Sunday, 28 February 2021

A few rules updates

 After recent chat about rules I've added a few of my more recent sets to the rules downloads link.

These are:

Arras with One Hour WW2

  • The latest version of Panzergruppe which I used last year for Kasserine and Goodwood. Panzergruppe v1.9

Kasserine Pass

Operation Goodwood

Russians and Austrians clash in Galicia in 1914

These are all available from the rules download page on my blog, but I've included the links here too.

Friday, 26 February 2021

Tank Duel

 Tom put on this very innovative game using Jim Wallmans 'Tank Duel' rules from the 1980s, adapted for on-line play.

Each team takes on the roles of members of a tank crew (commander, gunner, loader and driver) and then proceeds to stalk their opponent over a congested battlefield. The players can't see the enemy  unless they come into view, so looking in the right direction is quite important....

Screenshots are thanks to Jim, I was too busy peering though my gunsight to take any pictures! We were in Red tank (which turned out  to be a T34), John was the commander, Tim G the driver, Mark the loader and I was the gunner.

The battlefield used a grid to regulate position, movement and direction. The tank positions are Jims best guesses (he was in blue tank and was uncannily accurate in guessing where we were). The various buildings and woods obstructed LOS and blocked movement, while the hedges were passable, at some risk.

Off we went. Each segment was 15 seconds  in both game time and real time - the umpire said go, and we all said what we were doing. The commander gave us his intentions, and the crew did specific things using the correct syntax and terminology. 

So e.g. a valid fire order was <target>, <location>,<ammo type>, FIRE! Assuming you had actually picked the right spot and the ammo type indicated matched that actually loaded in the gun (the loaders job) then dice were thrown to determine the effect.

The poor old umpire then had to sort out what happened, and to avoid utter confusion, we very rapidly determined a sequence of speaking to avoid babble. It was just possible to get through it all in 15 seconds.

One of my jobs was turning the turret, this handy picture shows the turret arcs, so a typical order would be <arc code>, TRAVERSE! You can only fire at things in arc. In this example, red could engage blue, but not vice versa.

In the first game, after much driving around, we ended up facing off at point blank range. Whilst I attempted to shoot at the rather unexpected target, Blue tank decided the best tactic was to charge and ended up ramming us! I missed and they crashed into our tank and disabled it. Boo.

For the second game we were much more canny. Each tank crept around the table, then spent much time waiting to see if the enemy hove into view. After a while I figured out that they were trying to outflank us.

And lo and behold, we ended up like this. Unlike the photo, Id guessed where they were so Red Tanks turret was pointing due aft. 'Panzer IV to the rear!'. I popped off a shot and disabled the Germans with one shot. Great!

That was really good fun, the time limit made it feel extremely pressured and tense, and it really captured the thing that in tactical armoured combat, whoever fires first, wins. Which sounds simple, but as Clausewitz observed, in war the simple things are really difficult. It was hard work for the umpire though, and Tom did a sterling job of manging the chaos.

Friday, 19 February 2021

Clash of Spears

 Mark put on a One Hour Ancients game, featuring Spartans vs Athenians (plus various hangers on). The Athenians had landed on some far flung beach, and the Spartans rather objected. This was played using the standard OHW Ancient rules rather than a modified version.

Tim, Simon and I drew the mighty Spartans. We had three phalanxes (including two of rather dodgy allies) plus some slingers, a unit of archers and unusually, a unit of cavalry. Tim took the hoplites, Simon the cavalry and slingers while I got the archers.

We deployed in a fairly long formation, hoplites in the middle, light troops on the ends and cavalry in reserve on the right flank. Like many Ancient battles, our deployment was what largely determined the eventual outcome. 

The wicked Athenians had four units of hoplites (ouch) and two of light troops. They opted for a compact deployment with all four hoplite units grouped in the centre and their light troops out front. Their ships are visible on the beach to the right. John, Jerry and Pete played Cleon and his pals.

Both lines rolled forwards. The temple in the far distance was impassable, which protected both sides flanks in this sector, although my mercenary archers had the option to occupy it. The Athenians had a huge gap on their left flank though, so unsurprisingly, out cavalry galloped forwards to take advantage of it.

The Athenian hoplites rolled up behind their skirmishers, while our own hoplites also rolled forwards. Our light forces opened fire from the flanks with little effect against the well armoured enemy (although the archers did score a couple of hits). The cavalry meanwhile galloped around the open flank and wheeled inwards.

The lines of hoplites engaged and the Athenian light troops fell back. The Athenians outflanked our shorter line near the temple, but this was an opportunity for my archers to hit the Athenians exposed flank as they wheeled round, which they duly did.

