Sunday, October 24, 2010

Conventions - Rock-Con 10-22-24, 2010 Part II

A continuation of our recent experiences in scenic Rockford, IL.  Click on the pictures for a larger view.

I had a little time after my third game and went to check and see how I'd done on the silent auction.  There were tons and tons of board games and fantasy/scifi supplements with a decent smattering of painted and unpainted figures.  Reported over 700 auction items.  I bid on a Vauban fortress in 15mm and several groups of 15mm painted Italians for North Africa.  Although checking it with two minutes to go to see that I was still on top I won nothing and sold little.  According to a friend, there were several instances of boorish behavior by bidders.  Probably the same SOBs who run bidding programs on eBay to snipe you in the last two seconds.  We also had a fellow take Peg's chair when we got up to look at the 1/2000 Trafalgar diorama:
Even though we were only about 12' away and I told the guy he was taking her chair!  He seemed very pleased with himself.  What a world we live in!  Thankfully the people I played with were all gentlemen.

The last game Saturday had slim pickings for me but fortunately Battlefield Hobbies were running another game so I got in it.  They had three guys working and even though they had to be ready to drop they still ran great games.  I was really impressed and that takes a lot these days.

The game was "Tankers Challenge" using the Battleground skirmish game system.  Fourteen players (8 Soviet and 6 German) gathered to fight Kursk.  Sort of.  The idea of TC is to run one tank till it's destroyed, then get a new one, and just try to kill enemy armor.  The one with the most kill points at the end "wins."  Everyone drew a random vehicle to start and I got a captured T-34.

Here I play hidey looking for flank shots with my less effective Soviet gun.  The guy next to me hardly ever left the table edge.  He just shot and got shot.  In the end he killed five Soviet tanks to "win" and lost eight German.  Mind you, out of the 11 total we lost.  The game had a lot of goofy fun stuff and the players were extremely supportive of each other, even the enemy.  We always applauded when someone killed an enemy tank or themselves.  We had a tank on each side blow itself up on special event cards when they rolled a jam on the their main gun firing attempt resulting in a catastrophic internal explosion.  I got one enemy T-34:

Pictured here burning after I maneuvered some; then I had two KV-1s start hunting me.  The "Hero of the Soviet Union" next to me took one out before himself being destroyed and the other Ruskie and I stalked each other for the rest of the game, each getting chances.  I finally immobilized him and moved away but missed on my final shot.  A goofy game but good fun.  Peg was meanwhile playing in a "B-Movie" game, also with three refs which was reportedly really great, goofy fun.

Sunday we slept in a little because Rock-Con, while officially a three day event, is really a Friday night and Saturday convention.  Very few games on Sunday and nothing that appealed to us.  So we shopped some, got a couple of Sunday bargains, painted a figure each at their free "paint and take" tables and came home.  

There was apparently some scandal in the vendors area regarding tables and pre-registered sellers.  Other than that it seemed to go very well with lots to do for most people, readily available food at reasonable prices, clean restrooms and a friendly staff.  This was just our second year but I expect to go back again next year.  Who knows, maybe I'll offer Sunday morning game?

Conventions - Rock-Con 10-22-24, 2010

So Peg and I got back this afternoon from one of the few gaming conventions we regularly attend.  In general I'd call a success though there wasn't as much to choose from IMHO if you are primarily a historical gamer.  No regrets about the time and money invested and we got home at a decent time.

Friday after work we raced south to try and make the first round of gaming.  We pre-registered and a hotel promotion we belong to meant we even got our room for half price.  Can't hardly beat that.  With 10 minutes to spare we made the first round and each got in the game of our first choice.  Peg tried out 4th Edition AD&D while I went to play the Battle of Cape Spartivento in 1940 with Brits vs. Italians.  The game system was "Naval Thunder" in 1/2400 run very capably by Jeff Henn.  The game plays remarkably fast and in my one other exposure to it last year was pretty realistic given the concessions for fast-play.

