Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Battle of Pirna (redux)

The loose confederation of SYW and Imagi-nation players restarted the Seven Years War in Brown Deer, WI using Batailles de Ancien Regime (or BAR) at 20:1 figure ratio rather than the "big battalion" look of our usual 10:1 games.

An excellent account of the battle can be found at Der Alte Fritz's blog here:  So I won't recount the tale of battle, just share my photo ops.

As one of two Prussian players that went at it hammer and tongs against the Austrians and Saxons in the right half of the field, most of my images deal with that sector.  Suffice that we had a good back and forth action with notable and disappointing notes for both sides.

To the pics...
Prussian right-center looking towards the middle.

Table-eye view.

Croats in the woods!
The makings of a massive cavalry scrum.

Flanking fire received.

Mash up in the center.

Troops shift to the open left.

The clash of sabres.

Odds starting to look long.

My brigade deploys from open columns of divisions.

Just in time as the cavalry melee resolves against us.

The Saxons are on the back table!

Our left-center advance looks unstoppable.

A "rare" attack column.

Austrian cavalry runs rampant, Prussians square up.

Croats in the woods...

Can the Prussians be stopped?

Another view of the "rare" attack column. 
So it came to pass that those with the grand view decided the day was lost and the withdraw order was given.  Things were pretty thin for both sides on our end of the table.  The order of cards drawn or a lucky or unlucky stretch with the dice could decide it.  A skillful delaying action coupled with effective use of lights were probably more important than the pitched firefights and melees.

The Seven Years War has now gotten off on a different footing than the historic.  Next stop, battle in Westphlia!


Monday, February 24, 2014

Flames of War Demo

As is our practice, the "Fox Valley Rangers" went to Fire for Effect Games in Oshkosh, WI for our monthly session the last weekend.  No website, but has a Facebook page.  Both "Ranger Dan" and I brought troops for both sides, up to 1500 points.  This week we enjoyed small (500 point) games with Matt and John.  Both have purchased at least starter sets.

"Ranger Dan" (left) and Matt

The shop owner Teddy, always has a nice selection of Flames of War items in stock as well as some related products.  He is very much a gamers shop owner and deserves our support.

Dan took Confident-Trained British infantry with some Vickers, 6 pdrs. and 3" mortars against Matt's Confident-Veteran German infantry and a pair of Pak 40s.   Both sides moved into contact and the usual carnage resulted.  While Dan was losing on his right, the combined arms of infantry and artillery (direct and indirect) was too much.  Although Matt was just a double move away from an uncontested grab of one of his objectives, Dan got to his first.

John and I then took over the table.  I had just gotten some pre-painted BF models on eBay and wanted to put them on the table.  So I put together a 1500 point Panzerspahkompagnie, Confident-Veteran.  This was full of armored cars, half-tracks and light (very light) tanks.  My biggest gun was a 50mm so I worried the Americans I'd face would have tanks. 

I was relieved to find that I face Confident-Trained American armored infantry.  Of course, they sported eight bazookas that would all go to firepower tests against my lights.

I took a recon move to get the jump on the left, though the Americans were the attacker and had the first move/fire.  He dismounted his halftracks with a ton of .30 and .50 caliber machine guns to support the bazookas.  As we got in range the Pumas on my right stopped the American advance.  My Luchs and SdKfz 250/9 half-tracks mixed it up, and quickly lost one of each to bazooka fire.  But then the dice deserted John.

His troops pinned and would not unpin, despite rerolls for leadership and I was able to rush an objective with the Pumas and a pair of unarmored SPAA.

John was hitting my vehicles with his bazookas, but could not roll the killer punch, and to make matters worse I kept getting back into the vehicles.  So a successful debut for my new toys!

March doesn't work for FfE's schedule but that's okay because we will be there April 5th for International Tabletop Day.  Doing demos and generally trying to generate interest in Flames of War and historic miniatures.  So come on down and play.


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

SAGA - a review

I had the opportunity to play my second SAGA game last weekend and thought I'd share my reaction.

We had four players and a referee to keep the two games going, though no real help was needed on our table.  I had Vikings vs. Irish and the other game was I believe Vikings against Franks.  Heroes abounded and had a profound impact.

