Saturday, April 28, 2007

Operation Overlord

I bought these rules last year looking for something to replace my old WWII wargames rules; they came in a pretty boxed set, with reasonable production values and promised to allow simple, fast dynamic games. So we tried a scenario from the rules and found them to be rather, well murderous. Initially my players dismissed them, and so did I, but after a year or so I dug them out again to try with my 28mm's, and lo with a bit of reason, they work!

Actually this overlooked set of rules work pretty well.

I say overlooked, because they don't come from the usual stable of wargames rules producers; they may well be quite popular, but as they are made available in Britain via a model company, and originally herald from Italy (it certainly shows in some of the rule translation), they've passed the hardcore gamers by.

I do suspect an awful lot of people who never wargamed before are using these rules though, because of the way they've been marketed. And that is no bad thing. The rules themselves are a slim affair, suffering as stated from some vague translation, and, until you make the sensible revision of classing all terrain except roads as light cover, murderous.

What makes them work is the card system. Each player commands his forces through the turn by use of a hand of cards. Playing a card to a unit and declaring its' actions. The thing is any card played has an initiative value on it from 1 to 6; if the opponent wants to interrupt the player, he simply provides an order of a lower initiative value to one of his available units. The first player may respond in kind too, so you get a tit for tat style of action that allows for real uncertainty and some subtlety, without the need for written orders or arbitrary dice rolling. Genius!

So the game, the second with my 28mm's and these rules, saw Chris leading an American motor rifle platoon with an attached Tank Destroyer to clear a small village, somewhere in Northern France. Brian played the defending Germans; a reduced platoon of grenadiers, with an anti-tank gun and an armoured car in reserve.

The end of the American advance; the crew of the lone half track have just seen their occupants raked my machine gun fire

In paper strength the Germans were outnumbered two to one, but in reality they were able to stall the Americans easily with only a portion of their strength. The Americans lacked the will to come forward in strength, instead focusing on crawling through cover. Incredibly though they managed to miss the hidden enemy in buildings, who destroyed their command squad with well aimed machine gun fire.

Americans advance through the woods

The Americans tried to rely on their mortar to bail them out, but it could see very little and the radio crews were having no luck directing it. What they wouldn't do was risk their tank, though the Pak 40 proved completely incapable of hitting anything

A German squad, high above the lie of the land observe the Americans advancing into the open: 'Auf meinen zeichen, lassen sie Holle los!'

In the end the physical losses were similar, about 10 casualties each, but there was no hope of the Americans having the will to attack further and the game went to Brian's sensible control of the ground.

It was another big toys game for the club, and pleasing for me as it was the first full outing for my American Motor Rifles. Four Solido/Verem M3 half tracks clock in at a cool £80! All I need now for my 28mm WWII is a sprinkling more of American infantry, and I can call this lot done and dusted.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Penrose Field, 1644

Another battle in the English civil war, utilising the excellent Peter Pig "Regiment of Foote" rules. The armies were as shown below; loosely being:

Sir Percy Bovington's Royalists; of 6 companies of foote, 5 troops of horse and two guns.

Sir Bernard Wraithwaites' Parliamentarians; of 5 companies of foote, 5 troops of horse, a forlorne hope and two guns.

The opening campaign system saw Lord Wraithwaite advance into Mumerset with his Parliamentarians and catch the Royalists under Percy unawares. As a consequence Percy faced an army twice the size of his own and rallied on a ridge line near Penrose church.

The opening salvos of the battle were one sided, as Bovington had no guns of his own available; in the event one of his companies of foote ran at the first sign of accurate artillery fire, and the ridge lay empty. The only hope for Bovington was that the late start of the battle and his relative advantage of cavalry on his right flank would allow him to stall Wraithwaite.

Wraithwaite meanwhile concentrated force, and steadily marched forward large groups of troops against the ridge and Penrose Church.

