pass, for his part, had dug in and his troops were waiting.

Thus, the battle would be joined despite soggy ground making movement trying and wind and rain severely limiting visibility and effective ranged fire.


I decided to check to see if either side could gain any advantage as a result of scouting - which I would determine by using the decision table in IN-RADIC (a simplified Mythic - I do have Mythic, but again, I was at work when I handled this part). 
Inspired by posts over at Solo Battles on using Mythic, I decided not to ask "Does this side get any advantage?" but rather to try and build a case on evidence.

I handled Riesling first as they are the attacker:

Does Dietrich have any able bodied scouts? A Dead Certainty. No. My jaw dropped. Totally unexpected.

Are there lizard folk tribes in the area friendly to Riesling? Avg. Yes.

Do the Riesling forces encounter them on the trail of Sauvignon-Blanc? Even if lizard folk tribes are present, it doesn't mean they'll be encountered and so I rule that the chance is Below Avg. 

And proceed to roll a Perfect (equivalent to the Mythic "exceptional yes").

I take this to mean not only do they encounter friendly lizard folk and are given information to the whereabouts of the Sauvignon-Blanc force, but that they can gain surprise if Baudrillard doesn’t find out about their own troop movements

And so for Sauvignon-Blanc:

Does Baudrillard have any scouts? A Dead Certainty. Yes.

Is his scout able to monitor Riesling movements undetected? Above Avg. Perfect.

I interpret the "Perfect" as the scout discerns intended movement and deployment and returns undetected to his commander.

It's rainy weather this week, so I ask, given the weather, is the scout able to make it back to his commander before Riesling forces arrive? I figure that he would have departed well ahead of Riesling's columns and so decide it's A dead certainty. Yes.

Is it enough time to change deployment? Avg. No.

Conclusion: Both sides would deploy per the setup I had determined originally with no additional advantage or penalty.

This took less than a few minutes to roll out - it took longer to type - but I feel like it went quite a way towards fleshing out the battle by providing a narrative justification for the disposition of the forces.Plus, I now have another character, this Soldat Vendredi, that I can follow and develop if I choose.

The rainy weather, and then the storm, was generated using my simple system. In game terms, the storm left visibility at 1 grid space and movement rates cut in 1/2, which, given the overwhelming preponderance of infantry on both sides meant a very slow moving game.

I opted to rule that units could fire at a reduced rate out to two grid spaces as they might be able to make out the enemy just barely - this wouldn't come into play however. Mostly because I forgot about it.
Coming soon: The Battle at the Bridge Over the River Qui!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Panzers and Tigers and, well, just Panzers and Tigers so far, oh my!

The Germans form up
Somewhat out of nowhere, I decided I wanted to do something with tanks. And of course, I wanted it to involve Russia (I don't know why, I just have a thing for Russia). That can only mean one thing: Kursk, or more accurately, the battle of Prokhorovka.

Now, until yesterday when my new toys arrived, I had 4 tanks. Two in 1/72 and two in 1/32. Neither scale is conducive to a large scale tank battle - never mind that one of the four was a British Churchill  and of limited use as all but a proxy. Even at micro scale, I'm not really interested in owning a few hundred tanks. What to do? To the interwebz!

I found this scenario on Juniorgeneral.org, which requires only a small number (41) total, and no infantry to worry about. Count me in!

And so, I have begun acquiring armor (with bent barrels in some cases - not exactly sure how best to straighten them. anyone?). I have nine T-34s I won on ebay on the way, and I'll be ordering more from either GHQ or CinC (they have nicely priced company packs) in the near future.

Finally, the availability of infantry in this scale has me considering making it into my go to WWII scale - primarily as a space saver. And using 1/32 as my skirmish 1 fig to 1 man scale. In any case, it's the 3rd scale I have WWII in and I really ought to figure out just where I want to focus my scenery and terrain efforts for maximum re-usability.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Some thoughts on the Battle of Poirot Pass

After I play a game, I like to dwell on what went well and what didn't - so that the next time will be even more enjoyable.

