Sunday, October 21, 2012

Rock-Con 2012

After missing last year, Peg and I returned to a semi local (three hours away) favorite con this weekend.  Held in Rockford, IL it is ostensibly a Friday night through Sunday event, though in practice little tabletop gaming seems to occur on Sunday.

Besides miniature, boardgame and RPG gaming, the event features a silent auction, decent dealer area, painting competitions and the very popular "paint and take" area with donated figures and paints.

My Friday night game was with Bonaparte with the scenario set in Spain in 1813.  It wasn't my first choice but the game in North Africa had only me sign up.  Not being a fan of one against the ref games, he kindly excused me and I went to try and help get a supply column off table in the face of British, Portuguese and Spanish forces.  The game system is fairly simple.  Two range bands for musketry, d6 resolutions for firing and melee, and d6 or d10 for morale.  The French were marching out of a mountain defile so my brigades could only come into play as each unit cleared.  Cavalry moves are special in that if they declare a charge they get to do a full "maneuver" move including wheeling before you can react.  So if you get within a move of infantry and then charge, they have no chance of forming square.  This "motorcycle cavalry" dominated the game and sort of saved our bacon.  For as my unit emerged I was immediately taken under fire and then charged by the enemy that had just come on table to my right!  So not only was I out-gunned 10-4, out cavalried 2-1 and out-manned 9-5, but they got to start on my flank.

My cavalry launched the first of many desperate charges that *had* to succeed.  My attitude was to just buy time but to the surprise of many they kept winning or surviving.  Some fortuitous dice rolls by the enemy (thanks Ron) helped and I got a few infantry units on table.

At the end of regulation play I had lost one infantry unit but had routed several enemy and gotten my command out of the pass.  They gave me a prize, redeemable in the dealer area.  The scenario continued in future sessions and despite the long odds the French I think ended up winning.

Peg in her first game, a "4.5 D&D" system

Saturday morning I got into my main reason for coming game, Command Decision: Test of Battle.  The scenario was a breakout from Kiev in 1941.  Not my favorite period of the war, but I volunteered to be Soviet, "for the challenge." 

We had four groups of one tank brigade and a regiment of infantry each.  Troops were green, morale 8 for those who know the game.  Each tank group had a KV-1 model, two T-34s, six T-60s and a armored car model.  But, to represent the chaos of the opening days of the war and the retreat situation, we could only control two of our four units at any one time.  So once a unit was shaken or demoralized, there wasn't really time to rally them.  The Germans (veteran, morale 10) got five free moves to get on table and into position.  We had to cross the table the short way.  The plan was one brigade would start and go on the far left attempting to draw German reserves that way.  The rest of us would mass on the right (near the German entry point) and flood whatever was there.

It quickly became apparent that while the Germans were very good, they had no armor.  Their anti-tank guns could hurt us and took out many light tanks, but their AT rifles were ineffective against the T-34s.  The hard part was resisting the temptation to try and kill Germans rather than escape.  But seeing the opportunity I threw my forces at the Germans in close assault which tied up all in the area, allowing much of our other two brigades to escape.  Really hot dice never hurt either.

Although listed as an intermediate game most of the players were inexperienced, but it turned out well.  Oh, and the sacrificial brigade on the left?  They escaped with minor losses.

Next up was a Napoleonic skirmish game, "Sharpe's Gold" using Green Jackets.  A typical command is a dozen figures, commanded by a "hero."  It was very well organized though the game system had some goofiness.  After people had grabbed commands I found myself left with two units of redcoats and.... Sharpe.  Three mules were laden with gold to get off table.  Combat was fairly direct with d20s for hits and stunned, seriously wounded or dead being the results. 

When your unit was eliminated or made combat ineffective, more units came on table.  So the Allies could never breathe a sigh of relief till the very end.  It is odd how games can give expected results.  Shooting with Sharpe he hit 7 times out of 8, and six of the hits were kills.  In the end, despite attempted treachery by the Spanish who arrived to "help" us, the gold was saved.

