Monday, July 30, 2007

War at Sea - Tabletop report

I got the opportunity to play test my rules with Phil on Sunday, and hence a few tweaks have been added to the tabletop rules below.

Phil selected a force of 150 points (about the most my fleets would muster on a realistic footing); his navy was:

Task Force Turnbull:

HMS Rodney
HMS Ajax
Samuel B Roberts
Le Terrible
Motor Torpedo Boat (PT) squadron

HMS Truculent submarine operating as an interceptor

Devastator dive bombers based in Malta
Two squadrons of Hurricanes based in Malta

To Counter this I fielded an Italian Led fleet:

Grouppo Alfa:

Vittoro Veneto
Duca D'Aosta
Z20 Destroyer
Motor Torpedo Boat squadron

Grouppo Beta:

Three Soldatini class destroyers (Luca Tarigo's)

Two light submarines operating as interceptors (Ambra's)

Two squadrons of Stukas based in Sicily

At first it went well for the Axis, the Stuka's proving quite effective. However the Axis then suffered a terrible setback, when the Rodney, although damaged in the exchange, sunk the Vittoro Veneto with it's opening barrage!

The Axis forces were able to control some sea lanes by merit of having two operational groups, and concentrating submarines and aircraft on denying the allies objectives. But really it was only a matter of time or out manoeuvring the lumbering Rodney. Her inability to turn gave the Axis a glimmer of hope.

Alas the Ajax proved too much for a group of crippled Italian destroyers to handle, and the Bolzano proved luckless in its own firing.

The game ended as a solid Allied victory. More over, Phil and I both felt that as a 'Game' the rules worked well, and managed to transfer the concepts of the original game to a tabletop effectively, without over complicating matters.

Can't be bad.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Axis & Allies – War at Sea: Tabletop Conversions

Ok; so these are my rules for converting W@S to a tabletop environment. They may not be complete as yet, but I feel they meet the basic needs of the game as it stands. You will need a copy of the game, obviously, to play these adaptions.

I would add that the major diversion from the original rules is an effort to make submarines work more realistically. This makes them more effective, so as a consequence they are limited in availability.


All normal rules apply, including the official clarifications of July 2007 (available here); except where they would clearly contradict the adaptions for the table top listed below.

Sectors conversion

*You may select to enlarge the effective battlefield by using a smaller table dimension scale for sectors; using the 6 feet scale on an 8 feet table increases the play area by 50%.

Army limits

Due to their higher efficiency (read: bias) American ships work out significantly cheaper than other navies, as a consequence for balanced games, a fleet including more than one third of its points as US vessels /aircraft, is capped to 90% of the maximum fleet value (e.g. 90 points in a 100pt per side game; 180 in a 200 points game, and so on).

Submarines are limited to comprising 25% of available points values.


Fleets may deploy upto one sector depth in to the short edges of the table, normally on opposite sides. Submarines may begin forward of this point but must be at least one sector from the centre line of the tabletop.

Unit Cohesion

Vessels may not be less than 2cm from each other, regardless of sector scale.


Each sector of movement equals one move sector listed on the table above for the table scale in use, e.g. a Fletcher class destroyer on an 8 foot scale may normally move up to 30cm (2x 15cm sectors).

Movement is measured from the prow. The front of the ship may not travel more than its permitted movement from its last position; and may travel less.

Turning: if a boat turns over 45 degrees it must have first travelled forward its own length; and then at least its own length in the direction it intended. If a boat turns 90 degrees or more it must do two 45+ degree turns in effect.

Turns of less than 45 degrees total for a full move are done without penalty.

Ships may not go within 5cm/their own length (whichever is greater) of land without the shallow draft rule on their card. Ships using shallow draft rules may attack other ships in shelter of same coast, but otherwise apply core rules.

Special movement rules on cards such as ‘sub-hunter’ are applied in as close a fashion as possible on the table, following any dictated restrictions.

Submarines (new rules)

Submarines are deployed as normal at the start of the game, but count as hidden; for each turn they are hidden they remain stationary on the table but their card is given a counter/marker die. When found (see below) or first declaring an attack they may move their normal turn of movement, plus any distance up to the sum total of moves saved by being concealed. E.g. an Italian sub remains concealed for 4 turns before declaring an attack, it first gets its normal move (1 sector) plus up to 4 more sectors of saved movement towards its declared target. Once a submarine actually moves, it may not become concealed again.

