Saturday, 25 September 2021

Playing around the the Portable SCW Wargame

 After Simons recent Portable SCW session, I had a bit a play around with the rules try out some of the modifications we'd discussed. I also wanted to try out some different activation sequences to see how they planned out, and also to make the game units and ranges fit a bit better with what I felt was the level of action being represented. 

The main activation method I wanted to try out was the Belle Epoque one, drawing dice for each unit so the turn was interleaved, and then using the those dice for the activation rolls. I realised in the basic game there are no modifiers for command quality, so I added in an activation roll for all units, regardless of affiliation. Poor commanders would fail on a natural roll of two or less, and Average ones on a one.

I used the 'Turning Point' scenarios from the rules for playtesting and setup the terrain on my old Memoir 44 boards rather than dragging out the Hexon. A single one of my 15mm troop bases fits neatly in these hexes.

The opening scenario is very small and ideal for playtesting. I rapidly realised that with a Communist leader and Popular Army troops, there weren't going to be any faction activation rolls though! Oh, well, that made things simpler. I pre-rolled all the air strike, commander and unit quality ratings and kept those between games. 

The Republicans close in on the city (again). The main change I'd made to the units was to settle on them representing battalions, which in turn meant the MG units didn't make any sense. Instead I just designated some unit types as 'well armed' and gave them an extra dice of fire combat. In effect this just distributed the MG dice between the infantry battalions. I also went with a notional 1km hex size, and reduced the direct and artillery fire ranges accordingly. I could imagine having three sets like the Napoleonic Rules, with elements as companies, battalions or brigades respectively. 

This then equated to a weak Republican division attacking a ployglot Nationalist Regiment. I also introduced a rally option for pinned units adjacent to the enemy, simplified the treatment of transport for a brigade/divisional level game and used the commander rules from the Napoleonic set.

The first run through was OK, having integral unit transport (limbers in this case) was easier to manage than seperate transport units and the revised leader and unpinned approach worked very well. The thing which didn't was the revised activation sequence which just generated far too much dice rolling and didn't really add anything to the game.

The red counters show where artillery fire is landing, the yellow counters are pinned units and the white tile spacers are hits.

The Republicans enter the outskirts of the city. The 'well armed' units seemed to work OK without unbalancing things, and seemed a better representation than seperate MG units. I was still trying to work out how to account for commander quality in the standard turn sequence. I tried the limited activations from the nineteenth century set, but coupled with the individual activation scores, it just slowed everything down too much.

Finally I hit on the obvious solution, simply modify the initiative roll in the standard sequence by commander quality (+1, +2 etc) and let the winner choose the sequence.  This is the same method was we use in some other homegrown rules, and suddenly commander quality became vital. 

I ran it again and new initiative system meant the players had to be quite canny about the side activation sequence as they could dictate the range and pace of combat (as well as unpinning). That seemed to work well and felt right. 

On the last run through the other thing I re-introduced was artillery ammo limits. It was just far too easy for the side with artillery superiority to pound the other into dust, starting with CB fire on their guns and then plastering all the units in turn. Six shots per artillery gruppo seemed plenty. I also brought in observation limits for artillery spotting, using the same method as I do in Memoir 44: three hex spotting or five off a hill. (There is a reason hills were fought over irl).  That stopped the guns ranging over the whole table without a ground presence.

I'd done the first scenario enough by now and set up the second scenario of the campaign, the Republican defence of the city. In this situation the Republicans have a couple of International Brigades supported by a company of tanks and AT guns and two gruppos of field guns. The Nationalist counterattack has two demi-brigades from the Army of Africa, a regiment of Requetes and no less than four artillery gruppos. They also had a company of tanks and of AT guns.

The Nationalist commander was 'good' while the Republican one was just average, and the overall Nationalist troop quality was better.

The Republican defence is shown above. A couple of IB battalions in the town, a couple more as OPs on the flanks with the field guns and everything else in close reserve behind the city. The Republican CO is with one of the guns to improve its firepower.

The Nationalist attack was weighted to the north. It was almost impossible for them to set their guns up out of observation from the hills behind the city, so they just piled on and unlimbered. At least they were out of direct fire range.

The Nationalists close in on the city. The Republican guns spent almost the whole game firing CB missions against the Nationalist guns. They destroyed one gruppo and forced another to retire (which was a complete pain as it had to limber up, move back on, unlimber etc). The Nationalists didn't have the height advantage for observation so had to mainly shell the Republican front line. This spread a certain amount of death and destruction around, but the Republicans were careful to minimise their losses by retreating where possible.

This was the Nationalist high point and they drove back the front line defenders.

The Nationalists only had their panzers available to exploit, but they found out the hard way that light tanks vs infantry in cities is a bad idea and the losses they suffered as the IB counterattacked was enough to push the Nationalists over their exhaustion level.