Over on the other flank our slingers secured the flank  and engaged the enemy lights at long range. Our cavalry meanwhile fell on the Athenian flank while it was engaged frontally, and after a short struggle, the first Athenian phalanx was fleeing for the rear. The Athenians would have been better using their light troops to screen the flanks of their hoplites, at least it would have held the cavalry up a bit.

This in turn enabled our own hoplites to advance and crush the Athenian light troops with flank attacks. Meanwhile the cavalry worked its way along the Athenian line, wiping out each phalanx in turn, while the enemy was pinned frontally. The only thing which went wrong was that my archers finally succumbed to  last Athenian hoplite unit, but they had so few hits left that the cavalry would have been able to make light work of them.

We called it there as with all their hoplites destroyed or crippled, the game was up for the Athenians.

Well, that was a quick and decisive game, almost a version of Cannae as our more extended forces enveloped the enemy, although it was more touch and go in the centre than the narrative highlights. 

I do like the One Hour Wargames rules, they are very unforgiving as there are so few units so each decision is crucial.  Once the Athenians were pinned frontally, they couldn't withdraw unless they defeated the opposing unit (a slow process against armoured heavy infantry) which essentially gave our cavalry a free pass to ride down the line slaughtering each unit in turn.

Saturday, 13 February 2021

Business as Usual

 For our regular weekly gaming slot we were fortunate enough to have a guest visitor - the historian Gary Sheffield. He put on a committee game covering the meeting of the British War Cabinet in August 1914 to decide the future strategy of the war.

Gary took on the role of Asquith (the dithering PM) while the rest of us assumed various dramatis personae. We had a fair number:

Lloyd George - Mark (Chancellor of the Exchequer)

Lord Grey - Jerry (Foreign Secretary)

Reggie McKenna - myself (Home Secretary)

Winston Churchill - Tim G (First Lord of the Admiralty) 

Admiral Jellicoe - John

Sir John French - Pete

Douglas Haig - Tim C

Lord Kitchener - Tom

Sir Cecil Spring-Rice - Simon (The British Ambassador to the US)

We all had a general briefing covering the military and political situation, as well as individual briefings with our particular personal background and objectives. Ultimately Asquith would decide on the strategic options to be pursued, but based on the advice of the cabinet and military advisers. And what a range of advice it turned out to be.

It was a pretty free form game, although we all had a round to state our particular positions and then we were off into promoting particular viewpoints while denigrating others. Lord Kitchener seemed to really have it in for Sir John French, and Asquith seemed particular baffled as to why Jellicoe wasn't planning on refighting Trafalger in the Heligoland Bight. We spent a great deal of time discussing the importance of trade routes and keeping the Americans on side, while the soldiers got increasingly frustrated, particularly Haig and Kitchener who apparently wanted to raise a million men to fight on the the continent (goodness knows why, the war would be over by Christmas).

I was primarily concerned with maintaining economic and political stability, whilst making use of the very expensive fleet I'd spent years building in my time as First Sea Lord. In the end things panned out nicely, the fleet adopted a nice safe blockade of Germany (that will show the Hun while not frightening the Americans), Lord Grey went off to speak to the pleasant chaps in Berlin and we sent three divisions of the BEF to France to show willing while Haig, Kitchener and French tore their hair out. 

Churchills scheme to send the Army to the Baltic (or possibly the Balkans) was kyboshed, and Lloyd George was manouvered into a brand new Ministry of Supply, leaving the Chancellors position vacant. I am pleased to say a very worthy candidate was found as a replacement. Ahem.

Bish, bosh, job done and home before the leaves fall.

That was an excellent game, great fun to play and very informative. The players also really got into the spirit of it, particularly Kitchener and his wayward moustache. Many thanks to Gary for putting it on.

Friday, 5 February 2021


We managed to see our kids for our state mandated one day of Xmas, and as they are both avid board gamers, managed to get through quite a few games. A new one for me was Munchkin from Steve Jackson Games. This is a sort of joke Dungeons and Dragons type game, but competitive rather than cooperative.

The board is a stylised Dungeon. Each level is represented by a 'room' and as you progress through the rooms, you automatically level up, so eg a character in Room 8 is counted as Level 8 and gets +8 in combat. Very slick and clever.

Characters have the usual D&D tropes - races, classes and of course piles of equipment. My character here has Mithril Armour (yay!), a rat on a stick which will come in handy for something and a minion with some leather armour. This is all determined by cards drawn from the 'treasure' you get from entering rooms and defeating monsters.