Submarine hunting (new rules)

If a submarine is hidden it may be searched for by any vessel which can by use of flying, normal movement or special abilities come within its ‘0 Sector’ range. Once in this range roll a D6 to try and find the submarine needing as follows:

> Aircraft other than Patrol Bombers: 6
> Normal ships: 5+
> Patrol Bombers, Ships with ASW weaponry: 4+
> Ships classed as sub-hunters, with ASW and sub-hunting special rules: 3+

Once discovered the submarine may be allowed to move. If found by aircraft it may move as normal, but the aircraft in its sector ‘0’ range all move with it to its new position. If found by ships; it may move up to the speed of the discovering vessel, if able. But the discovering vessel may choose to pursue for free (maintaining the same relative position), or remain where it was. If forced to move as a result of discovery the movement need not be towards a declared target.

Air attacks

Carried out as per core rules. As well as the targeted ship, a single friendly ship whose conning tower is within the Sector ‘0’ range of the conning tower of the ship under air attack may fire on aircraft involved in attacking a vessel. Vessels with the 'Close Escort' Special ability may perform antiaircraft fire on a target that two other ships have fired on, providing it is within 'Sector 0' of the target ships conning tower.

Carrier based aircraft now get rearming counters. Land based aircraft get two rearming counters. Therefore aircraft can be caught on deck (q.v. Midway).

Naval attacks

Carried out as per core rules. Excepting that ranges are measured between the conning towers of the vessels involved. The conning tower is normally to the front of the ship and represents the highest point of the superstructure. Where no conning tower is obvious, (e.g. PT boats or the Shoho carrier), measure from/to the centre of the model.

All ships may fire about them in a 360 degree arc, with the exception of Sumarine torpedoes. These may only fire forward in an arc 45 degrees either side of their centreline (i.e. a total of 90 degrees, forward only). This restriction reflects their need to carefully line up a target and balances some of their other advantages.

Shallow draft vessels (as defined on their cards) may not be targeted by torpedoes.

Ships, including all destroyers, cruisers and Battleships, receive 2 rearming counters after firing torpedoes. They may only remove one rearming counter per turn; and may not fire torpedoes whilst rearming counters are on the vessel. Submarines and Torpedo boats do not receive rearming counters.


In a conventional game, objectives carry the normal value. To seize an objective a vessel must make contact with the objective whilst no opposition vessel has any part of it within Sector ‘1’ range (e.g. 20 cm on a 6 foot table).

Well that's all, if anyone tries them I'd appreciate feedback.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Celts in Turkey; 800bc?

Well, as promised, here is a review of my defeat at the Harrogate club, using Warhammer Ancients!

The opposing forces were my Celtic 'Barbarians' against Pat's Hittites; therefore a largely unhistorical match up, but the closest we could get in 20mm with the forces we have. My Celts have been on here many times but for the purposes of showing my force here they are again:
I deployed two blocks of 48 infantry, two of 27, a block of fanatics numbering 28, some skirmishers, 14 light horse and 5 chariots.

Pat fielded two units of 35 spear men, a unit of 28 mercenary sea peoples, rather more skirmishers, and three units of five chariots - the elite arm of his force. The figures are largely Caesar and were painted using an ink wash base. They were very nice, though I remain unconvinced by movement trays...

The opening moves saw the Celts swarm forward, whilst Hittite chariots covered the flanks. From the first turn Pat was afraid of the sheer size of my units! The terrain ended up blocking the centre of the battlefield, so far as I was concerned that was to my advantage...

A close up of Pat's centre:Early on it was all looking good for the Celts, armed with javelins we easily could out shoot the Hittites at the range we were operating. Pat was putting all his efforts in to destroying my cavalry so he could out flank me.
As it was the chariots on his right did chase off my cavalry, but not with the resultant advantage he may have hoped for. On his left it was a disaster, as the least enthusiastic melee ever saw his chariots rout straight off the table side when he misjudged the ability of my faster chariots to charge him.

Then the usual disaster befell me, slowly I'm learning how to win, or how NOT to lose at Warhammer, and high on the list of "Don't's" should be "Don't throw your army General into a melee at the start of the game." I did, he got killed, the bulk of my army started running.

Surprisingly it took another hour or more for Pat to seal the deal. A sprinkling of my troops stood, and I was still able to beat a few of his prize units, but with my forces hemorrhaging from the field it was only a matter of time. My fanatics could not arrive in time to save my last large unit from a 3 on 1 assault, so I conceded the victory to Pat.

Compared to other recent forays, I did more right here than usual, I was suitably aggressive with an attackers army. I covered my flanks and held a reserve. But throwing my general in at the first was just too risky a manoeuvre. As ever I couldn't have made a morale test of '12' on two D6 on the night, whilst the Hittites rolled on average a '4' for all of theirs (though to be fair the way he rolled armour saves, it was apparent the Hittite regulation kit that day was a paper bulls eye for every man).