That all went pretty well and I will try these out with some human players in the near future.

Friday, 17 September 2021

Saturday Knight Fever

 Tim took us on another Medieval jaunt with Fistful of Lead. Regular readers may recall from the last game that Sir Martin of Nether Edge (hurrah!) had won the key to Lady Ermintrudes chastity belt, only to find that the Fair Lady had been kidnapped by the wicked outlaw, Robin Banks.

In the latest saga we set off with Lord John to recover his daughter.

The scene of strife. The Kickyerhead Inn is visible in the distance, a welcome refuge for the weary party of adventurers just visible in the bottom right.

Outside the inn is a large bouncer, the inn keep with a big barrel of beer and a lute player tuning up.

Doris the barmaid.

Sir Martin of Nether Edge. Hurrah! This time we didn't have any retainers with us. 

Friar Paul to keep us on the straight and narrow.

The party shuffled along in a somewhat disorderly manner (we were activating in card sequence). Lurking in the woods to the north was Russell of Hebden Bridge, a notorious outlaw.

Lord John sent his bodyguard to talk to the bouncer, who greeted him cheerfully.

The rest of party gratefully headed for the pub. Sir Mark of Great Ayton downed his pint in one gulp, clearly a thirsty sort of cove. Meanwhile I made a beeline for the lute player and tried to lop his head off. My personal objectives included 'kill someone', and an annoying lute players was a much safer target than a heavily armed outlaw. He fended me off with his lute.

The rest of the party clustered around Doris and the inn keep, downing pints. Lord John however kept his eye on the prize and burst into the ground floor of the inn. I had meanwhile managed to finish off the lute player. The inn keep offered me a pint, clearly a bit nervous of an apparently homicidal knight, but I handed it to Lord John who also quaffed it in one gulp. I had another objective..... 

After much drinking, most of the party followed Lord John inside. I however bought another two pints from the inn keep. Just as I was eyeing up the foaming ale, Robin Banks and Lady Ermintrude emerged from an upstairs window, and jumped down right beside me. Blimey! We broke for the night at that point, so we will have to wait for tomorrows thrilling instalment.

Well, this had the makings of an unseemly brawl. The first thing Robin Banks did was get on one knee and ask Lady Ermintrude to marry her! Being an honorable knight, I naturally enquired what was going on. At this point, Russell of Hebden Bridge decided it would be a good idea to start shooting arrows into the crowd. One stuck in Peter of Almondbury's leather armour and the other bounced off my helmet.

While all this was going on, Lord John burst out of the inn and laid into Robin Banks, who fell wounded. Oh well, that made things nice and easy, so the rest of us got stuck in too. The wily outlaw rolled from side-side avoiding our blows while Russell continued to shoot into the crowd.

In all the commotion, Lady Erimtrude shouted 'I've had enough of all you lot' and ran off hand in hand with Doris the barmaid, which was a bit of a surprise.

The rest of us finally finished off Robin Banks, but Lord John set off after Lady Erimtrude and a very unseemly struggle ensued as he wrestled her to the ground. Doris didn't like this one bit, and whacked him on the head with a beer mug then poured two pints of beer into his helmet. 

The rest of the party ran to intervene, but before we could get there, Ermintrude stuck a knife in Lord Johns eye and 'Thelma and Louise' made their escape. Sadly Lord Johns wound proved to be fatal, as it looks like Lady Erimtrude is the outlaw now. Watch out for the next instalment...

I'd had three objectives, and had managed two of them - kill someone and get Lord John drunk. It was decreed that given the amount of beer Doris poured into his helmet, it was decreed that this objective was met. The third was to recover Lady Ermintrude, which I suppose we did briefly, but then she ran off again.

So once again, another entertaining outing for Fistful of Lead, and watch this space for the next exciting instalment! 



Friday, 10 September 2021

The Nivelles Offensive

 I wanted to try out the Pz8 WW1 rules again after Simon put on his Cambrai game. I pretty much left them alone rather than fiddling with them. As my late war French haven't been out for while, I set up a scenario covering part of General Nivelles ill fated offensive from the Aisne bridgehead in April 1917.

Tim G, John and Jerry took the French with three divisions between them from 5th Army, plus a cavalry division in reserve, while Simon and Tim C took the Germans with two divisions from 1st Armee, newly arrived in the Chemin des Dames position. 

Battlefield from the southeast, with a grid six squares wide by eight deep. The French are on the Aisne plain, while Germans are holding the ground rising up to the Chemin des Dames ridge. The Chemin itself is the road running along the top row. 

French view of the German position, it does look a little daunting. Each stand is roughly a battalion, so divisions generally have nine to twelve stands. 

