Saturday 28 July 2018

2nd Marne, July 1918

As it is 2018, there are number of significant 100th anniversaries of various WW1 battles which took place in 1918. One of these was the second Battle of the Marne, which featured a major German attack into the French lines (one of the last of the Kaiserschlacht offensives), and then a major counterattack by the French and US forces to push them back again.

As we were pressed for time at the club, I put together a representative engagement using One Hour Wargames. Rather than covering either of the big offensives I picked scenario 21, 'Fighting Retreat' to cover the German withdrawal back behind the Marne. I also wanted to try out a variant of Captain Kobolds combat variant: Instead of 15 hits, units only take six, and combat is resolved by units throwing one two or three D6 (corresponding to D6-2, D6 and D6+2 respectively). Units in the open are hit on 3+ and units in cover on 5+. The averages work out the same but there is less book-keeping and it is a bit less predictable. I also prefer the integrated treatment of cover in the firing results..

The battlefield from the Northwest. The Marne is in the distance crossed by two bridges, victory goes to whoever holds the hill at the end of the game.

The French rolled up this rather grand force (after a bit of fudging), tanks, artillery, cavalry and three infantry. We were using my late war 20mm plastic figures, this being the first outing for my French cavalry.

The Germans rolled up a force of infantry (three normal and one heavy). They had two turns to move across the river before the French came on. Here two of the Germans infantry have pulled across the river in the west.

And two more in the north.

The Germans look suitably determined.

While the French are too distracted by their toys to look up for the lithograph.

French combined arms group crosses the river.

A standoff in the west.

But over in the east, the French cavalry covered the river crossing.

The Germans managed to destroy one of the French infantry units, but were shot up in turn.,

The German defenders of the critical hill watch the French deploy in the distance.

The damaged German infantry are destroyed and the remaining French march forward.

The French tanks clear the woods with gunfire while sustaining some damage themselves (the trench crossing rails proved very useful for holding casualty markers).

They then set off towards the central hill in a menacing manner. The Germans had very wisely withdrawn behind the crest. Eagle eyed readers will notice everyones favourite command stand, the officer with sword and loyal message dog.

Sadly message dogs aren't much use against tanks.

Over in the west the Germans held the French off.

But things got a bit sticky on the hill.

Down to their last hit, the Germans conceded defeat and pulled back as the French cavalry moved up.

There were only a couple of turns left so it ended up being a fairly close run thing. I suspect it would have been closer if shooting ranges weren't so long, and I am sorely tempted to reduce them to 9" (in my hex based version they are 8") as the long shooting ranges produce too much ganging up. I think the scenario capture the flavour of a fighting retreat and as ever, produced interesting command decisions on both sides despite the last few turns becoming a slug fest.

The new combat system worked very well though, people commented how much faster it was, partly as there were less hit markers to drag around and the dice throwing was more straightforward. It was also a bit more 'heroic' than the the very attritional standard system. It would be interesting to try it with the Ancients set.

Saturday 21 July 2018

Joy of Six 2018

The week after COW I went along to help out with the combined Sheffield Wargames Society and Wargames Developments show game at the Joy of Six in Sheffield. I'd not been before as it is straight after COW, and doing two wargames shows in successive weekends always seemed a bit much. This year however I had gaming credits in the bank after my heroic labour efforts of shifting daughter number two to London instead of attending COW in Sunday.

The Joy of Six is a purely 6mm show, and I was pleasantly surprised to find loads of games on and loads of punters. Good stuff!

The show was in the main Hallam University building, right near the main entrance. The SWS/WD offering was a revamped version of 'Cliches of the Great Patriotic War', which had its first outing on the show circuit 22 years ago!

The 6mm element of our game was the large 'front' marker which including both heroic Defenders of the Motherland and wicked Hitlerites in 6mm.

The aim of the game is to stop with wicked Huns from taking Moscow through the cunning use of Soviet rhetoric to inspire the troops and bring despair to the enemy. The rhetoric is generated by cards with various genuine quotes on them, and the Soviet defender plays these to stop (and ideally push back) the German advance whilst coming up with inspiring speeches. In the photo above the Germans have got quite a long way.