At the start six Italian heavy cruisers; Zara, Fiume, Glorizia, Trieste, Trento and Bolzano (the latter three under me) squared off against five new light cruisers; something, something, Southampton, Newcastle and Sheffield (guess which ones I was fighting?) and the battle-cruiser Renown.  We knew that two heavy Italian units were coming though.  I deferred to the other guy present who had arrived before me to be C-n-C.  So naturally, instead of taking advantage of our superior gunnery range and speed to keep them at distance while we lured them back onto the battleships, he ordered us to engage and close.  I thought at the time it might work because initially we would "cap their T" and get some free shots.  The dice said otherwise.

My three cruisers are closest in the view.  The ill-fated turn to close is in progress and the Brits just discovered they are still out of range.  On turn three the battleships Vittorio Veneto and Gulio Caesar came on table.  The late arriving Italian commander (show up late and get the best ships) decided to mask the Caesar with the Veneto and charge straight forward to close.  However on the first turn, with a 1 in 100 chance he scored a penetrating hit on the Renown.  The battle was violent and generally poorly played by the Italians.  HMS Ramilles joined the fray later as the British light cruisers began to take a toll on the Italian heavies.  We discovered in these rules that the British 6" gun is almost as good as the American and ALL the Brit ships had radar in 1940 and knew how to use it to perfection.  I'll look into this claim later.  The lead three Italian cruisers went on a death ride to point blank, of course losing all three and the player wandered away.  After the Trieste took a hit that induced a list I turned away 90 degrees with all my ships to open the range.  In the process it was too much for the Trieste which capsized.  One British cruiser went down slowly by the bow, midships and finally the stern.  Realizing that the battleships were going to kill them, smothering the Newcastle in one turn, the other two in my sector turned away making smoke.  Then I discovered the fatal flaw in the rules.  No spotter planes were allowed.  No visibility or shooting was allowed through smoke.  Yet without being able to spot the fall of shot except by radar, the British ships could not only fire at full effect, but with a +1 for radar!  Given that, how could we even compete?

The scene as the four surviving Italian ships form line.  I took my faster cruisers behind the battleships, looking for an opportunity to launch a torpedo attack since the British lights were retiring.  Unfortunately for me my dice decided to go absolutely frigid at this time and I never scored another damaging hit.  In the end the Caesar went down, the Bolzano was a wreck, the Ramilles had four floatation points left and the Sheffield was only a bit better off.  The Renown, unknown cruiser and Southampton were withdrawing.  The Veneto was still in great shape, maybe 20-25% damage.  Still, we were in no position to go after the convoy somewhere off table so the Italians lost some utterly irreplaceable ships and didn't get the convoy.
At a neighboring table there was a pirate civil war in process leading to the capture of the outer island fortress protecting a Spanish stronghold sheltering pirates.  Unable to get into the Russo-Japanese naval game, Peg and I both signed up for this. 

Saturday morning after little sleep we arrived, dropped off some things for the silent auction and went to play with the pirates.  This game can only be called fun eye candy.

The Old Town is in the foreground with del Morro in the back.  The place was held by a combination of French and Spanish regulars, pirates, and citizen militia.  Our pirate force had some Royal Marines and ships that Peg and I lucked into as well as a bunch of English buccaneers.  The year was 1703.

A bomb ship rammed the outer works and the subsequent explosion not only cleared a sector of the wall but also created a breach.  Small sailing ships and lots of rowed boats followed.

With lots of fortifications we had to rush them.  Some small craft were sunk or damaged during the approach, but most made it to shore.  In the picture the the bomb ship burns, Peg's marines are forming on the beach for volley fire, my marines are looking to clear the redoubt in the foreground, common pirates are attacking frontally (and getting ripped up) and just in the corner of the picture, a large French pirate ships has cut it's cables to start drifting out.

Here pirates supported by my marines assault the side of del Morro while other groups finished off the valiant French in Old Town.  A lucky shot from my sloops 18 pounder had taken out the large gun where the fire burns.  Volley fire by my men was taking out the pirates on the walls quickly.   At the time limit we had over-run Old Town, had two viable entries into del Morro and the pirates and local militia had broken.  The final bit of excitement was my sloop in a river channel dodging two fireships.  Fortunately for me they lit them too soon and the crew abandoned them to drift, so I got away clean.

A d6 game system, little in the way of morale and a card driven activation system.  Battlefield Hobbies put the game on and did a super job of keeping it flowing, reacting to crazy ideas by the players, and handling a lot of dice rolling.  This is part of an on-going convention campaign so our surviving leaders go in a data-base for next time with our contact info.

The next game for me was my misguided attempt to find out what the newish rules "Black Powder" are all about.  Now I know and won't make that mistake again.  The game was Mexican-American War based on the Battle of Rio Saludo.  Rob Oldenburg did a good job of running it and all five other players were fun and real gentlemen, the 25mm figures well done, so my issue is with the rules.

The attacking Americans automatically got the initiative.  Okay, that's reasonable.  Their staff ratings were higher.  Pretty consistent with my understanding of the armies.  We had nine infantry, four guns in two redoubts and six cavalry units against nine infantry, five guns and four small cavalry units.  We had a lot of unreliable militia types, they were pretty battle hardened.

Not wishing to dwell on it, when you dice against your staff rating you can get up to three moves and must state exactly what you will do on turn one, two and three.  Most of the day the Americans got three moves.  The Mexicans were allowed no reaction.  Then the Americans get to fire.  Say what?  Automatically?  We just sat there, let them march up to 1" range and open fire.  Then the survivors got to do the same back if you weren't disorganized (takes a "6" on a shooting dice against you to create), shaken (three casualties) and/or managed to make your staff roll.  Despite all that and the fact we couldn't get the Mexican cavalry to move for the first three turns, we were still in it when the Americans hit a rough stretch.  If a unit fails a morale test badly they are simply picked up and removed forever.  By about turn 8 or 9 we had wiped out a brigade of three battalions, had eliminated a battalion from each of the other two brigades, and had killed a cavalry unit.  In return we had lost two infantry units and two cavalry units (one expected, one a fluke).  As we are looking at our seven to four infantry advantage and four to three cavalry advantage, we were told our army morale had broken. 

My opponent, who was a real nice guy and I talked a lot during the game about the aims of goals of the system since he was really high on it.  He was pleased that it usually had games over in two hours with decisive results.  I countered that I will make time for my leisure pursuits and can't enjoy a game that defies realism.  While we played another turn after the morale break announcement our personal morale had broken as did our entire front when the Americans manhandled their guns 18" forward (triple move) and fired at full effect.  I shook hands all around, thanked them for the game and won't give that one another chance.

Peg played in a miniatures based fantasy game along D&D lines with more enjoyment than I experienced.

The rest of the Con in the next post.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

18th Century - Action imminent, send reinforcements!

Sunday the 17th the terrific trio gathered for another game of Final Argument of Kings.  Alas, I took no pictures but some info and comments follow.  The scenario was set somewhere in western Europe between the French and the Allied Coalition.  Our game had a series of hills on the defenders left that slowed movement or channeled it into lanes.  The center was open with a diagonal road cutting across the center.  It had another road running off perpendicular and exiting on the far right corner.  A shallow river meandered along the right side of the table, with a few small woods and a significant sections showing marshy ground.  Finally, a stone wall paralleled the first road with a series of smaller stone walls partially encircling fields.

Besides a stone bridge across the river, a pontoon bridge had been build by the defending Coalition and a supply depot was also in close proximity.  Holding all three would be a decisive victory for someone, two a marginal victory and only one each a draw.  Ownership meant that you physically occupied it and no enemy unit in good order was within charge distance.

The Coalition had six battalions of Hanoverians, four Brunswick and two Hessian.  Two good units of Hanoverian cavalry and three batteries finished out the defensive forces.  All but one of the battalions was of 16 figures.  The attacking French had four Swiss battalions, two German, and twelve French (two grenadier).  Battalions were roughly 50-50 of 12 or 16 figures each.  Four batteries (one heavy) and three cavalry regiments rounded out the attackers under St. Germain, aka. Bob Rondou. 

The plan of Baron Rondou called for the Swiss and the two German battalions with the cavalry to take a sweeping attack against the Allied left.  One French brigade would keep the Allies honest in the center, one would remain in reserve, and another go against the Allied right.  The passage of turns was carefully noted, though only I paid attention. 

Things developed quickly with columns moving on the left and right quickly as the Allies decided against a defense forward along the walls but stayed concentrated by the objectives.  The Allied cavalry thought it saw an opportunity and raced out to try and force a separation of the French wings and significantly delay their advance.  Things went wrong though and the cavalry rapidly found itself surrounded.  With little else to do they put spurs down and charged an infantry unit.  Vulnerable artillery and infantry with exposed flanks waited with bated breath.  The defensive volley was a total whiff and with great confidence they cavaliers crashed into the infantry.  When all was said and done the cavalry had a -4 modifier against the French 2d6 roll with the low dice throw winning.  Incredibly, they lost.  The first of a wretched day of dice rolling by Count Prochniak.  When the cavalry routed shortly thereafter, a string of three "3s" in a row left an otherwise undamaged line shaken.

Meanwhile the Swiss and their attendant cavalry maneuvered, softened with artillery and closed for the kill.  About this time, after two hours of table game play, I had Todd (Count Prochniak) roll a d6.  Hmmm, a "1."  Roll another I said.  "Hmmm, a "2."  The game went on. 

The center began to close with the Allies, who were briefly hamstrung by the series of shaken rolls.  On the Allied left the French and Hessians danced about for position, then began infiltrating slowly through the woods.  Two turns after the dice rolls I told everyone they saw a tall dust cloud, the kind created by cavalry, on the road coming from the far right.  Next turn a brigade of cavalry, heavies and lights, thundered onto the table having ridden to the sound of the guns.

Alas, all was for nought since the Allies could not recover from the horrific dice rolls and the Allied left and center collapsed.  Sometimes you can make good decisions but the dice still determine the outcome.  As always good sportsmanship was evident all around.  One of the great joys of FAoK is that we were able to play with a reasonably large number of figures each and still play the battle to a clear conclusion in a little over two hours.  Granted the dice are not usually so radical but quick play with good flavor of the period is a consistent result.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Reenactments - Mississinewa 1812

Last weekend (Oct. 8-10) we made our annual pilgrimage to Marion, Indiana for the premier War of 1812 event south of the Canadian border.  (They really do it up grand in Canada.)  As usual I fell in with the 95th Rifles and enjoyed the five battles, evening festivities, good shopping and unseasonably high temps Friday through Sunday.  We had our best turnout for Rifles with 11 in the ranks on Saturday.

I am the middle rifleman in the front row on Sunday morning.  Temps ran from around 90 during the day to the 40s at night.

Artillery was in abundance on both sides.  The public is kept safely at bay by the fence you see at the bottom of the picture.  Larry Lozon provides an entertaining narration of each battle for the spectators.

The natives largely fought with the Crown Forces against the Americans.  A fearsome and very serious lot.

Some US regulars pictured here, led by my old friend James Lundgren.

And of course les belle femmes.  (Emily Rosewitz and my wife Peg.)

The hospitality and quality of the regimental mess of the 95th is well known and many people enjoyed our hospitality over the weekend.  So long as the rules of the mess are observed all are welcome.  A seven hour drive home left us both very tired but sans regrets over another great weekend spent with quality folks.  It seems that for some reason the British reenactors have more of a sense of "family" with each other than on the American side of things.  Everyone is always truly glad to see each other and sad when it comes time to strike camp.  I do not see this same sense of family in other time periods among British reenactors.  Cheers!

Yours truly.