The German right commanded by Tim. The front line is lightly held with the bulk of the infantry held at the rear of the battle zone. The forward zone is heavily fortified and studded with concreted MG positions. The French will need to clear these to make a clean breakthrough. 

The German left, commanded by Simon. Each German division has two regiments up, or six battalions, and to make life simple, has a front of three squares. In the German third position, which is way off table and out of artillery range, are two infantry regiments reinforced with Stormtroops designated for counterattack. 

The French right (Jerry). Each French division has nine battalions and an MG detachment plus some tanks.  Again, for simplicity they are each allocated a front of two squares. Tanks can't enter bad going, so they are avoiding the shelled wood.  This Renault is an Armorfast one. 

Tim Gs division in the centre. The going is better here so they are allocated two tank units. My Lancer Miniatures resin St Chamond, which is huge, and my card Schneider CA. I am never building a card model again... 

French gun lines and artillery ammo. They start with 48 shots, which is quite a lot. The French are a mixture of Revell and Airfix figures, while the guns are Hat. 

German gun lines and ammo, 24 shots in this case. The reserve Stormtroop battalions can also be seen. The Germans are a mix of Hat, Emhar and Revell figures, with Emhar guns. 

The French attack opened with a heavy bombardment along the front line aiming to smash up the defences. As defences count against stacking limits, this would both weaken the defenders and allow more attackers into the position. 

The bunker in the centre came in for a massive barrage which obliterated the defences but turned the ground into a crater field. Sadly, crater fields are impassable for tanks.

John's division pushed forward and overran the small German front line garrison behind a rolling barrage. 

In the centre Tim assaulted the Germans in the remains of the bunker but was repulsed, as was Jerry on the right (the Germans piled in a lot of defensive artillery). Fortunately French casualties were light.

The following turn the Germans pulled their outpost back, and Jerrys tanks overran the first trench line. Tim brought up reserves and outflanked the crater field.

More French infantry moved up to replace their losses in the centre.

John meanwhile took advantage of his tanks ability to remove wire, and moved more troops up to occupy the vacated German front line trenches.

Behind a massive artillery bombardment and waves of tanks, the Germans in the crater field were finally overrun. The tanks couldn't enter it, but one French battalion made its way forward.

Cue the French cavalry turning up to exploit the breakthrough! These are Tumbling Dice 20mm metal figures. 

The French attack to widen the breach failed as the Germans hung on grimly. The St Chamond battalion advanced into the German second line and promptly became bogged down. Ooops. It could still contribute to combat from there, just not move any further.

At this point the two German reserve regiments with their Stormtroops arrived in the rear.

Before they could intervene, the French tried again in the centre and both sides threw in shedloads of artillery support.

This time the attack succeeded, and the French occupied the second line of German trenches, advancing through the barrage.

The Germans flung in an entire Regiment supported by Stormtroops to counterattack as shells rained down on both sides.

Unfortunately the French had deployed their MGs and the Germans were cut down in a hail of fire, which rather rattled their resolve. We broke for the night at that point so both sides would have a chance to think about their next days moves.

On the French left, John had brought up his reserves and was in a strong position. The Germans now had a solid line facing them, its key position being the fortified wood which was virtually unassailable. 

Over on the right the front stabilised and Jerry slipped a couple of battalions across to reinforce the breakthrough in the centre.

The view from the German side was a bit alarming as there seemed to be something of a gap.

Things looked rather better on the other flank.

The French managed to push a single heroic battalion up onto the ridge. The Chemin des Dames was in sight! The Germans sidestepped one of their Stormtroopers into the village on the road.

More and more French units shuffled sideways into the breach.

The French cavalry began to appear in strength now. The Schneider battalion rolled up the  hill and promptly bogged down in the same square as the St Chamond. Oops.

More French infantry moved into the tenuous salient and busily set up their MGs.

The French left flank was now completely static.

As was the right.

In the centre the Allies were also stuck as they and largely run out of artillery ammunition at this point. Without artillery support it was virtually impossible to make any further progress, and the cavalry ended up stuck in a big traffic jam behind the bogged tanks, hemmed in by bad ground.

The Germans were just hanging on, but with each side of the French penetration dominated by the concrete MG posts, the French salient wasn't going to be tenable in the long run.  

We called it a day at that point as neither side had the ability to attack any more. It worked OK as a game although I find the combat system a bit all or or nothing. The players said they had plenty to think about, but I suspect it would work better in a f2f setting. Half the game is the initial setup, and I need to think of some way to make that more interactive in a remote format. The combat system is fairly easy to fix as there are plenty of other mechanisms to borrow. All in all, a successful outing, and it was nice to get the 20mm WW1 toys out again.

I'd like to give it another go at some point, and maybe actually reading the printed victory conditions properly this time would help!