Monday, 22 August 2016

Partisan II 2016

I went along to Partisan II on Sunday, along with the Wargames Development Team (North), to run our participation game on Roman politics 'Cursus Honorum'. I'd not been to the show at the new venue and I was pleasantly surprised by the hall at the Newark Showground. It was light and airy (despite the August day outside), and reminded me a bit of the EIS in Sheffield. The show is divided up into 'zones', participation, historical and display with traders around the outside.

The WD table in the participation zone, John in attendance. Down in the demo zone there was amazing eye candy games.

I was very taken with this WW1 African beach landing game, based on Tanga I believe.

There was also this very nice Western Desert game.

TFL running a Sharpe Practice session (there were a couple of other games being run using SP as well).

A magnificent 1859 game, rather grander than my 6mm efforts in this period!

Down in the participation zone was an amazing game about the fighting inside Fort Vaux at Verdun.

Unfortunately this picture of the overall layout is rather blurry.

The inside of the French barracks.

Considering it was August, the show was well attended. People coming in the main entrance at opening time.

A general view of the hall.

Phil Steele setting up his Naseby game for the Battlefields Trust. I played this at COW a few years ago. I though thte idea of putting the terrain on the inside of the folding pasting tables was a brilliant idea as it combines portability with protection.

Highlight of the day was Graham Evans adaptation of the Waterloo 1815 mechanisms to play the Battle of Northampton. Very clever and inspiring as I have been scratching my head about how to adapt it for set piece battles in other periods. I managed to play it once(it is very quick) and Jerry played it several times.

Overall,  a very decent day out. Jerry thought the numbers were down on the earlier Partisan and we didn't have many takers of the game (half a dozen players in total) this time. It may have been a feature of the sheer number of games, but also ours was multi-player which may be have limited the interest. Next year we are looking at a single player game, which might work a bit better. It was very nice to catch up with lots of people I knew, and I'm looking forward to going back in future.

I had some moderate shopping success, getting some planned items, along with some unplanned ones (but as those Zevzda 1/100th boxes worked out at £2.50 each, they were virtually crying out to be taken away). The only slight disappointment was the catering, which didn't even have staples like Mars Bars (although I gather the breakfast bap was excellent). I'll know to pack more sweets next time.

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Coronel and Falklands

One of my go-to scenarios for WW1 naval games is the paired battles of Coronel and the Falklands. They are small enough to be manageable, large enough to be interesting and by doing both, both sides get to 'win'. (Only a criminally negligent German can lose Coronel, even with the Canopus present).

In this particular case I wanted to playtest the joint modifications John and I had made to the naval version of the One Hour Wargames rules to make sure they could handle cruiser/battlecruiser actions as well as more traditional battle lines.

Both battles were played with my 1/3000th scale naval stuff at the Sheffield club.

Coronel, opening moves. Otranto leads the British line while Glasgow lurks in the background. Von Spee's Germans are all lined up with Scharnhorst leading.

Otranto takes a pasting (the big red blob is ten hits!).

The British reply against the big German armoured cruisers is modest.

Otranto goes down while Monmouth and Good Hope take some more hits.

The British T is crossed, with predictable results, and Craddocks squadron goes down.

So, off to the Falklands (clearly strong winds have made the camera shake in the observer aircraft). More fun for the British as Invincible and Inflexible present rather more of a threat to Gneisenau and Scharnhorst than Craddocsk elderly armoured cruisers at Coronel.

The mighty British battle cruisers, although the British player would be wise to bear in mind that these really are just heavy cruisers with 12" guns, not super fast dreadnoughts loaded up with armour. Something contemporary Admirals seemed to struggle with too.

Von Spee adopted an interesting converging formation, pairing up the armoured and light cruisers, while the British aimed to keep their BCs out of harms way and shell the Germans from long range.

A vicious close quarters cruiser action developed as the Germans tried to break through the Royal Navy.

The carnage continued.

But finally one of the German light cruisers succumbed. Meanwhile Gnesenaus was close enough to actually damage Invincible. Ooops.

The British suddenly realised the grave danger, but to late for Invincible which took a real pasting, only three hits off sinking. Gneisenau and Scharnhorst split up. taking on one BC each at close range.