This was from a lovely 15mm War of 1812 land/sea game.  There were five or six ships total.

Here is a totally cool looking Roman naval game in 6 or 10mm.  Ramming and boarding actions ensued.

My last game was supposed to be Burnside's Bridge at Antietam using Johnny Reb III.

But again I was the only one to sign up.  The morning session was well populated, but by the end of day people were getting weary and going home I guess.  The GM clearly didn't want to run it so we both went off to play Jadgpanzer with the author.  The table was nicely done and fairly accurate from by trip there this summer.  BTW, in the morning the Union forces were triumphant.

The game opened in a dust storm.  Both sides used dummy counters till spotted and each player control roughly a squadron or company from a tank battalion.  I had Valentines plus some Bishops.  The DAK had an assortment of PzII, PzIIIj, PzIVe and f models, plus some light AT vehicles.  We advanced on a tight front with the HQ squadron held off table at first.  Although they got in the first whacks, we had some hot dice and ended up giving better than we took and got forces off table, which was our goal.  Plus the Germans had the additional requirement of not losing too many tanks to a non-repairable state.  So it was a double whammy on the Germans and perhaps more importantly to my exhausted mind, an early end.  The eight players got in a lot of dice rolling and tank killing.

Some other cool images from the con:

I bought a few things from the dealers, sold a few things in the auction, and painted a figure.  So all in all an intense but enjoyable weekend.  I'll go back next year if I can.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Sausage and Sauerkraut Fest - Part II

When last we left off, the Prussians and Brunswickers were going at it, hammer and tongs against the Hanoverians.  Yes, I know, not historical but what we felt like using.  Each side has enjoyed some success by loading up on their right and attempting to turn the other fellow's left.  Unfortunately for the Hanoverians, the Prussians were a couple of turns ahead in the process.

The first turn of the second session saw a series of disastrous morale tosses for the Hanoverians.  That coupled with a combination of Prussian musketry utilizing selective "First Fire" orders and a series of charges left the right side of the line looking rather empty.

Several units streamed to the rear either "Shaken" or routed.  Unfortunately, the rallied and reformed Prussian cavalry sporting a new commander was there to pounce.  The von Stechow dragoons bagged the first of two standards taken by them in the action.

On the other right, the Hanoverian cavalry swept forward and scattered the Prussian hussars and Freikorps cavalry.  But significantly, did not break them.  Light troops began to infiltrate among the ravines, sniping on flanks and whittling down Prussian units that would then be charged.

Back on the Prussian right things continued to go poorly for the Hanoverians.  A cascade effect began to hit as units realized that other battalions from their brigade had been destroyed, weakening their resolve further.  When the von Stechow dragoons nicked their second flag of the battle it well and fully signaled the end on the right.

Struck down in the moment of victory

Some very old and tired dragoons finally rout

The question still remained about whether the Freikorps and Brunswickers could hold on the left.  Their resolve and resistance stiffened, sensing victory elsewhere and they conducted a skillful defense against their aggressive opponent.  The Prussian fusilier brigade seemed about to break through in the center, when a chance musket ball dropped their commander.  For long minutes they milled about, unable to take advantage of the situation till a replacement could be found.  Then, with command reasserted the destruction of the Hanoverian right and center was completed.  Allowing cavalry to begin relocating to the left.

In the end the Prussian left bent, strained, but did not break.  The end of the ridge line was still contested for the moment, but the rest of the Hanoverian army was running and the victorious Prussians were bearing down on the left.

The battle was signalized by much laughter and merriment, occasionally at the expense of the opposition but also with the cross-table knuckle bump.  As always The Final Argument of Kings gave us an enjoyable game with lots of tactical nuances but also speedy resolution.  Had we not stopped for pizza and to watch the best part of "The Wind and the Lion" we would have been done even sooner.

As they say, "wait till next time."