Following my proposed turn sequence, I rolled for the campaign turn's weather (stormy) and then supply - abundance for both sides. Now, for those following along at home, that's three 6s in a row on a d6. Of course, this never happens when I actually want it to.

I skipped events - just wanted to start with the first battle as planned- a meeting engagement to gain control over a valuable pass-and rolled for the game weather. Even with the +1 modifier, I only rolled light/rain drizzle, which from a commanders point of view beats heavy rains or torrential downpours and high winds, but as a test of my game effect ideas, it was minimally helpful.

I decided that this time I would experiment with the idea of playing both sides, rather than against an "opponent". To make it fair and worth my time, I took away total control from each side by:
  • Assigned each stand a playing card to make each side's deck and then added half as many blank cards to each deck. So, with 11 stands (10 + 1 vehicle each), each deck was 11 cards, plus 5 (i rounded down) for a total of 16 cards.
  • Borrowing an idea I came across while researching meeting engagement scenarios, I split the deck into 3 groups - 4 cards for the scouts/vanguard, 8 for the main body and 4 for the rear guard.
    • The scouts start on the board
    • On turn 3, at the end of a side's half of the turn, roll d6 for arrival of the main body of troops. They arrive on a 6. If they arrive, place on table.
    • If they don't arrive, then, at the end of that side's half of turn 4, roll again, and this time add 1 to the roll. If the result is 6, they arrive. For each turn, add 1 to the roll until the main body arrives.
    • Two turns after that, repeat the process for the rear guard.
  • All troops upon their arrival were randomly placed on their base line by die roll.
  • In an article at Solo Battles Dale (I don't know his last name) made mention of assigning written orders to his solo opponent to guide troop movements. Inspired, I decided to create a set of of cards with 5 different ideas of how I might approach the battle. As I am of no great tactical mind, these were five simple ideas or game plans, if you will. Each side drew a card and these were noted and returned to the deck. I repeated this for the main body and then again for the rear guard as each arrived. Thus, each body could have different objectives as part of an overall coordinated attack for that side. All of my decisions for movement/strategy would be based in large part on these orders.
  • Each side's leaders were rated 1 = cautious, 2-5 a little cautious, a little aggressive, 6- aggressive, with the Mythic Fate Chart handling any grey areas.
  •  A cautious leader would retire his side from the field after 40% loss of strength, an avg after 50% (a common value in wargame rules, hence why i chose it), and an aggressive after 60%. These were guidelines however, and, again, I'd use Mythic if there were any question.
  • Finally I added the G.A.S.L.I.G.H.T. vehicle start and sustain rules and intended to use their results table should a hit be scored on one of the vehicles. These mechanisms make the vehicles the temperamental technological marvels that they are and prevent player from running roughshod over the enemy.
I am pleased with how everything worked out and more so, how it all seemed to work together. This was the first game I ever played that wasn't 1 fig. = 1 man, so some of this may just be the giddiness of trying something new but the game really was fun and felt very different than my usual skirmish games.

There was a good deal of uncertainty caused by the use of blinds and additional blank cards  and the unknown arrival time and placement of remaining forces. But, it was the use of written orders that I felt really added to the feel of bodies of soldiers maneuvering into position - not in reaction to every move of the enemy, but guided by a plan and their officers.

 It also meant that when they arrived, some units would have a great deal of movement to make just to get where they belonged.

At one point, this resulted in the Sauvignon-Blanc walker being stalled out one move from its objective, a position on the center hill (from which it could dominate the table with artillery fire). Unfortunately, it stalled and was unable to restart for nearly the remainder of the game. Of course, it was faced away from the newly revealed Riesling steam tractor. The tractor had its own mechanical difficulties and never was able to maneuver within range of the walker and so disaster was at least temporarily averted.

Memoir of Battle gave a great game with the right feel. Ranged weapons were effective, but it really took closing in to do serous damage quickly. One lizard-folk goum took out an entire zug of Riesling infantry in just one melee! The only time that happened in the 11 turns the game lasted, might I add.

Finally, the grid surface eliminated one of my least favorite things - measuring. I can't express how much I dislike stopping and measuring. 