Near to us was this large Battle of Austerlitz. View from the Russian right flank, Pratzen Heights in the centre.

Just to show the games don't all have to be huge, there was this very neat game of Hastings on Hexon terrain.

Another small game, ECW this time, played on a squared grid.

This was a magnificent recreation of seventeenth century Salford! Those familiar with Manchester will recognise the steep bank leading down to the river.

This is a monumental Great War Spearhead game.

View from behind the French lines. Tanks and Infantry prepare to advance.

The German trenches around Courcelles.

This was a beautiful 6mm game of the Zeebrugge raid.

The debarked troops can be seen making their way along the dock. 

This was a novel idea, the same WW3 battle set in 1959, 1973 and 1985!

1959, Centurians and Conquerors face T55s and T10s.

1973. The town has now acquired a TV mast. Chieftans vs T62s.

1985. A housing estate has been built next to the TV mast. Challengers vs T-64s.

Back to 1959, Conquerors with Lightnings in support.

We had a steady stream of players all day. This staunch Soviet hero seems to be holding the enemy off, while the Commisar slurps tea.

It was a really good day out and I'd recommend the show to anyone. There were lots of good games (including participation games), a couple of interesting talks, competitions etc and a good range of small scale traders. I picked up a pair of beautiful Leven Miniature resin bridges, and I was very excited to find Heroics and Ros actually there in person. I had a fun half an hour rummaging through their storage trays picking up various 6mm odds and ends. 

I've been buying H&R for over 40 years now, and it still cracks me up how big modern '6mm' figures are in comparison. It put it in context, on the Bring and Buy were some 10mm figures, and they were pretty much the same size as some Adler figures right next to them. Oh dear. Give me H&R, Scotia and Irregular any day.

Saturday 14 July 2018

COW 2018

Last weekend I went on my annual trip to the Conference of Wargamers. Unfortunately this year my trip was cut short as I had to help one of my children move house on Sunday, but I managed to attend on Friday evening and Saturday.

More detailed reflections on the event and various game reports will appear in the Wargames Developments Journal in due course, but here are a few photos to give the flavour of the event. High points for me were helping Tim run his huge WW1 54mm lawn game, and getting to play with Tony Baths original figures, the flats he used for Hyboria games. And very flat indeed they were!

Knuston Hall, bathed in sunshine. Perhaps a bit too much sunshine as my room was my usual stiflingly hot garret up in the eves.

A relaxing start to the weekend in the lobby.

The ever popular Bring and Buy.


The timetable, which astonishingly did not change much over the course of the weekend.

Eager punters sign up for games.

Sue Laflin-Barker accepts awards for her and Phil for their lifetime contribution to wargaming. Phil had retired to bed at this point!

Jim Roche ran Paddy Griffiths 'Halbardiers' game, about careers in the British Army during WW2 and loosely based on Waughs 'Sword of Honour Trilogy'. Piles of bumph were in evidence. 

A nice chestful of gongs, particularly proud of the MC. Such a shame I died in a plane crash at the end of the war!

John Curry ran a Bomber Command training game. Even more bumph including reproduction period maps of France and Germany, and lots of baffling navigational equipment.

The assembled crews did eventually make it to Koblenz, here neatly modelled on the floor, and made it home for eggs and bacon. Tally ho!

Graham Evans put on a magnificent game of Blenheim using his newly developed WSS rules and featuring piles of very old Airfix figures. 

Closeup of the French. Blenheim village in the foreground.

Graham and Phil Steele also put on Tony Baths Hyboria.

The original flats, they look really good from the side.

Tims magnificant 54mm Somme lawn game. The British lines.

British aircraft recce the Hun defences in the blazing sunshine.

Fearsome concentration from the British commanders as they bombard the German defences with matchsticks.

The planes go up up again to recce the damage.

And then it is time to go over the top. The Knuston pals bravely march forwards.

Despite the gaps in the German defences, enough German machinegunners are left to mow down the attackers, who were eventually left with small groups of survivors clustered in Nomansland. Oh well.

A great weekend, hugely enjoyable as ever, and I'm looking forward to next year. Hopefully I can stay for the whole thing next time.