Thursday, August 30, 2007

Fleet actions in two ages

Past and future.

Firstly from a couple of weeks ago some shots of more War at Sea tabletop action. Myself Phil and Chris managed two 150 point games, beginning with an American Battleship group encountering a Japanese Carrier group. Here Japanese spotters catch sight of the USS Iowa and escorts.

The Japanese fleet was fat with air power, whilst the Americans relied on land-based fighters. It would not prove enough however.

The Iowa was the main problem however, its long range guns playing merry hell with the Japanese ships, the Akagi had to negotiate a narrow straight simply to avoid the Iowa's guns.

The Americans ultimately sunk pretty much the whole Japanese fleet, for nominal losses.

Game two was a convoy scenario, and an opportunity to use my scratch-built merchant fleet. I played the British, opting for lots of air cover, destroyers and cruisers. On reflection a Battleship was needed. Phil and Chris split an Italian-German fleet with several cruisers, submarines, Stuka aircraft and a German battle cruiser.

Mid way through the game and the Royal Navy was reduced to shrouding its' carrier in smoke. The merchantmen tried to escape, but motor boats and coastal submarines were playing amongst them. The Allies concentrated on a phyrric victory in sinking the German flagship. Soon the merchants and the remains of the allies were scattered and I was defeated again.

Not for the first time the Ark Royal was sunk.

As written the Convoy scenario in the main rulebook needs adapting; My 8 foot long table made the potential journey50% longer than it should've been, and the 150 point fleets gave too much ability to sink the convoy, I think you should increase the convoy size and victory conditions proportionately to the points. This game should've had 8 convoy boats with 4 or 5 making it for a victory.


Rather than make another post, here are some snaps from a game called 'Full thrust' we played at the Leeds club last night. Me and Chris commanded a "Russian" fleet (the bronze ships) in a massive battle. We were allied to a Japanese fleet, with support from "Germans". Against us were Franco-Italians with alien mercenaries. The aliens tore through both me and the Japanese ships, thanks in part to their powerful beam weapons, but mostly due to our losing the initiative every turn!

Beer, paperwork, dice and dozens of painted models, a geeks ideal night out?...

Germans swarm French, to no great effect...

Aliens trash the Russian super dreadnought.

Entertaining, but skewed by the outright power of the alien fleet and the missiles beloved of the Frenchies in the game.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Spartan civil wars

Like a doofus, I forgot to take the camera with me last night to the Leeds club; which is a shame as not only did myself and 'Lon' have a very pretty game of Warhammer Ancients, with two well painted Greek armies (mine and his) across the table, but also - and this was remarkable - there were three other figures games in progress. A 15mm American Civil War refight, a 15mm WW2 Pacific island landing and a 'kinda looked like 20mm' Terminators vs humans sci-fi game.

As for my own game, it was a close affair not least as the two armies were virtually Identical. I ended up seconding in a few of Lon's numerous Greeks to bolster my as yet incomplete force. I ended up with:

2 units of 20 Spartans, one with the general in light armour
2 units of 24 Matineans
A unit of 15 Thracians
A unit of 10 javelinmen
A unit of 8 Cretan archers

Lon had basically the same, I think all his Hoplite units were 24 strong, but his skirmishers were weaker than mine, lacking the Thracian/Cretan edge.

The result was a classically Greek grind; both sides brushed the skirmishers aside and then lock horns for a couple of hours. Both sides had phalanxes break, but pursuits failed to wipe anything out. Up until the last turn we played I had the upper hand, having caused 50-60% losses in Lon's army. My losses were around 30%.

Alas, and as ever, my general eventually got killed; in this game it was still all to play for, as most of my army stood after news of his death; and the enemy was in only a marginal position. But as time was rolling on, I conceded the field, and withdrew in order.

A good balanced game; restores my faith in Warhammer!

Monday, August 20, 2007

The less said the better

My game on Thursday at Harrogate was another disgraceful defeat.

I lieu of any discussion of how not to deploy for a Warhammer game I will instead leave the reader to draw his own conclusions on the wisdom of offensive units deployed in cover.

Overall I didn't tax my opponent too much, though I did manage to knock off a couple of units. I was generally impressed with his gentlemanly conduct and attractive army.

One of these days I may learn the subtleties of Warhammer as a game; but I think I'll always prefer the play style of 40k and scenario led - problem solving or narrative wargames in general.