Elsewhere there was plenty going on in the club, again; but my photo skills were not good this night, so the only reasonable photo, is of one of my next opponent's armies. Some Ancient Chinese of some sort or other:

Well, it was a fun evening. My next trip to Harrogate is in a month, for what looks like being a rare old slogging match. My Vampire Counts versus a Tomb Kings army. Two forces of undead? I don't expect it'll be a quick game...

Monday, July 16, 2007

More news of Sparta

Well, time for another update; I've been getting on with these chaps, though progress has not been as fast as I'd have liked.

My aim is to do the army of the northern campaigns of Brasidas around 424 bc. To that end I need Thracians, so here's a unit of them:

It's an opportunity for me to put some colour in the army, as the Thracians loved vibrant colours and patterns.
In the rules the Thracians look pretty handy too, with Halberds (the Romphia), javelins and shields; with the ability to switch between formed and skirmish formations.
The figures however are not the prettiest, being Old Glory, and not their best work. Cheap at £21 for 30 but overly chunky. The mix of poses is ok, but could be better.
Previously I'd managed to knock out ten more hoplites (no photo's yet), a small unit of bowmen and an oracle - an important part of the WAB rules for Greek armies, but usually not represented by very much.

I decided to have a go at some sculpting for this, so the gory sacrifice is all my own work.
Sadly it came out looking more like a dog, than the goat or lamb I hoped for, but then again, I've only really sculpted vehicles in the past, and I couldn't very well put a gutted armoured car on the column, now could I?!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Debut victory for painted models!

If your anything like me as a gamer then the title of this entry is surely a contradiction in terms.
But this was the rarity that proved the rule. Generally putting newly painted models on the table is a sure sign they'll attract the deadliest fire from the enemy, and last a matter of minutes. An entire army therefore should've been suicidal.

In fact the game was a huge victory for the 'Emperors Triarius', his Third Line.

Chris was struggling mind, his army didn't feature new paint jobs, but the new army list for the Blood Angels, his favourite 40K army, was quite different from the previous edition, he had a lot to learn, and many new restrictions to consider. When else would a Marine player field a squad of five, with no heavy weapon? When the rules say they have to, that's when!

There is a flip side though, Blood angels can now pick Assault marines as regular troops, so they can go assault heavy. Chris selected a squad of ten of them. Their vehicles have got cheaper too.

My scouts were able to assault the tactical squad, which would never have happened normally - the scenario we were playing was a raid, and they were able to get in close on their second turn. The tactical squad on the defense got whacked; and the scouts moved on to try and blow up the objective. My Terminators arrived in time to intercept the approaching assault squad.

It was an inferno as the Terminators let loose with two heavy flamers, the assault squad then got wiped out when they ran down the hill to get them, unlucky!

One thing you could rely on however was Space Marine missile launchers not hitting a thing all game; don't waste time looking at that auspex my friend, it won't help you any...

The Librarian leading my force worked with my Dreadnought and the heavy weapons team left in reserve, was able to deal with the Razorback and Death company in the Rhino arriving as reserves themselves. The Chaplain ended up as the only survivor. Though my scouts were gunned down by a land speeder. The Librarians tactical squad went forward, whilst the Terminators were ordered to stop the Chaplain at all costs.

A Baal Predator also arrived for the Blood angels but proved staggering incapable of doing much in the way of harm. It redeployed out of close range, trying to take down one of my support squads, but the Dread' was able to cut it open like a tin can! It was becoming a disaster for the Blood Angels.

The Marine squad with the Librarian made it to the objective, whilst the Chaplain was blocked. Chris knew his only hope was to get me off the objective; so, with his final reserves - another land speeder, he tried to gun the tactical marines down. He failed however, and the objective was flattened on the last turn.

Well for me it was a great game. I'm afraid for Chris (for whom this may be the first issue of my blog he gets to see) it was a bitter defeat and a steep learning curve. Thankfully, it was only a 'training' mission, so his losses were only virtual. But losses nonetheless.

Well, it was the only force I could play painted, I have just over a thousand points completed and another thousand to add; but it functioned very well. Particularly handy were the teleport homers I invested in, my Terminators arrived exactly where I needed them. Also the Dreadnought punches well above it's weight with the autocannon.

It's nice to win one for a change.

Next week is a game of Warhammer Ancients, so it should be a swift return to form!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

World War 2 Bonanza

Last week was an unplanned triumvirate of WW2 games at the local club, so here's a few pictures from them. First of all my own game, my Germans versus Ken's Russians, thankfully he didn't field all 150 of them! A 28mm game using the Alto Zero WW2 Rules - Operation Overlord.