The only downside was the amount of time spent moving playing cards around before contact was achieved - 16 cards per side takes awhile. Next time, I'll give each company a card instead of each platoon/section which should cut that time in half.

I've already rolled up the recovery and reinforcements per the campaign rules to complete the first game week and I can't wait for the next battle!

Monday, February 6, 2012

First Campaign Game: Battle for Poirot Pass

Early Saturday, under clouds and a light drizzle, forces of Sauvignon-Blanc and Riesling clashed at the Poirot Pass, located on the island of Helvetica. Both forces included native contingents and steam powered mechanized inventions of war. These machines, though impressive to witness, suffer from a lack of reliability and are prone to catastrophic failure.
Sauvignon-Blanc "Walker"
Riseling Armored Steam Tractor
Sauvingon-Blanc scouts attempted to capture the center hill while their main force, not far behind, split to capture all 3 - a move that would prove costly. The Riesling vanguard drove through the southern gap -their main body forced their way through the gap to the north.
Vanguards clash as the main forces maneuver into position

Intense fighting raged across the battle field. Particularly savage was the fighting of the native contingents.

A demi-goum of Sauvignon-Blanc allied lizard men prepares to charge a Riesling zug, The zug was nowhere to be found moments after this photo was taken.

When the smoke had cleared, the Poirot Pass was under the control of Riesling commander, Colonel Dietrech.

Moments before Sauvingon-Blanc left the field to the victorious Rieslings.

The rules used were Bob Cordery's Memoir of Battle with a bolt-on of most of the vehicle rules from GASLIGHT.

The walker is foam core, toilet paper tube, drinking straws and toothpicks. The steam tractor is 100% Sculpey.

I'll post my thoughts on the rules, game and my campaign mechanisms next time.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

And a Change of Plans for My Campaign

After a lot of thinking (too much thinking), I'm switching back to the "map" as presented at Saxe-Bearstein. I think including the events on mine in lieu of 2 areas for battle is unnecessary if I start with large enough forces on the table - and I intend to now.

I was getting too caught up in historical numbers of French Foreign Legion and I didn't want to field possibly more than 1 battalion total as it would pull from those available in other historical regions.

But, in fact, this is a totally fictional campaign in a fictional world - in retrospect, I think the Lizard-folk should have given that away.

Rather than France or Prussia, they may as well be the troops of Sauvignon Blanc vs those of Riesling in battle for possession of Helvetica, a large island that is part of the Sans Serif island chain.

Hmm. That's a good idea. And so it shall be!

An Attempt at a Campaign System Part 3: Weather, Supply, Reinforcements, and Campaign Turn Sequence


Every system I have seen for generating weather for wargames, decries the lack of said systems - which I find ironic. Maybe that's just me though.

In any case, not to be one of those heathens who thinks weather is unimportant, I wanted a simple system limited to the kinds of weather one might encounter in the tropics.

So, for each campaign turn (representing one week you may recall) roll 1d6:

1 - 2 Clear - -1 on battle weather roll
3 - 4 Rain - +/- 0 on battle weather roll
5 - 6 Stormy + 1 on battle weather roll

This is just the general character of the weather for that week.

For weather relevant to a specific battle, roll 1d6 and apply modifier from above:

<=1 - Humid, hot, clear - pretty much what you'd expect in the tropics - no effect
2 - Foggy - visibility reduced to 1d3 grid spaces, roll each game turn
3 - Light rain/ drizzle - no effect
4 - Steady rain - limit visibility to 1d3 + 1 grid squares
5 - Heavy rain - reduce visibility to 1d3 grid squares each game turn, movement reduced 1/2
>=6 - Torrential rain/Winds/Etc- reduce visibility to 1 grid square, reduce movement 1/2

The limit on visibility applies to attacks only for the most part.

If this all seems arbitrary, it is and it isn't. It isn't based on any particular truths of climatology or study of military history, but it does feel right after reviewing several other systems for calculating weather for war games.

Same for my supply rules.


I have no intention of dealing with supply minutiae. Maybe next time. For now, I just want a simple system that can impact the next battle without the need for complicated calculation.