Monday, October 15, 2012

Sausage and Sauerkraut Fest - Part One

We kicked off the fall gaming season with an all German (hence the title) battle royal using our favorite, The Final Argument of Kings.  We've been play-testing the 2nd edition rules and this time took extra care to make sure we implemented all the changes.  As a result it slowed the game a bit to make sure we didn't miss anything, but was worthwhile.

The "fantasy" battle features 21 Prussian and five Brunswick battalions, nine cavalry regiments and seven batteries facing off against 28 Hanoverian battalions, eight cavalry and a similar number of guns.  The center of the table is dominated by a ridge line which overlooks a Prussian city off table.  Control of it by the Hanoverians would endanger the city from siege guns, so the Prussian army must deny it to them.  The Prussians naturally have the best infantry on table, but also the worst since they have a brigade of Freikorps.  The Prussian cavalry is also a notch above the majority of the Hanoverian, with von Seydlitz leading them.

Prussian right, with the "heavies"

Prussian center with fusiliers and musketeers

Prussian left with the light cav, Freikorps and Brunswickers

The Hanoverian left with some new units

Because of the blind nature of the approach, we opted to do a double move at the beginning.  This led to units being closer together when they sighted each other than we are used to.  No artillery hammering the approaching lines and columns, just a "hammer and tongs" result right away.  Since both sides wanted the ridge line, the onus was on each side to make a play at it. 

Looking for left to right after the double move

On the Prussian right, Seydlitz (Dan) unleashed the cavalry in an all out charge.  Since we were starting so close together he was able to close with the also charging enemy before there was any risk of falling into disorder.  The Garde du Corps in a supported charge crashed into some fine hussars (also supported), threw them back, followed up and meleed them to extinction.  The regimental standard of the hussars passed into joyful hands of the Prussians.  Other units followed up, though they were exposed to some murderous flanking fire of the reacting Hanoverians in turns to come.

Cavalry "before" photo

Cavalry "after" photo

The Prussian right had a grenadier brigade leading a musketeer brigade as the main thrust.  Fearful (I know, not Prussian of me) of being charged while moving, we elected to form in place, while the Hanoverians moved forward and formed line with a "front to flank" maneuver at the end.  As a result, they had the edge on the contest for the ridge.

In the turns that followed the Prussians labored up the hill and engaged the Hanoverian infantry frontally while the Prussian cavalry turned and began riding down and eliminating units.  This meant that the expected bloodbath wasn't as bad as it could have been for the grenadiers, who were able to keep three of the four battalions in fighting order after clearing the ridge.  One battalion of musketeers, charged an enemy column and overcome with fiery impetuosity raced on, scattering other defenders still at last they stopped in front of fresh enemy forces.  With predictable results.

Coming to grips, with the rampaging musketeer shaken

Combined arms in action, all without player conversation

Much as I'd like to say that things were all going the Prussian way, on the left the main Hanoverian force and cavalry group were making slow but steady progress against the out-numbered Freikorps, Brunswickers and light cavalry.  The gallant von Seydlitz was struck down and his fate has not been determined, forced Der Alte Fritz himself to ride over and stabilize things till a successor can be named.  For a time the bulk of the Prussian cavalry milled about leaderless.

Cream of the Hanoverian cavalry early on

So the battle hangs in the balance, with each side attempting to turn the others right.  The game will be continued on Wednesday night.  Check back for the exciting conclusion.

Friday, October 12, 2012

What's new with me

Okay, so kind of an ego-centric title, but I suppose you have to be a bit so inclined to have a blog in the first place.  :-)

Things have been rather quiet here for some time with far fewer postings than normal.  Happily, it is just because life has been very full and rich so no health issues for a change.  On the downside, if life is too rich you risk gout. 

In August and early September I enjoyed six weekends in a row of historic reenacting.  On the downside again, no two weekends were in the same gear as I did: War of 1812 95th Rifles, Royal Navy, French Napoleonic, Rev War British, French and Indian War French, and War of 1812 British/Napoleonic French.  The last event was a dual War of 1812 and Napoleonic gathering so I donned uniform as appropriate to the planned skirmish.  While I regret none of the events, the pace was gruelling and led to a nasty head cold for me and bronchitis for my wife.
Can you find me?  Hint: I'm a redcoat.