Off we go. Many of the cards are 'bad' (ie monsters, curses, traps etc),  ideal to play on other players. If you  find a room with no monsters in it, you can't level up, but you have the option to play ones in your own hand so it can be worth hanging on to a few monsters to ease your own progress. If you fight a monster, other players have the option to help out and share the spoils). Combat is very simple, add up all your bonuses, including single use items etc and compare with the monsters value. If it is higher you win. Simples. Until other players start chucking in bonuses on the monster...why would they do that you cry?

Well, in Munchkin you win by being the first to get into the Level 10 room. You can only do this by fighting a monster, and naturally the other players have an incentive to stop you. Here, by some miracle, my character has advanced all the way to level 9, while everyone else is stuck on level 5. I guess all those years of playing D&D, Runequest, Tunnels and Trolls etc must have been handy.

Naturally this was a cue for everyone to pour all manner of bad things on my poor Elf, which gave the rest of them a chance to catch up.

Various players rolled up to Level 10 and various almighty scraps ensued. Fortunately losing was mainly penalised by being knocked back a level or two if you failed to run away. Various magic items of classes helped running away if it all went horribly wrong. I managed to end up fighting the Level 20 Dragon, one of the few monsters which can kill you outright. Fortunately I had a magic ring to aid my retreat from that one!

I ended up as an Elf Wizard (still with my Mithril Armour, yay!). We all had several attempts at getting into Room 10, burning out various curses etc along the way. Finally I got lucky and drew a monster I could actually beat and none of the other players had enough buffing cards to stop me, so I ended up the winner, more by luck than judgement.

Anyway, that was great fun and highly recommended. The Boardgame Geek entry is here:, but as it was released in 2001(!) I don't imagine it will be news to experienced gamers.

Saturday, 30 January 2021

Escape from Tula

 I had actually lined up a different game,  but then as I was planning to run this in the third week of December, I thought a winter game would be fun (like last years outing to St Vith). That meant digging out the snow cloth, which in turn meant yet another One Hour Wargame, about the only thing I play with rulers over Zoom.

I was looking for something around Stalingrad, but in the end plumped for Zhukovs counter offensive around Moscow. There was a considerable amount going on in the vicinity of Tula on 16th December 1941 as Zhukov tried to encircle Guderians 2nd Panzer Group and I thought one of the 'flank attack;' scenarios covered the Germans tactical dilemma rather nicely as Soviet blocking troops infiltrated through the huge gaps in their lines and disrupted their attempts to fall back to more defensible positions and reorganise.

At this point, all the units were drastically under strength. The Russian ones had barely rebuilt from the bloodletting earlier in the year, while the Germans were at 20% strength or less. This scenario therefore featured an awful lot of 'divisions' with only two battalion sized stands...

The initial setup. The German column (representing Geyr von Schweppenburgs XXIV Panzer Corps at approx 20% strength) is heading down the rail line. The Russians (elements of Boldins 50th Army) have managed to insert a blocking force ahead of them, while the rest of their troops swing in from the right flank. To win, the Germans have to escape with half their force (three units) via the rail line to the west, anything else is a Soveit victory.

The German column from the rear. In order from the camera, 3rd Mot Division (Simon), 3rd Panzer Div (John) and finally Panzer Group Eberbach aka 4th Panzer (Tim C) accompanied by Geyr Von Schweppenburg. All the remaining German armoured and tracked elements are concentrated under Eberbach at the front. 

7th Ski Brigade (Mark) is across the railway line in their way. irl XXIV Panzer Corps had about 50 operational tanks by now, but had also massed all their remaining halftracks mainly stripped from armoured engineer companies into a composite panzergrenadier battalion supported by SP guns, which I guess were Stugs but might have been Jagdpanzer 1s.

The rest of the Russians are 18th Rifle Brigade (Mark) nearest the camera, 15th Cavalry Division (Pete) with two regiments and finally 141st Tank Brigade (Tim G). There is also a detachment of NKVD to encourage shirkers to greater efforts.

The NKVD urge the cavalry onwards.

Tims tank brigade. Even this late in 1941 the majority of Soviet tanks available were T-26s, with a few T34s and KVs mixed in. The tanks are tucked away out of sight behind the ridge.

Panzer Group Eberbach, 4th Panzer Regiment and 4th Schutzen Brigade respectively. Geyr von Schweppenburg gives a morale bonus. The Germans had decided to try and smash through rather than use their central position to fall on the Russians to the north, worried they'd run out of time.

The opening moves saw the Soviet line to the north surge forward and the Tank Brigade occupy hull down positions on the hill. The Germans stolidly plodded forwards but 3rd Mot veered off to engage the Russians.