Elsewhere was a 'Band of Brothers' campaign run by the club regulars. No idea which rules, but again it was 28mm.

Lastly there was a 20mm game of what looked like the 'Poor Bloody Infantry' rules. Some nicely painted Germans to round up this quick photo selection.

The Leeds club can always do with new members, if you live in the neighbourhood, why not check them out...

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Uigon Bu River - Korea 1951

Last Sunday, we put my collection of Korean war figures to good use for the first time in about 8 years. The figures used for the Chinese Peoples Volunteer army are by Outpost Miniatures - now sold through Under the Bed Enterprises - (plus one formation of ESCI plastics). As you can see from the colour photo's, these are nicely proportioned and realistic looking 20mm's.

Figures are all block painted, then given a blackened varnish glaze to shade them, my standard mass painting technique, and one that works especially well with 20mm moderns.

The Game itself represented a communist attack in the Fifth Phase Offensive of April-May 1951. Using my own rules, a much more involved set than the 'made for kids' rules I posted at Xmas, we played a battalion attack on an entrenched reinforced company position.

Early in the game the Chinese pressed forward quite effectively, Phil deployed and moved his forces in Company sized blocks, which allowed his simple command structure to function. On the down side it meant he didn't get the best of his support weapons, as the support platoons had to operate together.

Chris on the other hand was able to control his smaller force in Platoon sized elements, with his heavy weapons operating independently. However, it didn't save him in the long run, both his Machine gun bunkers were mortared to oblivion, and his motorised gun carriage (M16 GMC half track with four .50cal's) was first flushed out by lucky artillery, then routed by a combination of enemy unit's fire.

The Communists got in to the enemy lines, and were ambushed by combat engineers with flamethrowers; but the Chinese proved unstoppable all day. Their large unit sizes and high morale when going forward meant that they seldom did more than take a breather. On their next turn they captured the engineers.

Next stop for the Chinese was the enemy trenches themselves, where around half a platoon of Americans were captured, elsewhere in the line Americans were breaking, though the Chinese right had finally been slowed. In the end the communists having broken in to the trenches where the UN forces were pinned down gave them a massive advantage, and assured them of rolling up the line down to the river.

It was the first use of my main rules in some time, and I was pleased they seemed to work well, though not yet perfectly. Several sections are still needing finishing, but the core of the game mechanics seemed to work well.

Units are activated one at a time by using command chits from a limited pot, a player can have more units than commands to use for them, and so has to make choices about who does what. They can also plan multiple unit actions, or interrupt other actions by putting by (saving) actions through the game, the shooting system is designed so you need only measure once for the entire firing group, the morale is designed so that units that fail tests can end up breaking forcibly into separate formations; and frequently end up firing randomly at unseen enemies.

There are other bits that needed reworking, clarification or finishing, but both players enjoyed it, and Phil at least who has more experience of the historical stuff, seemed to respond well to the structure and style of play.

I'm happy with that...

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

They're HARD!

One of the upshots of going to that tourney a few weeks back, was bumping in to an old opponent. Paul (for that be his name) chatted to me about his 'local' club, the Harrogate and Ripon District wargamers, known as 'HARD'. Apparently Warhammer and other GW games are all the rage there. Anyway, a few emails later and I had a game arranged.

Firstly, it is not the club I visited last year in Harrogate, this pretty little town, with an impossible road network somehow manges to support two gaming clubs; so it was with some trepidation I approached driving in to the town again, last time it took over an hour to find the place I was after. This one was much easier, though partly as a result of my terrible experience last year, I had some clue as to the layout of the place.

I found the Dene Park Community centre, where the club runs with little going wrong. That was a pleasant surprise. Inside was a typical set up, with all the impermanence that being granted a bit of storage space in a building like this implies. Amid the floral curtains and notices about charity fun runs and pensioners coffee mornings, a half dozen or so six by four foot boards were laid out for a healthy number of players. Warhammer Ancients was indeed the "jeu du jour", with about four games, including my match up against Paul's Viking army amongst them. Additionally Lord of the Rings and Legends of the Old West appeared to be being played.

Look out, he's HARD!

To be honest my actual game was a typical result for me; i.e. a defeat. I brought a quickly re based army of Eastern Franks, with two modest units of cavalry, three of tough foot, and a bunch of skirmishers. Paul's stunning Vikings were all infantry, with a high general ability and markedly better skirmishing forces. Pretty much, the game was all over when my cavalry was shot to pieces and ran without once contacting the enemy.

Things already looked bleak for me by the time Paul had finished deploying

So far as I can see, if I want to win at Warhammer, I'm going to have to play it a lot more often than I actually wish to; this would explain why I did so badly in the tournament, and also brings up one of my few niggles with the game. At a competitive level, tactics to exploit individual units strengths and the foibles of the rules have far more influence than historical tactics should.

Arrgh! Vikings on tea trays levelled the land

For example, the game winning unit for the Vikings was one of 14 armoured mercenaries with crossbows. I can't recall any historical account within the classic dark ages period where Vikings fielded crossbowmen, but the rules allow it; and so effective are they, you apparently shouldn't even consider fielding an army from the Shield Wall supplement without a unit of them!

Anyhow. I lost, enough griping.

Aside from this inevitable defeat, what else can I report. Well depending on your point of view a good/bad aspect of the club is the allowance to field unpainted or undercoated figures. Yes it is convenient, but it's not something I'd ever do anywhere except at home. so far as I could see only two games (ours and one of the LOTR games) used fully painted forces, next to our table white figures on lurid green movement trays vied with a half painted army that may or may not have been Roman of some sort. I can understand, that when you have limited space, scenery has to be a compromise, but you know, there ought to be 'standards' ; I'd never take an unpainted army to a club.

An army of ghosts? No, merely undercoated metal meeting its relatives...

However as a consequence, my ratty, twenty year old, re based over the weekend as quickly as possible, Franks drew several positive responses, simply for the fact of being painted.

Other than that I can say that it was pleasant enough experience, aside perhaps from the chavvy kids hanging round the local bus stop! Glad I was driving.

If you are in the area, they are a reasonable enough little club. There is no web presences, so the best I can do is offer you a repeat of their address:

HARD wargamers

Dene Park Community Centre

Dene Park

Harrogate HG1

Games run on Thursday evenings from about 6.30pm onwards

Sunday, July 01, 2007


So, Pirates of the Spanish Main, and its' numerous successors.

Some of you may be familiar with this incredibly successful game, others may well be completely in the dark about it, as it often sells through distinctly non-wargamer channels, comic shops and so on. If I mention the phrase 'Collectible game' it may well send a shudder down your spine. Like Axis and allies - War at Sea, this is another game that encourages you to buy, buy, buy!

In it's defence, whereas A&A-W@S requires you invest £20 to start play, and at that point will have a very limited fleet; Pirates... can be tried from a single pack for around £2.50. Of course for that you'll only get a couple of model ships, producing a limited game yet again; but the equivalent investment compared to A&A-W@S will see you with a fair variety of kit and a few features to tinker with.

The typical contents of a single pack, not shown are rules and a tiny die, the human eye cannot see!
I have to say, that whilst not overly complex, played for itself, this is a clever little idea. I've had six games of it now, with a collection of cards I mainly bought last year, and it gives surprising value for money.

The ships themselves are constructed from plastic, die-cut cards; one to three cards per ship, and as you can see in the photo's, can look pretty nice. Some of the earlier galleons suffer from seeming a little two dimensional, but the overall appearance of the full colour cards it quite nice, Personally I'm quite enamoured of the Barbary galleys, with their oars.

The rules are perilously simple, but as with any 'CCG' the rules on individual cards/vessels countermand the core rules. Movement is based on length of the cards themselves (ingenious) and damage to vessels, and its effect on firepower are controlled by removing masts from the ship (damned ingenious!).

Over the last month or so it has been a regular feature for me at the club; having the obvious advantages of pick up play and speed. On Wednesday last I took a couple of shots of a game in action; whilst not ground breaking they will give you a flavour of play.

In this match I was particularly entertained to find that one of my fleet was invulnerable to one of the others cannon fire. Fleets are arranged from a single nations' ships to an agreed value, typically resulting in about three ships and some special crew. The British player went for a fleet of long range guns, thinking bigger was better, but my flagship was immune to long range gunfire - oh how I laughed...

Unfortunately, our tussle in the centre let the American player sweep up the treasure on the islands. Treasure collection either by peaceful exploration of islands or by hostile acts of ship to ship combat, being the aim of the game.

Ever the wargamers one of us soon suggested a variant on play, and a second match saw us with the new objective of destroying enemy fortresses to claim mastery of the sea. Quite aside from using these models with more traditional naval rules, the facility for varying the play of the basic game is quite broad.

It falls into the 'beer and pretzels' end of the market, but Pirates... is a good back up plan for a club gamer to have available when an opponent fails to show up. Also, it's the sort of game that can easily be sold to your non-wargamer types instead of another session of Monopoly or Trivial Pursuit at Xmas or after that dinner party; if you do that sort of thing.

Which, I hasten to add, I don't.