Todd, Dan and my wife Peg consider the game
First the good parts of SAGA.  It is very much a strategic, thinking-man's game.  Working your "battle board" in conjunction with the SAGA dice is critical.  Each "army" has different strengths to be played up, which are amplified by your board.  I can appreciate a game that has kind of a chess like approach.  But it isn't simply rock-paper-scissors-lizard-Spock because we still use dice to resolve combat.  The concept of the battle board gives "flavor" to the armies, if somewhat of a Hollywood approach.

Another advantage is the skirmish nature of the games.  For a modest investment, by today's gaming standards, you can have an army in short order and can give in to that deep urge to have several armies! 

On the other hand (you knew that had to be one), some of the strengths can also be seen as weaknesses.  The power of the battle board is considerable.  In this game we used all the heroes that were available.  I think it fair to say that all battle boards are not created equal.  The Irish for and Franks for example were largely able to negate any offensive plans we might have had.  Add in the power of historic characters like Charlemagne and it might need "fixing."  My suspicion, shared by some others, is that new armies need a "gimmick" to make them fun and things are slowly escalating.  I'd really like to know whether experienced players feel that the first issue of armies are competitive with the newest ones.  I've seen a power creep edge into games like Flames of War and of course GW, and wonder if it is in play here. 

While the armies are cheap, the dice required are IMHO spendy when you consider you can't use them for anything else.  I understand that people are working on ways to circumvent the problem.

The other thing that doesn't set well with me is the Hollywood approach.  Using "Odin's Fire" (or whatever) seems more in keeping with a fantasy game than historic ancients.  As I commented to the players, if the armies were called Southrons and Easterlings, no problem.  But again, this is somewhat in keeping with getting to do an extra move just because of your nationality.  What the players want I suppose.  We had a discussion after the games about whether it models historic results and the consensus wasn't encouraging.

So I'm not done with SAGA.  I'll play when it is the game of choice.  However, I don't anticipate running out to buy the latest and greatest supplement or edition or armies.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Remagen - Breakthrough or Breakdown?

March, 1945.  The triumphant allies are across the Rhine River thanks to the capture of the Bridge at Remagen.  Only a final drive against a demoralized and defeated enemy is needed to capture Berlin and put an end to Hitler's dreams of glory.  Today that will happen.  Maybe.

A full 7,000 Flames of War points were poised to attack the German defenders.  Famous leaders like Abrams, Harmon and Sgt. Poole were present to inspire their men.  Aircraft were stacked up in the sky above waiting for a target to emerge.  Batteries of 105mm and 155mm guns, plus some self-propelled "bunker busters" were ready to rain death down on the Nazis.  It would just be a matter of marching...

The Germans had a weak company of infantry, a platoon of Pak 40 and Pak 43 anti-tank guns, three Tigers, 3 Jadgpanthers, four StuG IIIs, three Marders and a battery of 105mm and 150mm guns.  As a German was heard to say, "one thing I learned from Panzerblitz, if the German artillery can stay intact, it's uber tough to break their line."

The Pak Front did their job, lighting up tanks everywhere.  Artillery actually drew first blood, taking out a pair of Shermans.  American "Jabos" were thick, though the Americans managed to miss on Priority Air Support more than once.  Mostly they were shot down by the trio of self-propelled 2 cm. guns, but even when they attacked freely the Jadgpanthers made their armor saves.

Suddenly the expected reinforcements arrived, but instead of Panzers it was a mixed company of American armor, including the feared Pershing tank.  Appearing behind our main line they threatened the artillery park and quickly took out a pair of SIG 15cm guns and a Jadgpanther that had been left behind.  StuGs rallied, Jadgpanthers returned, guns fired over open sights, and the threat was resolved.  Meanwhile the real German reinforcements showed up on  the far edge.  They were, in order of appearance Panthers, Wirbelwinds, Jadgpanzer IVs, Panzer Grenadiers, Pzr Mk IVs and StuGs.  On paper it was now 8000 American points against 7000 German.

The Tigers destroyed by some incredibly lucky tank destroyers and the Americans mixing it up close along the Pak front and recon running rampant, the issue remained in doubt despite the early run of German firepower.  Perhaps the American Warrior teams would decide things.  The artillery began to relocate forward being either out of range or out of targets.