Inflexible won its duel with only minor damage, and Scharnhorst went down.

But Gneisenau failed to finish off the crippled Invincible, and in turn went down in a hail of gun fire.

This all went pretty well and was a lot of fun. The British managed ot avoid the ignominy of losing one of their precious Battlecruisers and Von Spee put up a really heroic fight against very long odds. The game mechanisms all held together well, and by at large were the ones we used for Jutland.

Sunday, 31 July 2016

WW1 in Five Games

One nice idea with One Hour Wargames is to string together a series of engagements as a mini campaign. On the AMW yahoo group some kind people have pre-done some already, and a First World War campaign of five linked battles caught my eye.

The first two are 1914 and 1915, so we had a go at these at the club. They are so quick to play you can easily get through two in an evening.

These were all played with my 15mm early war figures, generally four bases to a unit (two for artillery).

The first scenario is the river crossing one. Germans entered from the right.

And British from the left.

The German cavalry pushed very aggressively over the far bridge, supported by infantry, into the face of the British artillery position.

But massed firepower saw the Germans melt away. First game to the British.

The second scenario was defence in depth. Four German units dug in on the far side of the river.

The British had the un-enviable task of bludgeoning their way across the bridge.

The isolated German cavalry were overwhelmed despite their entrenchments, and the British went on to roll over the other German units in fine fashion.

We called it a day there. I keep meaning to go back and do the 1916,17 and 18 scenarios but some of the players said they found the mechanisms really too simple for comfort, so we've not returned to this. A shame, as I think the games were a lot of fun.

There may be some mileage in a WW1 version of 'Simplicity in Practice' which combines some elements of the fast play aspects of OHW, with a bit more crunchiness, but without the endless dice rolling of his more complex sets. Again, something on the to-do list.

Saturday, 2 July 2016

First day of the Somme (VIII Corps)

I recently picked up a copy VIII Corps on the Somme by Neil Reid and published by Vexillia. It covers the attacks by Hunter Westons Corps (specifically 31st Div, 4th Div and 29th Div) against Serre and Beaumont Hamel fronted by the Hawthorne Ridge and Heidenkopf redoubts on the far left of the British line.

As 31st Div contained the Sheffield Pals, and it is the 100th anniversary of the battle, this seemed a fitting time to run the game. I'm not quite sure why Neil picked VIII Corps as the attack was a bloody catastrophe, being into some the the strongest Germans defences and with both flanks hanging in the air, so the British have an uphill struggle at best.

The game itself is a card game, with the battlefield laid out using nine sector cards (front, second and support lines for each of the three assault divisions) and each side has a mixed deck of 'strategic' and 'tactical' cards. The strategic cards are mainly artillery barrages, gas attacks, trench raids and such like, whereas the tactical cards are used to resolve the various assaults (and resolve into combat points, the most combat points played wins).

It is a very clever design and I would highly recommend it. The first few turns (days) are spent by both sides building up the hands of cards while the British try to pound the German defences by laying down barrage cards (which remove some of the German cards, reduce the strenght of the defences and provide combat bonuses to the attackers). Once the actual fighting starts, the tactical cards are played by each side to resolve the individual assaults, and some cards (such as German 'wire' cards) can stop an attack dead.

The British aim is to capture two sectors of the Germans support line, but if the British suffer two consecutive failed assaults, the attack is called off and they lose. This is not designed to be a balanced game, and the chance of the British capturing the support line are virtually nil, however they do have a good chance of doing better than historically, and that is how I chose to judge it.

Although it is a card game, I wanted to represent the flow of the battle with toys, because I like toys. Besides, it is all very well for the generals with their cards and maps, out on the battlefield it is real plastic soldiers who are dying. In order 31st, 4th and 29th Div facing the Germans. Serre is closest to the camera. Toys are my usual mixture of Emhar, HaT and Revell 20mm. The card decks are visible in the distance.

The battlefield cards. Each sector has a variable defence strength depending on the level of fortification (Serre is a 6!) and weight of artillery fire on it.