So, for a super simple game effect, I'll roll 1d6 each campaign turn for each side:

1 - Supplies are low - one unit suffers morale penalty (in MoB, I'm thinking I may reduce the strength of a unit by 1)
2 - 5 Adequate
6 - an unusual abundance - one unit gets morale bonus, full strength units are not eligible.


I intend to use the ideas as presented in this post at Saxe-Bearstein (the same post upon which this entire campaign structure rests)

Excepting Reinforcement Composition:

When receiving reinforcement of a unit per the link above, roll 1d6:

6 - receive 2 companies of native units (4 stands) which rate as poor
5 -receive 1 mixed company (2 stands, 1 native (poor), 1 European (avg) )
1-4 - receive 1 platoon (1 stand) of European troops(avg)

The exception to this exception is when the Capital/Base is reached - then you get a guard class unit and gun per the link. In my case, that's 2 elite platoons of European units.

No more than 6 stands of Native units per army (because I only have enough minis for 12 stands of 4 total). Substitute 1 platoon of European troops.

The Campaign Turn

This is how I imagine each turn will go:

1. Campaign turn weather
2. Supply
3. Event (I may remove this and simply play out things that seem logical / interesting as a result of the prior battle, or I may change the list I came up with etc. I'm thinking forcing events that require playing out might hinder the completion of the campaign)
4. Battle Weather
5. Battle (MoB, possibly Morschauser's Frontier Rules for a game or two, with his weird combat rules)
6. Recover and Reinforcement

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

An Attempt at a Campaign System Part 2: Events

Next up for my campaign system:

Events that aren't battles with the other army
(I called these Encounters yesterday, but that isn't quite right, as you'll see below).

As my campaign will take place in some as-yet determined Victorian Science Fiction realm, probably on Venus or perhaps a minimally explored and occupied island, the natives in my game are Lizard-folk (that's the p.c. version of Lizard-men for those of you keeping score). They have an uneasy relationship with the Europeans to say the least - some tribes are willing to accept rule as long as it doesn't interfere with their lives, some are willing to even serve as attachments to European military units, others seek the explicit destruction of the occupying forces. And it goes without saying (I don't know why it goes without saying, but it does and I'm going to say it anyway), not all Lizard-folk tribes are friendly with each other either.

Essentially, they are the third side in this conflict with their own agendas.

That out of the way, the Event ideas (Some of these ideas are "borrowed" from various sites on the web - unfortunately, I don't recall which came from where):
  1. Native uprising - Natives attack, Europeans defend
  2. Native uprising - Europeans attack, Natives defend
  3. Native ambush - patrol attacked by Natives*
  4. Lose 1d6 strength points to disease (distributed randomly across available forces)
  5. Lose 1d6 strength points due to desertion (distributed randomly across available forces)
  6. No Encounter / No Event
  7. Character based mission (may involve up to 1 platoon of enemy, any number of native warrior - ideas: delivery of information, new weapons, prisoner capture/rescue, etc. )
  8. Courier/Scout mission (There's an article in a back issue of Lone Warrior that lays out such a game and that's what I'd use to handle this event)
  9. Hunting party (squad) encounters carnivorous dinosaur.
*I have a system I set up based on an article in yet another back issue of Lone Warrior detailing a simple but enjoyable game between Conquistadors and Aztecs.  Using card draws and some rules about disengagement, it does a good job of simulating an ambush attack that falls back only to return later with additional forces.

I'll use G.A.S.L.I.G.H.T. to resolve most of the events that involve combat as I see these as smaller affairs involving no more than a company on the European side and maybe 2 times that for the natives.

The important point is the results of any of these events will be reflected in the force statistics, which, like the battle results, carry over from turn to turn.

Event Generation
  • I'll use card draws to determine the event - 2 cards in the deck for all but Hunting Party and Courier/Scout mission  which will have 1. No reason other than it seems right to me.
  • After the card is drawn by the first army, the card is returned to the deck, it is reshuffled and then the other army draws.
    • In this way, each army has an equal chance of negative consequences.
    • If I decide I want one side to be "my side" then I'll add additional no encounter cards to the "non-player" side.