At the head of the column the panzers moved south for an outflanking manouvre but the mechanised infantry group ended up being the sole target of three Russian units and suffered heavy losses, becoming disorganised.

3rd 'Panzer' Division closed up behind and the Russian cavalry got scarily close.

One regiment of 3rd Panzer engaged the cavalry while Von Schweppenburg moved back to bolster the mechanised infantry.

In turn the Russian Rifle Brigade slammed into their flank. Ouch. The Germans were paying the price for putting their head into the trap. The Germans were annihilated in close combat.

Further back along the line the Russian cavalry was heavily engaged and the German infantry units had largely given up trying to dash to the west. 3rd Panzers leading regiment was now facing with same dilemma as the mechanised infantry.

Simons reserve regiment was still unengaged however and moved back to the railway line. Lots of disorder markers now appearing in the close battle.

The Panzers tore into one of the ski battalions, which had very wisely turned to face, but sadly wasn't dug in and didn't have any significant anti-tank support. Oh dear.

The Russians returned the favour as their Tank Brigade came down off the hill into the gap left by 3rd Mot. The Russian cavalry was looking distinctly ragged now.

Johns leading regiment was now caught between two Russian units and outflanked with heavy losses.

The Russians destroyed the leading regiment of 3rd Mot but in turn the reserve regiment assaulted the Tank Brigade in the side, inflicting enough losses to disorder it.

Johns reserve regiment continued to battle the Russian cavalry.

And put them to flight with light losses.

Unfortunately 4th Panzers lead regiment, outnumbered and outflanked, was destroyed, although the Rifle Brigade was fairly chewed up in the process

The Panzers meanwhile had overrun one the ski battalion facing it without any losses at all! Tanks against infantry in the open are quite good.

With their line now rather tatty and with both units carrying a number of hits, the Soviet Tank Brigade and surviving cavalry withdrew to reorganise.

Further west the Russians fell back behind the railway line in the face of the mighty panzers, the way to the west was open!  The Rifle Brigade busily reorganised itself to face the armoured onslaught.

The German infantry now began to pile down the railway line heading for the exit, and the Russians responded by rapidly redeploying their (slightly) replenished Tank Brigade. The cavalry were still sorting themselves out.

The Panzers meanwhile engaged in a gunnery duel with the remaining ski troops.

While John reorganised, Simons remaining regiment marched west and the Panzers pulled forward right up to the rail line to keep it open.

Suddenly realising that the Germans had a chance to escape, the Russians threw all their units into combat, regardless of their current state. The NKVD chivvied the cavalry along. The most important move was from the Russian Tank Brigade, which assaulted Johns last infantry regiment and pinned it into place. The Germans would only be able to escape if they defeated the armour to their front.

The Russians all-out attack paid off and Johns disorganised infantry disintegrated under the Russian tank assault, which left just Eberbachs panzers and the remains of 3rd Mot to leave the table to the west. As the Germans were now only able to exit two units, it was a Russian victory.

The surviving Germans were in a good position. The Russian infantry didn't really have an answer to the panzers, although if they'd have dug in it would have helped, but they never had time, and there wasn't any difficult terrain to hide in.

The surviving ski troops and the Rifle Brigade still had a couple of hits on them at the end.

As did the Russian tanks and cavalry, despite taking a couple of turns out to reorg. 

That went really well, even if it ended up being a quite a short game. Both sides have a number of tactical options - do the Russians try to relieve their blocking force or just attack the German column? Do the Germans exploit their central position to defeat each Russian wing in turn or concentrate on on breaking out? In the end the Germans opted for a dash for the exit, which was always going to be a bit problematic for the unit at the very front. It is a scenario which warrants some replay.

I'm very pleased with this iteration of the rules. They give a good game over Zoom, despite the absence of grids and the players have meaningful choices to make. I'm, particularly pleased with the way the reorganise mechanism works as it gives the players choices about how aggressive to be, but also encourages them to think about how to fix the enemy in place so they can't escape. As Patton said, "Hold em by the nose and kick em in the pants". The big bases also let me field lots of toys, which I think is fine for the level of battle being represented. It isn't as if I've got anything else to do with them.

Finally, eagle eyed students of history may have noticed that this engagement bears a distinct resemblance to Salamanca and it is indeed a disguised scenario. The battle starts at the point Wellington has inserted a division between Marmonts advance guard  and the main body of the French army. The hill to the east (used so effectively by the Russian tanks) is standing in for Los Arapiles.  

Another great scenario from One Hour Wargames.

One thing which did occur to me after the game was that if I'd just turned my movement bases over so the white side showed, they would have looked a bit more like snow. Oh well. maybe next time.