Jerry and Graeme took the British, John and Tim the Germans. Jerry proved to be an excellent card player and adopted what he termed a 'Russian' approach to the use of artillery and infantry, piling in masses of artillery in narrow sectors with piles of tactical used in a few strong attacks. Very bite and hold. The only downside to this approach was that it relied on drawing good sets of replenishment cards.

The result of the initial 31st Div attacks was really rather promising. The Germans front line and then Serre fell in rapid succession behind the hammer blows of piles of artillery and tactical cards. The Germans were very unlucky with their wire cards, which were constantly being removed by artillery fire.

Over in the 29th Div sector, the Hawthorne mine was blown and the troops poured over the defences, Beaumont Hamel falling to their rapid assault. Things started to go a bit pear shaped after that as the British had essentially run out of cards (particularly the important 'Over the Top' cards which allowed them to attack). Failure to attack counted as a failed attack, and so everything hung in the balance as they drew a fresh hand and 4th Div launched its assault. The Germans only had three cards to play (of which one was 'wire') and the British barrage failed to remove it and poor old 4th Div was left hanging on the wire and the game ended with two successive failures.

Historically, even though small parties of troops did penetrate Serre and overrun the Hawthorne Redoubt, the only solid gain was the Heidenkopf redoubt in the centre, and even that was evacuated with its flanks in the air, so the British had done rather better than their historical counterparts. Hurrah!

Sadly I suspect that the British have just won two deep salients, and both would have to be evacuated, especially Serre. In real life Serre did not fall until towards the end of the battle, and even Beaumont Hamel was not taken until the Battle of the Ancre. 

So, an interesting little game with some useful mechanisms, I particularly liked the treatment of artillery fire against fixed defences, very simple but effective. I now need ot figure out some way to incorporate some of the mechanism into Drumfire. It is published through Vexillia:

Saturday, 25 June 2016

5Core Brigade Commander

I was very excited to pick up a copy of 5Core Brigade Commander by Ivan Sorenson. It uses company sized stands and is aimed at brigade level actions to be played out in an hour or so. It has some very innovative features in the treatment of reactive fire (which essentially happens all the time), fire effects (primarily moral, not physical) and the resolution of AT fire which is based on relative effectiveness, not fixed attack/defence ratings.

I dragged out some of my 6mm toys and converted the Rapid Fire 'Maltot' scenario to use company elements. Playtesting at home went swimmingly well, and I worked up QRS sheets, briefings etc and took it down to the club.

The battlefield from the west. Hill 112 is on the far right, Maltot is visible in the middle distance, and a section of the River Odon is nearer the camera.

British artillery and reserves lined up. The British had a weak (two battalion) brigade supported by the Churchills of 9th RTR and a field artillery regiment.

The British push forward in the centre and south. The Germans initially have very weak forces (a single company of engineers and a company of Tigers from the 102nd SS Tiger Bn) but are reinforced by a panzer grenadier battalion supported by Pz IVs and a panzer recce battalion. Some of these units can be seen clustered around Maltot and the farm.

The German armoured engineers are obliterated by an artillery strike. Not much coming back from three sixes....

The panzer recce battalion takes the farm in the centre but comes under more artillery fire.

Further east, the Tigers and panzer grenadiers counterattack Maltot. British infantry supported by AT guns try to hold them off.

British infantry supported by Vickers guns and SP AT guns counterattack.

A (rather blurry) stalemate develops around Maltot, although the German infantry are now firmly in control of the town. The game was declared a German victory.

Although we did reach a conclusion fairly quickly (and with quite large forces) the game wasn't an unqualified success. There was just too much randomness in the unit activation and some of the combat effects, with entire companies vanishing in a twinkling of an eye (if they were unlucky). The British were appallingly unlucky in activating their forces which failed to move for three turns in a row (a 1:196 chance), but which rather detracted from their experience.

On reflection, all these things are fixable. It would be easy enough to give the companies more resiliance in the face of poor combat results, artillery can be toned down against armoured targets and Ivan has come up with a suggestion of rolling for activation by battalion instead of for the entire brigade. I think the randomness of the basic system is fine if you are playing a lot of battles, but we don't have that luxury, so I just need to make them a bit more predictable.

I would recommend these to anyone though as they have some very interesting ideas and cover a very wide period. They are available cheaply as PDF from Wargames Vault.