Gaming wise I slipped in two games but neglected to take my camera to either.  My cell phone takes such dubious ones that it didn't seem worth doing. 

The first game was a semi modern game (1989) featuring the Soviet invasion of Germany.  I'm not sure of the rules, they were a modified sci fi system I believe.  The basic element was a platoon, so my battalion of T-80s was 10 micro scale models.  The game featured an initiative roll to start, then an IGO-UGO to complete the turn.  As the Soviets had more units, they tended to get some "end of turn" moves.  All a d6 game, where most vehicles got a saving throw against the hits (Abrams needed only a "2+" roll) and infantry evaporated fairly fast.  It tended to hit most of my pre-conceived notions of modern combat, which ordinarily doesn't appeal to me, and gave a very reasonable result.  In the end the Soviet tank regiment had two of the three battalions combat ineffective (routed or burning), were going to occupy the objective, and the Americans had sold their lives dearly.  3:1 odds seemed about right.  My main quibble was with the mechanics that gave it a chess-like feel.  If you fired on a unit (not stand) it took a "blast" marker.  Artillery bombardments could give multiple blast markers.  Destroyed elements gave you blast markers.  When your blast markers matched the number of functional stands, you routed.  No rolls, just automatic.  In the case of the Americans, it had to be double the number to reflect their desperation.  Calling in a fire mission didn't happen immediately, so you tended to target the unit that had already had it's action so that they couldn't just move out of the bombardment.  You had recon units giving away their position by firing with some 14.5mm machine gun against the Abrams to give them that last blast marker.  Now admittedly, as far as the Abrams know the tracers are just to aid targeting some big nasty, but the automatics encouraged players to make decisions they might not in real life.  I'd play it again, though as I say post-1945 stuff is not my thing.

The second game I squeezed in was Napoleonic naval; I think Form Line of Battle.  The combat system was easy if too brutal for my tastes when you got real close.  We had one situation where a ship of the line took one raking shot and struck.  The odds were remote, but did it ever happen on first damage?  A deck of cards drove the action.  The first card for your side was a command and control type.  Reload, new orders, etc.  Then you had two move cards available for your side.  So it was possible that one side could get their command phase and both movement phases before the other side could do anything.  You could only fire each broadside once per turn, but it still created weird effects.  I'm usually favorable towards card driven games because of the "dramatic tension" it creates, but this felt decidedly wrong.  The laws of physics still apply (or should) and two castles of oak sailing on a converging course simply can't stop and have someone sail past, then you magically regain momentum and carry one.  Even an IGO-UGO system would be more palatable, though of course a game of simul movement with courses plotted is best.  My bias of course, but founded in 40 years of gaming.  The game itself tested the game system as the British strove to break the French/Spanish/Dutch line, enduring raking fire as they did so, but having the cards line up perfectly at the critical time.  No "Band of Brothers" this, more a "bunch of squabbling cousins" as half the British ships took the loooooong way around to engage, but as they came into battle fresh the surviving coalition ships could only make sail and flee.  As an amusing side note, although the rules as played did not allow you to aim high or low, inevitably criticals against the British brought down masts, and criticals against the allies took our hull, guns and crew.  One reason the losers could escape with as many as they did.

Painting has been hit or miss.  After a very busy first half of the year it has not surprisingly taken the back seat of late.  I've done some easy things like WWII armor and infantry, some harder things like 15mm Republican French (1796ish), and some bothersome things like 28mm Foundry Russian SYW cavalry.  After the last big battle I've reluctantly agreed that I need more armored cavalry.  So at least three more squadrons will be ready for the December game.

Lots of other game ideas rattling around in my head and finally some time to act on them.  But I will be going to Rock Con later this month so that takes away a weekend from the locals.  I hope to sample some new game systems along with old favorites.

Thanks for reading along, if indeed you didn't just skip to the end or quit part way through.  And may the odds be ever in your favor.