Sunday, 24 January 2021

Grapple-X

 In a welcome addition to our usual lineup, we were joined by a contingent from the Holborn Gaming Group down in That London/Kings Landing. John B offered to run one of his single session committee games, this time covering  a British H-Bomb test in the late 1950s. So, maximum Cold War sleaze then.

The game itself was pretty free format. The players all had general briefings and role specific objectives, and we then essentially talked out way in or out of trouble, depending. Some structure was provided by the game being set around a formal enquiry into the Grapple-X test, which may have gone slightly awry. 

The new whizz-bang was being tested in the Whitsun Islands in the South Pacific, and may have landed a tad closer to habitation than was intended. Ooops!



My role was Governor of the Whitsuns Islands, and I was mainly concerend with making sure that whatever might have gone wrong (and we didn't know for sure that it had) was absolutely nothing to do with me! I was also a bit concerned about the whereabouts of the islands Chief Medical Officer who had gone AWOL. Finally, after that spot of indiscretion at the Kitty Club I had a few dark secrets, and I needed to ensure that all of that remained strictly hush hush.


Various bigwigs on the Committee of Enquiry interviewed the witnesses to the exercise, and gradually the appalling truth became apparent(ish). Well, never give a Lt Commander a map at short notice is all I can say.

Luckily all the interest in the technicalities of just how big a bomb it was, and how the Royal Navy and RAF could fail to find a target the size of an island was an excellent distraction from the more sordid goings on in Soho, and no unpleasant style Profumo scandal emerged.




In the end the committee decided the whole thing was largely the fault of the German origined nuclear weapons designer at AWE Aldermaston and resolved to keep johnny foreigner well away from our nuclear secrets in future. Let the Americans do that sort of thing.


 

It also turned out that I needn't have worried too much about my sordid past , as there were several other dubious characters knocking around as well. Shame about the islanders, still I'm sure their hair will grow back.


That was great fun, and the players role played to the hilt. It made me all nostalgic for the good old days of the Cold War when you knew what was what.


These bad boys used to fly low over my house in the mid 1960s. My Dad reminded me that you could also see the end of the runway from the garden. Mmmm, don't think we'd have to worry too much about the fallout then.







Saturday, 9 January 2021

Table Battles - Little Round Top

 In a change of pace form Bosworth, Tim put on another Table Battles game and this time we headed off to Gettysburg and specifically Little Round Top. Being a card game, there isn't really much blog friendly eye candy, but here is the 'battle' such as it is.



The Rebels have two wings, the red wing has three regiments facing off against two Yank ones, while the yellow wing also has three regiments, two of which are fighting two US regiments and one is pulling a sneaky outflanking manouvre via Devils Den.

As with the other battles in this series, the battlefield layout is managed by which cards are allowed to attack other cards, and in what sequence. Each CSA unit can only attack its historical counterpart, and if it wins, can move on to attack another nearby one. The CSA units all have five strength points as opposed to the US ones with four. The CSA layout is therefore quite straightforward, but the US is far more complex as they are deployed in two lines in difficult terrain with artillery support.

The US have more cards, but only four of these are front line combat regiments (the dark blue units). The rest are special units, one is artillery which can stop attacks dead, another are sharpshooters attached to 20th Maine who can basically get extra hits vs 15th Alabama, one card represents Devils Den which has to be 'attacked' to get at the units behind it and finally the last unit is Weeds Brigade which hangs around in reserve and can absorb hits instead of the US front line. This turned out to be pretty decisive.

As these battles are normally quite quick, Tim ran it twice over two days. On Tuesday Pete and myself took the Rebs, while John, Tim C and Jerry took the Yanks On Wednesday, we swapped sides and Richard joined the US team too.

Day 1
We built up a series of multi-dice attacks, trying to generate a favourable loss ratio. We didn't bother with Devils Den and just attacked frontally. Unfortunately the US used the time we spent building up our attacks to reinforce their defences and our attacks were either halted by artillery fire or frustrated as Weeds Brigade pushed its reserves forward. In the end US attacks routed two of our weakened regiments and the CSA gave up.

Day 2
As the US we tried to replicate the tactics of the day before (piling command dice onto the artillery, reserves and sharpshooters while mounting the odd counterattack). The Rebs tried something different, and launched a series of low odds (one dice) attacks which caused them some losses but forced us to keep reacting and burning the dice on our defensive units. This was very effective and their attacks inflicted losses on the front line at a faster rate than Weeds Brigade could push reserves forward, although there were heaps of dead Rebs in front of the US positions. Finally, one of the US units was reduced to one step and the Rebs launched an attack to destroy it, but they hadn't noticed that we had a single reserve dice left which absorbed the hit and instead it was the Rebs which were routed. Next turn we attacked with 20th Maine, reinforced with Sharpshooters, who routed 47th Alabama and the US were victorious again.

That was a much more close run thing, well done to the CSA for playing so well. To be honest, they deserved the win and I suspect if we'd been playing f2f they wouldn't have made their fatal mistake. 

This really is a fascinating game and Tim and I both pondered how we might design some other scenarios (I am drawn to some WW1 trench warfare ones), but getting the interactions right between the various options is the sort of thing which makes my head hurt. Great stuff, very enjoyable.

 






Saturday, 2 January 2021

2020, thank goodness that is over

 Well, that was an interesting year and hopefully not one to be repeated again in my lifetime. I shan't overly dwell on the shortcomings of our leaders in these difficult times, but I'm hoping there is a special place in hell reserved for both the bumbling incompetents and the corrupt disaster merchants shovelling our cash into their mates pockets.

Helping to transition the entire organisation and all its customers into a remote working environment while also figuring out how to operate our teams and maintain our services remotely has also been quite an interesting experience, not helped by the rather more challenging security environment.

Among all the chaos and confusion, wargaming has remained a delight however, and a particular shout out to the stalwarts of Sheffield Wargames Society and Wargames Developments who have helped make this year more bearable. We've managed to run regular on-line games since March and have actually become quite proficient at it. A real highlight of the year was the Virtual Conference of Wargamers back in the summer, and I'm looking forward to the winter VCOW in February.

I've also managed to make a big dent in the lead pile and have done my best to keep at least some figure manufacturers in business, and I've enjoyed the challenge of designing and running games suitable for an on-line environment.

So now it is just heads down until the vaccine is rolled out and hopefully a return to greater normality later in the year. 

Happy New Year everyone!

Just a reminder of a few great games.


Arras 1940


Nachod 1866


Kasserine Pass, 1943


Bir el Gubi, 1941


Operation Goodwood, 1944