For Sir Percy the battle began well. His cavalry beat the weaker forces facing them, and in doing so diverted the centre of Wraithwaites forces.

The Centre of Wraithwaites nervously gave fire.

The horse of Wraithwaites right wing redressed the imbalance on their left as best they could, whilst the centre formed a defensive perimeter to keep the Royalists at bay. The advance on the church was stopped however, and as darkness fell; the royalists were able to sneak away. The parliamentarians controlled the ground, but had suffered a bloody nose in doing so.

In real terms the rules complicated the situation greatly; Phil, my opponent, found himself with a pitifully small force, but was able to select his ground. I had little opportunity to change the ground I fought over, but fully expected to roll up his forces, especially as he had one third of his infantry run off before the battle even started. However the game in the end only lasted five turns, due to the random countdown nature of the rules. This meant that the Royalists managed to hold on, indeed they did more damage to the Parliamentarians than they could have expected to.

Thus ended the first stage of the the Mumerset campaign of 1644.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

The battle of Ostnerbuck 1380

I was accused by my opponent of showing off yesterday. His point being that I had taken pretty armies to the club once again, as if it were some sort of shop window. My view on that is why the heck not! My local club tends to have rather uninspiring looking games of an evening, saving its good stuff for shows and presumably shelves at home. I don't play that way; I like to look at as good a setup as I can. That tends to mean I take the big stuff to the club whenever I can, and you can't beat 28mm for visual impact.

And so last night it was another outing for the Medievals and Warhammer Ancients. In fact this was a really small game; 1200 points per side. I was playing a City state of the Holy Roman Empire (a western German city army in effect) whilst Chris took on the role of the Flemish. Initial deployment was something like this:

I had a centre focused on a hill, whilst the Flemings spread themselves thinly around woods and farmland.

The battle as it turned out was to swing each way several times in the course of the evening (not helped by us totally forgetting to do any panic tests throughout the game). Early on, my German knights, led by the city duke charged impetously at the Flemish Placonniers. With the aid of their own general the Placonniers destroyed the knights, and already the gig should have been up. However german firepower and the slow moving Flemish pike blocks gave me time to hastily revise my battle plan, getting my mercenary Diener (light horse) into the centre.

They were to do stalwart work there; routing the enemy general and destroying the Placonniers, before going on to eliminate the Flemish organ gun. It was buying me time.

Meanwhile the Flemish Pikemen advanced steadily. One of my most recent units, Old Glory Low Countries Pikemen and Front Rank Leaders painted in the colours of the city of Damme:

Heading straight for German spearmen. These are Black Tree figures with an ancient Citadel seargent.
A protracted fight on my right saw the Flemish pikes win through and advance on the hill. On the left the red pikes tried the same, but were frustrated by rallying crossbowmen. This bought enough time that my Infantry on the hill could advance to face the red pikes whilst my light horse charged the white pikes.

They were beaten off, but this drew the white pikes away from my spearmen. With the crossbowmen, my spears were able to then surround and destroy the red pikes. At this point Chris conceded defeat, in what was a very close game.

And I suppose he was also right about showing off, the terrain was nothing to write home about, but my figures attracted favourable comments from various other members; and that's always nice isn't it?

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

A win in a GW store

Rare indeed; thanks to my council still giving staff an extra day off after bank holidays (I know, shocking isn't it; I'm glad I don't pay council tax to who I work for!) I was able to squeeze a game in against some random whippersnapper in my local GW store.