The Panthers were spearheading the German counter-attack but for whatever reason they never seem to do well in our games.  Today was no exception.  However the mostly intact German artillery kept pinning the American infantry.  Leadership typically took care of the pins.

Are they in range yet?

At some point we counted 38 destroyed or run off American tanks.  Yet a platoon under Abrams kept popping out, killing a panzer or two, and then do the American equivalent of a stormtrooper move to get out of view.  An American infantry assault pinned under fire but the artillery started to come back into play.

And then it happened.  Failed "stormtrooper" move and massed fire took out the killer platoon.  With their offensive punch taken out the Germans ever-so-briefly considered carrying on and retake the bridge at Remagen.  Then we remembered the intact American artillery.  So the game ended, decidedly with a bang and nary a whimper.

With the size of the game we could have used another player (we only had five) but we still played around twelve turns before ending.  I think everyone left feeling satisfied and satiated.  

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Steam and Black Powder

Another boring day on the blockading station.  Seemed like little ever happened outside Charleston unless you got very lucky and snagged a blockade runner.  Day after day drifted by till it seemed the ennui was all consuming.  Still, it was better than marching 'cross some blood soaked field in Virginia.

"Smoke comin' outta Charleston, Sir.  Looks ta be several plumes."  Egad, could the rebels be coming out, in daylight?  "Mr. Ambrosious, call the men to quarters and signal the others that action is imminent."

Aboard the New Ironsides, Hartford and Mississippi scores of men leaped to action.  Stowing fire hazards and preparing their ships for war.  The only monitor, the powerful Onandoga, took in the shade canopies and likewise readied herself.  Aboard the double-ended sidewheeler Paul John and the 90-day gunboat Itasca there was less work to be done, and a greater sense of fatalism.  For the Rebs were coming out.


The Confederate forces was comprised of an unlikely trio of casement ironclads.  The CSS Charleston, Fredericksburg and Richmond; all newly completed.  Accompanying them were three wooden "cottonclad" sidewheel steamers of dubious value in the coming fight.  Only one had a proper ram.  Besides their rams and formidable cannons, the Richmond sported a spar torpedo.

The small wooden ships began to suffer immediately.  In attempts to avoid possible ramming attacks, and ineffectually making their own attacks, a nasty traffic jam developed that saw an emergency stop and reverse attempt from the Paul Jones.  Which her engines fortunately survived.

Suddenly, red rockets surged up from the deck of the Richmond.  Not weapons, these were usually signal items.  But signalling what?  The answer was quick to come, when the ocean-going raider CSS Florida came over the horizon.  Apparently they were expecting her as she lurked just over the horizon.

The biggest rebel opportunity came when the Richmond came surging up from astern on the New Ironsides.  But alas, their hopes were dashed when the torpedo broke off and sank, and ram was of limited success and mostly glanced off.  The resulting broadsides from the large Union ships was deafening and successful from a "chip away" point of view.

As most of the ships meleed north of the island, the Florida swung south, looking to get under the protection of the Reb shore batteries, but all the while dogged by a persistent USS Itasca.

In the end a barely damaged Florida made it to safety.  The Charleston was badly damaged and burned from internal fires, but she and the other two ironclads also retired to home.  Not so the three steamers, who all made the mistake of wandering in front of the broadsides of the big Yankee ships.  similarly the Paul Jones and Itasca were lost.  Since the scenario, known only to me and the Reb commander, saw the success of the Florida getting in, I judged it a marginal Reb victory.  Had they not lost all three steamers it would have been greater.

This was our first test of using the wooden castles and big firepower of the large Yankee ships.  The balance of vulnerability vs. firepower seemed to work fine.  The Hartford was badly damaged on her starboard side.  Only the generous distribution of hits kept her from multiple critical hit rolls.  The lumbering scow that is the New Ironsides was in decent shape while the Mississippi had enough damage to limit her aggressiveness.  Ramming was unusually ineffective this engagement, but that is why we use dice.

A most amusing and enjoyable battle for this writer.  The spirit and banter was high with many highly amusing comments made about tabletop situations, which good taste prevents me from repeating.  :-)