Monday, August 13, 2007

War @ Sea: Costal Convoy Scenario

In the Med it was often the case that Axis forces would convoy military equipment down the coast of Italy and the Balkans to avoid the limited surface routes.

In principle it was direct and fast, but of course it could be opposed by Allied naval forces, especially as motor torpedo boats became readily available. In response the Germans in their turn would employ the F-Lighter, or Flak lighter armed landing barges to get critical materiel to the front. They were respected enemies amongst PT boats, as they packed a considerable punch. Even more so if supported by the AFP gunboats.

This scenario represents a typical convoy attempting the trip down the coast. One player, normally the Axis player will be acting as a convoy escort; the other player will attempt to intercept it. Although the scenario is written principally from the standpoint of the Mediterranean similar actions were frequently carried out in the pacific.

Fleet Selection

Each player may pick a fleet of upto 50 points only. No vessel that costs more than 10 points may be selected*.

Carriers may be included, so long as the separate cost of each component (carrier, aircraft) is 10 points or less.

Additionally the convoy commander (nominally the axis player) has a transport fleet of 5 vessels to escort. These are either standard merchant vessels using the stats provided in the normal convoy scenario, or F-Lighters as detailed below in an earlier post. The advantage of F-lighters is they can hug the coast for much of the game, safe from most enemy fire. Merchant vessels however have more durability.

Axis players may wish to include AFP's as part of their 50 point naval force as well.

*At present some of the fleet options are limited with such low point limits, especially the Japanese. I would offer an optional rule of permitting any cost of surface vessel so long as it is either noted as a Destroyer, Submarine or Auxiliary; or costs 10 points or less. This would give the Japanese the ability to use their destroyers. And allow all forces to use their submarines.


The map above shows the initial dispositions available to forces. Axis vessels may queue off the table to come on in subsequent turns; if so they must be placed behind the sector they will initially enter at deployment, and cannot shuffle around until they have moved onto the table.

Sectors marked L can only be entered by vessels with the Shallow Draft SA.

The Allied player MUST split his forces between the two deployment areas, with at least one third of his surface force in each area.

Mission Objectives and Winning

The Axis/Convoy controlling player wins if Three of his transports make it to Axis Objective. The Allied Player wins if all the transports are sunk. Any other result is considered a draw; in which case total up the value of the (non transport) vessels (surface and air) destroyed - the player who has destroyed the most can claim a Phyrric victory.

The game lasts a maximum of 18 turns.

Special Rules

Coastal Waters

Vessels in a sector marked L cannot be attacked by, or attack any vessel, including aircraft. However, this does not apply if both attacker and defender are in the same sector and both have the Shallow Draft SA. This reflects the ability of shallow water vessels to hunt one another down where deep water vessels dare not go. Note that as per the rule clarifications, torpedoes cannot target Shallow Draft vessels.

Night attack

Friend and foe are limited in visibility by the cover of darkness that was favoured for these operations. This effects play in two ways:

Aircraft may fail to locate any declared target in a turn. Once all aircraft targets are declared, roll a D6 for each aircraft, on a 4+ the plane finds it's target and may begin an attack. If it fails its turn ends, though similarly its target will get no chance to fire on it; however, if an interceptor was trained on the attacker and still rolls a 4+ it will find and engage its target, which may defend itself if able.

Surface ranges are limited to 2 sectors due to the poor visibility.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Trenka Bridge 1943

Wednesday night's game saw my Germans facing Ken's Russians once again. I did my best to set up an appealing table with the available resources; and add a plausible scenario.

Using Alzo Zero's "Operation Overlord" rules I fielded a 1500 point mixed reconnaissance force, running ahead of the main army in the southern Caucasus, attempting to seize crossing points. Ken was given the Russian supplement (downloaded from Alzo Zero's website) to form a 1500 point force, including at least some engineers, attempting to blow the crossing before the Germans arrive. He had a screening platoon forward, but no idea what would face him. Fortunately most of his men had cover, including some nice Snapdragon studios trenches.

The Germans advanced cautiously at first using kubelwagens for speed. This vehicle wasn't just used as a staff car, and was more analogous (if over engineered) to the US Jeep. A long straight road through flat arable terrain led to the bridge, and orchard is on the left.

The Russians had no difficulty stopping the first car, ambushing it as it approached a ruined farm on the right, but drawing attention to themselves would unleash the deadly wild card in the German patrol...

A quad 20mm flak gun mounted on a half track. Conscious of soviet air power, and aware of it's potential against infantry formations, the Germans had attached one of these beasts to the patrol; the murderous fire from it's position on a low rise would cover the movements of the German recon forces for the rest of the engagement. It's first blow was dealt to a squad of infantry advancing across open ground, who took losses of around 50% and promptly broke; then it concentrated on the trench lines.

Additionally, the Germans had access to a SDFFZ 232 armoured car, with another deadly 20mm cannon and a machine gun. In defense however the Russians were stalwart, and whilst the entrenched troops stalled the limited infantry at German disposal (only 10 men in three cars, 6 of whom became casualties), their engineers wired up the bridge.

Some then tried to advance, but the flak gun did its terrible work once again. Nonetheless as the Russian main line crumbled and withdrew, the bridge was blown, stopping the Germans in the nick of time. It had been costly, the Soviet forces lost some 25 men from an initial complement of about 45. Most of these were to the cannons and so hopes for them were slight. The Germans had several wounded and a couple of dead, but had not approached fast enough to take the crossing. It would now fall to their own engineers to try to resolve the problem the Soviet commander had given them...

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Update alert!

Just a quick note to say I've tidied up a couple of inconsistencies in my War At Sea tabletop rules. Enjoy!

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Scratchbuilt Mediterranean Fleet

I'd honestly like to have something land based to write about; but lately it has all been my new obsession with Axis and Allies - War at Sea.

I the week myself and Chris took the game to the Leeds club and managed three games; it attracted a lot of curiosity, as most of the members had heard of or seen the game, but few had seen the models before. Obviously opinions were divided, some thought there was a fundamental problem with a random supply of models; others understood the logic behind that one (it's cynical logic, but excellent as a business model). Many liked the look of the models though and I was pleased with how the game went.

But two of the games came down to a battleship led turkey shoot.

So I'm intending doing a coastal convoy scenario, largely because I want to expand my options in the Med, and fancied introducing some smaller vessels (it shouldn't ALL be about capital ships, now should it?) I figured building my own ships wouldn't be too hard! I started by doing three vessels:
  • The F-Lighter Armoured Transport/landing ship (Germany)

  • The AFP armoured gunboat variant (Germany)

  • The Gabbiano Class Corvette (Italy)
The Internet provided plenty of evidence for the dimensions and looks of these ships; details that were obviously essential to working out the stats too.

Here are the unpainted models:

And here they are painted up:

Models were painted with Vallejo acrylics, and given a dark grey glaze (coloured varnish) to wash into the recesses and show the detail.

The observant may notice that the AFB has had the hull and one gun swapped round between building and painting. Photo's I found after building them showed a different layout to the regular F-lighters.

The models are from 27-40mm long, and made from modellers styrene sheet and rods (with the exception of the torpedo tubes, made of plastic brush bristle!).

So, Then they needed some stats. These are my proposed cards (no fancy graphics mind):


Class: Auxiliary 1941 Points: 4
Speed: 1
Main weapons: 2/2/-
Air defence: 3
Armour: 2 Vital Armour: 4 Hull: 1

Vital Cargo 4 (Historically they carried 4 Tiger tanks as transporters)
Shallow Draft

Historically the F-lighter carried a 75mm or 88mm gun and several AA guns, armour was only 20mm or so thick. Some 800+ were built.


Class: Auxiliary 1941 Points: 5
Speed: 1
Main weapons: 3/3/2/-
Air defence: 5
Armour: 2 Vital Armour: 5 Hull: 2

Shallow Draft

AFP's carried two 105mm guns, a 37mm AA and eight 20mm guns. Armour was 20mm of steel plus 100mm of Concrete. About 160 were built.


Class: Destroyer (Corvette) 1942 Points: 6
Speed: 2
Main weapons: 3/2/-
Air Defence: 4
Depth Charges: 4
Torpedoes: 1/1/-
Armour: 1 Vital Armour: 4 Hull: 2


Close escort (as Z20 - allows an extra vessel in the sector)
Sub Hunter - may move into adjacent sector containing sub at end of turn

Gabbiano class corvettes carried a single 105mm gun, 7 AA guns, 8 depth charge racks and two launchers; plus sometimes two torpedoes. around thirty were built.

A mighty 37 points of fleet!

The scenario will allow a decent use for PT boats and other little vessels, a destroyer will look like the Bismark amongst this lot! Building boats is fun, I've already started on a fleet of merchantmen, and may try to add some other Italian and British assets to my Med fleets.