I'd took along my Vampire Counts on the off chance of a game, and ended up facing a 1500 point High elf force, from memory something like this:

Foot General without anything fancy

2 Level two mages

20 or so Sea Guard with Bows and Spears

2 units of a dozen bows

2 Chariots

2 Bolt throwers

Myself I had to assemble a scratch force, thinking that Vampires didn't suit smaller games. I ended up with the following; and a deep sense of foreboding:

Lahmian Vampire Thrall with asp bow and quickblood

Level 2 Necromancer

Mounted Wight Lord

23 Skeleton spearmen with Thrall

23 Skeleton swordsmen with Necromancer

5 Black knights with a magic banner with wight lord

18 Grave Guard

9 Ghouls

2 swarms of bats in a single unit

As it happened I need not have worried; I quickly assumed I would be hammered by magic, but the elven mages did sterling work in taking themselves out the fight. One blew up early on, and the other allowed himself to be chased away by my bats. In fairness my mage was not a lot of help, only casting successfully 3 times in eight or so turns.

The Elves deployed in a classic firing line well back on the table; for my part I used terrain, ghouls and the black knights to cover my infantry force. The advance saw relatively few casualties on my troops and fear reduced the impact of the enemy charges. My opponent was also not aware that the undead don't run, so made several mistakes in rash charges which allowed me to tie-up, envelop and then destroy his army piece by piece.

At the end I had the Wight lord, Necromancer, two units of Skeletons, a few Grave Guards and a swarm of bats left. My enemy was eliminated. Funnily enough to me; some of my figures were older than my opponent!

A pleasant way to spend a couple of hours.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Letting go...

So on moral grounds as much as anything else, I've put up two of my armies for sale.

In the future I may need to get rid of even more, if a relocation and downsizing of my various assets (for a radical new life) come to fruition; but at this point in time, these two were definitely taking up more space than I liked.

As a young lad world War Two was my first interest, but in the eighties there was a lot of fighting about, and much of it was on the TV. Afghanistan, The Falklands, Grenada; it's a long list. But the one that caught my eye was the Gulf war, not the Persian Gulf Distraction (as Bill Hicks succinctly put it "A war is when two armies are fighting") but the one between Iran and Iraq.

It was a hideous conflict, but as a naive teen it all sounded cool and exciting, tank battles, trench warfare, gunboat raids; oh and of course suicide attacks, chemical warfare and atrocities.

Let's be honest war itself is seldom pretty, and wargaming doesn't tend to dwell on the less savoury aspects. My games based in the gulf saw my Iranians as the heroic underdog, resisting the evil invader that was Iraq and Hussein. For a good ten years or so they were fun meaningless games based on what was going on on TV.

I got over it. I'll admit for many years I knew what it really involved, maturity came in time and whilst I've made peace with what my hobby is about, and can carry on with it, or defend it as either a simple distraction or an educational tool; I never felt quite happy about the slightly tasteless way I had gamed a war that cost a million lives for no good reason.

Of course it's an argument we could level at any wargame. But this one in particular left a nasty taste in my mouth. Not helped when the war on Terror led to round two of the West versus Iraq. By that point I was done with the gulf.

I wonder how many gamers think about the ethics of their games; I like to think of myself as a naturally peaceful man, in most respects not your typical wargamer. I'm not ex-military or militarist; I don't have a gun (no surprise in my country though) and don't have bullish political leanings. Yet I still play wargames based around all too recent history, and the implicit tragedy within that. I find despite the romance of the history, or the dark fascination with a conflict, I can't justify doing just anything any more. And wargaming the gulf conflict(s) falls beyond that line for me.

So the result, is two armies go onto ebay; much to the surprise of the missus. I feel better for clearing the space, but also I think better for clearing my conscience.

It's a line in the sand I've made for myself, and other people will think it sounds ridiculous. But for me the issues around making light of this particular ongoing conflict were not worth hanging onto a couple of boxful's of models any longer.

If you want them, they're these Ebay item numbers:

20mm Gulf wars Iraqi army: 330107396441
20mm Gulf wars Iranian army: 330107403087

Thursday, April 05, 2007

More German excitement

Not done much recently, as it has been the end of my snowboarding season; well, actually it's not quite over, but that's a story for another place and time.

What I have done is some more german infantry:

Vallejo paints are still proving their worth every time:

I like the character of the advancing guy with the rifle: