Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Be There or Besieged

The Germanic hordes (Hanoverians, Brunswickers, Hessians and one Highland battalion) have encircled the fortress of Essenratten and are constructing trenches and parallels, while their massive mortars pitch destruction at the defender's walls.

In the game the decision was made that the relieving force of Austrians and Russians have achieved a measure of strategic surprise.  The German army would start with two of six infantry brigades in the trenches and four resting in their tents.  The limited cavalry force (the rest were out doing a bad job of scouting) could be placed anywhere on their side of the river.  The level of surprise was determined by the roll of the German commander, Dan.  The Allies would get a free move on table and then the besiegers might start to mobilize.  On a d6 roll, 1-2 = one turn delay, 3-4 = two turns, and a 5-6 = 3 turns.  Dan of course rolled a "six."  Then another roll determined how long, once they emerged from camp, it would take them to go from a disordered mob to a coherent fighting force.  Dan this time rolled a "one" which meant that they could form the turn after emerging.  So in the end it sort of averaged out.  With a more experienced crew I would have had each brigade make its own roll, but for simplicity we did it at the army level.

On the Allied side of things, outside of the one stone bridge, they would have to approach the river to determine whether there was a practical crossing.  Again, a d6 roll for each 6" with 1-2 = fordable at no cost, 3-4 = fordable but disordered, and 5-6 = the banks are washed out, etc. so no crossing possible.  The dice were not kind to the Allies as only on the flanks were good crossings to be found.  This provided the Germans with the time to turn their army around and get it organized.

As the Russians and Austrians swept forward and began to vigorously compete for crossing points (another way of saying getting in each others way), the Hanoverian cavalry turned about and prepared to sacrifice themselves if need be to buy time.

After expending themselves in charges against the superior numbers of Allied cavalry, the Hanoverian cavalry could take satisfaction in the destruction of a fine Austrian Hussar regiment and one Russian battalion.  But they are severely mauled and only a light regiment remained intact.

On the Allied left the Brunswickers began to advance on the Austrians, despite a galling fire on the flank from Croats.  This happy position quickly became untentantable though when the Hanoverians found a fortuitously placed ford and crossed.

On the Allied right the heavy cavalry and infantry were sweeping away the German and Highland forces despite fierce resistance, while the Austrians on the left must withdraw or be flanked.  It appeared as though the battlefield was beginning to pivot on the center.

Troops rushed to shore up the German left while supply wagons replenished the hot firing cannons.  On the Allied right, German left there was little left to oppose them.  The way was open to Essenratten, but the Germanic army had not been defeated.

In the end the battle ended in a draw, in that the Allies had to drive the besiegers from the field to win.  As long as the besiegers kept some troops in the trenches, a sortie from the fortress would not occur.  They were just too weak to try against any opposition.  Given this we rolled off and the Allied commander lost his nerve (and the dice throw) and after throwing some supplies into the fortress withdrew in the face of superior numbers.  Or at least that is what his report will show.  And the digging went on...

Rules were Final Argument of Kings by Dean West, playtest version of 2nd edition, seven players of which one was totally new to miniatures, and played between 1:00 and 5:00pm last Sunday counting pick up.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Impetus Game

Sunday six players and a referee to facilitate play gathered for another introductory game of Impetus.  The game would feature the impetuous French Normans against the missile-weapon heavy Byzantines.  Somewhere around 1055.  Since this was just my second Impetus game as a player (I'd watched a couple too.)  I'll give my reactions and review of the system as well as the game.

This was a big game with around 500 points a side, but was appropriate for six players, even if some of us were very inexperienced.
The Byzantine center and right wing.  The left was somewhat similar but lighter weight.  Our best troops, the double line of cataphracts, were here under my lucky command.
Here the impetuous French (literally) are advancing, eager to close with the Byzantines.  Being impetuous, such troops must attempt to close on any enemy within 30" of their front.  This makes timing important for both sides.
Especially when nasty horse archers await the ride by.  Note the gallant leader at the front of his knights.
Now note him enjoying the hospitality of the Byzantines after his unit was eliminated and he was captured.  An unlikely, but fun little option.
On the Byzantine left however, things were not going as well.  Here we see the dreaded "pick up" result from lose of cohesion and casualties.

As we ran out of time due to the need for an early departure, we had played about 8 turns in three or four hours with lots of time outs for explanations, and each army saw their left wing break and run.  I believe the Byzantines held the overall advantage since their super cataphracts were intact but anything could have happened.  The French were already poised to exploit our flank whereas the Byzantine right needed to move.

In the game system, each army was divided into a left, center and right division.  At each "pulse" we nominated a division or wing for action and diced off using the commanders modifiers.  The winner then selects one unit at a time, runs it until they are either satisfied or the unit has to stop, usually due to disorder.  You then go on to the next unit in your command until finished.  Now in most games the loser of the dice off would now get to go, but in Impetus each side again nominates a command and dices off.  So it is possible that one side completely goes before the other.  I understand an option is to dice off for army moves, but given the "one at a time" nature of moving units I don't think it would work well except for very small forces.

Combat is all six sided dice (d6) based.  You want to roll either sixes or pairs of fives.  For the impetuous knights, they had a base combat value of 6, plus 4 for their impetuous nature, so with no other modifiers rolled 10 dice looking for sixes and pairs of fives.  So a bit of luck could cause catastrophic losses in a hurry.  Archery is very effective, especially against cavalry.  It causes disorder as well as losses and for each disorder chit, figure lost and times you moved costs you a combat dice. 

Multiple moves for a single unit (remember you move them one at a time) is possible.  Unless you perform an automatically disordering move you can shoot and move, move and shoot, move ordinary, charge (d6 bonus), etc.  At the end of your move(s) you make a cohesion test to keep from falling into disorder.  So my highly disciplined Byzantine cataphracts offered me a lot of options.

I haven't played the game for two years and some good improvements have been made.  My basic criticism remains the same as two years ago.  When you are actively moving or fighting it is great fun.  But with moving by commands and one unit at a time, I spent a lot of time Sunday watching the Bears struggle on TV.  Granted it is not intended for multi-player games but rather tournament point games, but that isn't always possible. 

So I give Impetus one and a half thumbs up.  A good combat system that drags in the nature of our typical games.  There is a lot of difference between the basement weekend game and club games.  One on one or even two on two I think it would be a very good experience.

Monday, December 5, 2011


Through the haze generated by the rising heat of the barren landscape, the Cossacks of Hetman Taras Shevchenko ride on. 
"Why are we here again, friend?"  "The Tsar wants a warm water port."  "So why have we ridden south from Litharus when the Little Father already has troops on the border of Persia?"  "What, do I look like Oksana the Fortune Teller?  Ask him yourself!"  "Okay... but I wish you looked like Oksana..."
Suddenly, from a distant tower a signal flag is raised.
Firing breaks out from hidden irregulars and some Cossack saddles are emptied.

The rest of the advance guard marches on and prepares for battle.  A line and Pandour battalion with a light gun.  The latter shown in an open column of divisions.
The large group of irregulars that initially opened fire is quickly reinforced by a mass of cavalry and other irregulars that seem to appear as if from beneath the ground.
Line of battle for the Advance Guard is slowly formed.  On the far left a large mass of cavalry appears along with infantry, while a smaller group of cavalry arrives to our front.
Behind the Advance Guard, the main body reforms in response to the courier in the left foreground.  A general advance to disperse these rag-a-muffins will commence shortly.
The Cossacks, feeling a bit "elite" today, decide to ignore the larger numbers and cross sabres and lances with the enemy.  Despite finding the Persian cavalry to also be elite they manage to push them back in the first of a see-saw engagement.
The main body begins to move on table, confident of an easy victory.  Regular dragoons move to support the Cossacks still in melee.  The cards in the foreground determine in "Batailles des Ancien Regimes" the order of movement and firing per side.
The Dragoons cantor into the melee, adding their considerable weight.  However, fate is not kind and the Russians are forced back.  And as a regiment the Cossacks rout!
To the surprise of everyone though, the poor Dragoons (literally) held off the Persians, forced them back, and routed them!  Just as they were congratulating themselves, someone noticed the Persian regular infantry and new body of cavalry advancing.

As the main body in their summer dress continues to move on table, events take a sudden turn.
The dragoons are hit by a fresh body of cavalry, are routed, pursued, eliminated and lose their standard.  Our only consolation was that it seemed somehow appropriate to happen to poor cavalry.  Here some infantry face to the left to protect against a cavalry incursion while others press on.  Just disappearing over the hill is the battalion from the Advance Guard, pursuing a rapidly retreating enemy.
About this time the Rearguard and baggage train entered the main table.  The only remaining cavalry is with them and may be just in time.  Note the base of the tower on the back table, upper left.  Suspected of being a munitions depot our orders were to capture or destroy it.
Feeling safe, General Gruboaboyshichow and his staff advance to the initial Persian position and "supervise" the advance of a heavy gun.
At last we come to grips with the elusive enemy, who have fought a skillful delaying action while they grew stronger.  Here the bayonets and close order infantry of the Minsk grenadiers take a heavy toll on the enemy, despite their "poor" status.
Likewise the Jonava Musketeers engage the enemy regular infantry in a telling melee.

About this time the tower, which had taken a severe artillery pounding, collapsed.  With it went their hopes, such as they were.  The horse grenadiers saw off the last of the enemy cavalry and our infantry was solidly entrenched on the Persian back table.  The Persians had routed both battalions of the Advance Guard, along with most of our cavalry.  But in the end we held the field, so our dear old (really old) General Gruboaboyshichow will pen a glowing report to the Tsar and Arch-Duke.

My thanks and appreciation for the good-humored and gentlemanly behavior of the Persians, who were placed in a very challenging position.  Had we not rolled very poorly for troop quality it might have been worse.  Thanks too for John and Chris as the very capable fellow Russian players.  And of course thanks to Bill Protz for organizing and executing not one but three different games at his place last Saturday.

Iki kito karto mano draugai.  (Until next time my friends.)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

ReCon - Nov. 19

The Minnesota Miniature Gaming Association holds a quarterly one day con at the VFW post in Coon Rapids, MN.  Yesterday I went to renew old friendships (now living in WI) and play some games.  The attendance was one of the higher gatherings in my memory with a nice variety of games to be had.  Here the St. Paul Irregulars get started with Impetus round robin play. 

 Some games are scheduled and many are just "show up and play" types.  I saw a Fields of Glory tournament, Sci Fi action, Wings of War, WWII micro armor, zombies, etc., plus the games I played in and ran.

First up for me was the Battle of la Belle Famille in 1759 using a play-test version of Wilderness Wars.  Todd Powell was the always capable referee and he modified his scenario to accommodated the unexpectedly high player interest.  Lovely figures did battle in an attempt to relieve Fort Niagara from the British siege.  Results were remarkably historical and tragic for the French.  The revisions were an improvement over past games but the troops are still very fragile and difficult to have charge, even from behind.

Next up I ran an introductory game of Naval Thunder: Bitter Enemies.  The premise of the game was that the French sortied rather than be shelled to oblivion by the British at Mers-el-Kebir in 1940.  We didn't use any optional rules and I did not allow the French to fire till fired upon.  Although I let them reply to fire it allowed the British to set the engagement range.  The French had the two old battleships Bretange and Provence leading the two modern battlecruisers Dunkerque and Strasbourg  along the coast, with six destroyers on the outside.  The British had the Hood, Valiant, and Resolution along  with the light cruiser Arethusa and five destroyers.  I decided the Enterprise and other destroyers would be off table with the Ark Royal.

Of the six players, two were playing their third game, another owned the rules, and the rest were new to it.  However, within a couple of turns they were reminding me of modifiers and such.  I had a short easel with an enlarged reference chart and I strongly encourage others to make the effort.  They greatly speed up an understanding and grasp of the game mechanics IMHO.

So I told the players about criticals and noted that in all the games I've played, I've never seen a magazine explosion.  "Admiral Sommerville" told me his plan, we made a double move and the British opened fire.  Not much happened.  One 15" hit on the Bretange from the Valiant that penetrated, and of course.....

Abruptly the game changed drastically with the capital ship odds even and the French pinned against the coast.  I allowed the Dunkerque to catapult off a prepared seaplane (felt like they were going to need a boost) as the French destroyers and destroyer leaders began to make smoke.  Now I had warned the players repeatedly about the low survivability of destroyers in the game and they would quickly see how fragile they are.

The British had the Valiant, Resolution and Hood in line approaching the French on a diagonal intercept course.  The Arethusa trailed the destroyers and the British placed great hope on her eliminating the big French DLs. 

The French started laying smoke right away which served to disrupt the British firing to some degree.  However, they shifted to eliminating the source of the smoke and were quickly effective.  However, next blood went to the French as the Arethusa was hit by a lucky 13" salvo and sank on turn three. 

The spotter plane helped the Dunkerque for a time, but then was shot down by AA.  After four turns of firing the French were down a battleship and two destroyers, the British a light cruiser and two destroyers.  Recognizing the limited life expectancy of the destroyers, both sides began torpedo runs on the opposing lines.  Few would make it to launch point.

The French got to launch first and put torpedoes into the Hood and Valiant.  Hood took serious damage and developed a list, but Valiant's submerged armor absorbed half the damage.  Strasbourg, as these French ships are prone to have happen, lost half her main guns with a single main gun critical.  These French 13" guns are great weapons but the two turret arrangement has serious drawbacks.

Next the British got in torpedo attacks and did serious harm to Dunkerque.  Strasbourg continued to take critical engine room hits and slowed to a crawl.  Hood had a rudder hit that coupled with the list that wouldn't go away was slowing and compromising her effectiveness.

In the distance 12 biplanes appeared which manifested themselves at swordfish torpedo bombers from the Ark Royal.  As the guns continued to roar they split to have six each attach the Strasbourg and Dunkerque.  The latter managed to drop one of the bombers but they bored in and four fish found homes.  This same turn Valiant succumbed to flooding and fire.  As we quite, the Dunkerque was a mission kill and would never fight again.  Provence, who just chugged along at her slow speed would escape along with one destroyer.  Hood and Resolution, who had been slowed to less than the French, would limp home for the grisly report.  No other British ships survived.  A British victory but the French could be consoled by doing much better than historically thanks to being at sea.

The weather was closing in so after an enjoyable meal with our friends we headed for Appleton and home.  Arriving safely at 1:00AM, weary but well pleased with a good day.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Autumn in Litharus

As the first snowfalls occur, Litharus can look back on the year with some satisfaction.  The rule of Grand Duke Orzepovski has been relative benign and the harvest was good.  Only recently the people gathered to celebrate the autumnal equinox and harvest festival, Dozinkyoi with the traditional burning of a wood and straw structure throughout the land.

For now the people feast on the diet of bread, potatoes, cabbage, pork and mushrooms.  War and the disastrous attempt on the East Prussian city of Colburg are largely forgotten and few know of the major efforts of the diplomatic corps lead by Count Lippe.  Many invaders have crossed the borders over the centuries.  Swedes, Poles, Danes, Russians and Cossacks from the Ukraine; but for now Litharus stands independent.  Many centuries since the Teutonic Knights were invited in to help repel invaders.  What a mistake that was!

No, the common people go about their business, unaware of the pending storm of war.  Unaware that in St. Stanislaus Cathedral in Vilnius the faithful among the nobles and military gather to pray for wisdom and strength.  A winter campaign beckons and the grand old man of the army, General Gruboaboyshichow signs documents mobilizing the army, enlisting the fishing fleet at Klaipeda for transport.  But where to best deploy them?  Perhaps here.....

Monday, November 14, 2011

In the Ukraine, 1943

The gang gathered Sunday for some Flames of War, set in Russia, mid-war.  We decided from the terrain rolls that it must be in the Ukraine because so little was generated.  The Germans were attacking the Soviets, points somewhere over 2000 per side.  Being a "good" German facing the Godless Communists (just rhetoric fellows) I know that we had a panzer company with seven MkIV tanks, five StuGIIIg and five MkIIIj, with a company of panzer grenadiers, four tubes of 8cm mortars and four tubes of 12 cm mortars, all rated Confident/Veteran.  The Soviets had a pair of KV1 tanks, six T-70 light tanks and something like five T-34s.  Masses of infantry supported them along with six 45mm ATGs, four Katyushas and six tubes of 12 cm mortars.  Neither side could start the game dug in nor gone to ground.  The Germans had to spend the first turn setting up mortars.

Soviet starting, end run facing you

German start, infantry and mortars
behind a railway embankment
Turn one the Germans advanced their armor all or nearly all of their move.  Only the main guns could reach the infantry though to our shock and the Soviet dismay, one KV1 was killed and the other forced to bail.  A few stands of Soviet infantry were eliminated while the mortar crews rushed to get set up.  The Soviet turn saw them engage their anti-tank guns, advance the T-34s and begin an end run on the Soviet left by the T-70s.  (Don't worry about the model on the table, we "knew" what they were.)  One Panzer was brewed up.  The Soviet infantry all tried to dig in and most succeeded with their Confident/Trained rating.

Soviet right, German left

Turn two the other KV was finished and a major engagement began between the German Mk IVs and StuGs versus the T-34s.  In short order three of the T-34s were burning and the other two decided to bug out.  The German mortars started counter battery fire with no initial success.  On the German right the MkIIIj tanks advanced to chew up some infantry that hadn't been able to dig in yet.  On the Soviet half of the turn they started to execute damaging fire against the German panzer grenadiers by heavy machine gun fire.  Rockets and mortars rained down on the Nazis as well.  The remnants of the scout platoon dug in. 

Burning StuG

Turn three the MkIII group pulled back out of range, anticipating the T-70s coming through a narrow gap on their turn.  It was hoped to get the drop on the larger Soviet force next turn.  With no other Soviet tanks the Germans concentrated on eliminating the enemy anti-tank guns and two of the Katyushas and mortars.  In return the Soviets killed more infantry, making it a tank vs. dug in infantry game for most of the table.  As expected the T-70s showed themselves but were out of range.  Mortar fire rattled the interior of the MkIII tanks but didn't go more... yet. 

End run starts to round the turn while infantry waits dug in marshes and woods

Turn four the German Mk IIIs raced in to engage the T-70s, fully expecting to kill two or three of them.  Alas, their armor was better than expected and the 50mm German gun less so.  They managed to force a bail out.  In their "Stormtrooper" move the tanks pulled back.  Elsewhere, facing dug in infantry the Germans stopped to shoot and shoot and shoot and mortar the Soviets.  The Soviets retaliated by advancing and killing one of the Mk IIIs with the T-70s and another with mortar fire.  Suddenly all that stood in the way of the T-70s and their objective was three Panzer Mk IIIj and a dug in platoon of panzer grenadiers.

Bad odds

Turn five the fire against the main Soviet line was getting their company close to half strength.  The Mk IIIs held their ground and forced a bailout of a T-70.  The first bailout never did regain their tank.  The remaining two bravely/foolishly continued the advance but missed.  The Soviet rockets were eliminated this turn.  Looking very bad for Uncle Joe's troops.

Situation before the Germans fire

Turn six the T-70s were hit again and failed their morale test, with the remaining crews abandoning their tanks.  The company facing the German left hit the half-strength level, took their morale test, failed it, shot their commissar and routed away.  Nothing was standing between the Panzers and their objective now except a few Cossacks.  The remaining Soviet infantry could only wonder their fate.  On the Soviet half another MkIII bought the farm and the resulting morale test meant a pick up, but the issue was decided.

"Tovarich, sword not good against armor..."

Even though we started very late due to figuring the Soviet points, we were still done on schedule.  Thanks to everyone who brought toys, yummy snacks and a positive attitude.  It's just Flames of War after all.  :-)
Last scene with remnant of German infantry cowering

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Garrison Regiment to Muster

With word circulating of a pending winter campaign by Gallia against Hesse-Seewald, Grand Duke Orzepovski of Litharus has authorized the raising of two Garrison regiments to ensure domestic security should the main army march off again.  The first two companies of the slightly smaller than normal battalions completed their muster and paraded for the Grand Duke today.

Each battalion will have six grenadiers and 48 musketeers.  It is expected that they will not be expected to serve beyond the borders of Litharus though the requirements of the State may supersede that.

Here the Grand Duke (center) looks on as the new soldiers receive salutes from civilian dignitaries.

Figures are Wargames Factory WSS musketeers in 28mm.  Uniforms are based on those illustrated in the Funcken Lace Wars book as the Semenowski Regiment.  Since they aren't intended to be front-line troops, it seemed reasonable for them to wear an older style uniform.  Two 54 man battalions are planned at this time.  The Grand Duke has not yet decided whether they should have the honor of carrying standards. 

I did not expect the multi-pose figures to be an issue assembling for this old-time modeler, but I did find them more "fiddly" than expected.  When I switched from Super Glue to plastic modeling glue (duh!) it went much smoother.