Saturday, January 24, 2015

Double dose of Fallschirmjagers

My opinion of Flames of War changes from time to time.  Point-based games with the artificiality of winning by taking "objectives" sometimes gives odd results.  At TundraCon my Italians faced Tigers which by and large I couldn't hurt.  But despite some bonehead plays on my part I was in the game till the end and always had a chance to win.  In that respect it is a huge plus and the system works and works well.

Last Sunday we gathered at our favorite game shop, Adventure Games in Oshkosh for our monthly game.  As you can see from the pictures they have a GREAT set up with beautiful tables and terrain.  The plan was to play a 1900 late war game.  I brought my Fallschirmjagers.  Not world-beaters but always fun with a neat mix of equipment.  Arriving I found that we were also playing an early-war game, also with Fallschirmjagers and British.

The mission randomly rolled called for the British to be deployed but with half their force off table.  The Germans got to start with everything, including air support.  We (I was Brit for this one) had one platoon in "ambush" mode.  We chose the Vickers HMG platoon and put it forward where it would wreck havoc on the advancing Germans.  Even with average or worse dice from the Brits the game was over in three turns with the near total destruction of the attacking Germans.

Even a Stuka every turn couldn't turn the tide.  While the game matched up well to historic accounts I've read, it frankly wasn't much fun for either side.

The next game we rolled a different, but similar mission for the late-war versions of our armies.  The British were again dug in with an ambushing platoon.  Four German medium tanks represented the only armored forces for both sides.  Firepower was much higher for both sides though the Germans had to navigate bocage on their right.

The objective is in sight, protected by dug-in Bofors.
Our token tanks lumber forward and will be ambushed by British 17pdrs.

In the end the objective is taken and the Germans "win."  Most of a large Fallschirmjager platoon have been cut down and all the MkIV tanks are wrecked or abandoned.  The British reserves double-timing it forward could potentially retake the objective, but the game is over.  So two games have been set-up, played and picked up in about 3 hours.  But although each side won a game it felt "odd."  I guess being an old-timer these rules designed with the intent of being done in two hours is just a bit difficult to get used to.  I'm still of the school of thought that says, "if set up and take down take more time than the game, it isn't worth it."

Still, any day of gaming with friends in a nice environment is a good thing.  Next time I'll try out a new army list of....  The possibilities are endless.

Friday, January 23, 2015

TundraCon 2015

Our inaugural one-day con was judged a rousing success.  We had about 50 players in a Flames of War tournament and many one-off games.  Held at the Legion Hall in Appleton, WI we gathered around 9:00AM and were out by 11:00PM.  I ran a WWII naval game and filled in for one round of the Flames of War tourney when one player was late.  A Mid-War themed tournament, I had the misfortune with my Italians to draw a German Tiger company as an opponent.  I made him earn it.

At least my table looked nice.

Another 1st round game.

Great looking game mat, available from Adventure Games in Oshkosh.
Our naval game using "Naval Thunder" was very satisfying. I had limited it to five players, but the Americans took a sixth who just ran the DDs. Before we started I had the Americans roll five d10s. A ten was rolled so the battleship Tennessee dropped out of Task Force 1 with engine trouble. The Americans were told them they were looking for cruisers covering a pair of Japanese carriers which had attacked Dutch Harbor in June, 1942.  In reality the historic distant covering force of four elderly Japanese battleships were closing after a spotting report.

Both sides made a deployment sketch and on turn one I put one American DD, one Japanese DD and the two LCs on table. People plotted. The DD laid a skillful smokescreen. Nothing else appeared for the Americans. Next turn the Japanese added two BBs and two more DDs. Even though they were out of sight the Maryland opened up under radar direction but with just four guns firing missed. The Japanese eyes kind of bulged when I described the huge geysers of water erupting around the Fuso.
The next couple of turns the rest of the respective fleets came into appearance. No grousing from the US players about the faulty information. The Japanese players were somewhat careless with their box and everyone saw the models in there. Planes were my backup plan if things went horribly awry.

Right away a classic pattern developed. Never play against kids. There was a middle-school student playing and he was HOT. Using my dice I'd say, "you have 12 rolls looking for 8+." He would get six hits. Then I'd say, "you need a 9+ to penetrate." And he'd get four. The MS (Mississippi) got most of the attention and a fire broke out. The other BB formation had the Maryland and California. Although the former was firing with radar, the California was masked by their own smoke. As a result the US was firing with one less battleship and the Mississippi and New Mexico were soaking up a lot of attention.

The US DDs continued to make smoke, one as a red herring attempting to make the Japanese think another group was coming. They stayed focused and continued to pound and close. Using the American smoke to help, the Japanese started a torpedo run early. The MS and NM each lost a main gun turret. Critical hits on the Fuso and Yamashiro scored lots of secondary hits (all publicly rolled). While Thomas kept up his hot rolls all day.

The torpedo cruiser Kitakami went down in a flurry of 14" shots, but the Japanese BBs kept pounding while the Americans were distracted. A US destroyer went down too. The damage control parties on the MS failed and secondary ammo to detonated. Another fire broke out on the MS. NM is getting hammered with statistically flukey penetrating hits. The California finally starts shooting, then is masked again by American smoke. Fuso is getting all the love from the radar guided MD but has no significant loss except for a main gun turret.

The smoke clears and the Oi is in position to fire at the New Mexico.   MS is failing so badly at damage control that the fires spread. At one point she is fighting four fires and is heading for the table edge. Incredibly the Oi survives the BB gunfire and prepares to launch at long range. I say, "Thomas, you have five quadruple banks of torpedoes. How many do you launch?" Everybody, including me, silently mouths "five." So he has five rolls for the spreads, starting at 8+. He gets two hits for his 20 torpedoes, one beats the bulge armor and the New Mexico goes down. The Oi escapes, turns around and prepares to make another run.

A couple turns later and three Fubuki class destroyers line up on the Maryland and California. A US destroyer gallantly sacrificed herself to screen off one Fubuki. She was lost for her cause and the Japanese put one torpedo each into the US BBs. Nothing huge there, but discouraging for the Americans. I told the players weren't going to worry about reloads in combat. I think we played 9 or 10 turns, and at this point the Americans conceded and ended the game. The Mississippi never got her fires under control and she burned out the turn after we quit. The Fuso was going down if the Maryland fired again. The others were only down 20-40%. I had a prize for each side. When asking the Japanese about who deserved it they all pointed to Thomas. When I asked the Americans who should get their prize, they pointed at Thomas. He hadn't played any naval tabletop games previously but does some online stuff so had an idea about Japanese torpedoes and tactics.  So maybe computer games are good for something after-all.

We were done and picked up in 3.5 hours so under schedule.  I think it was a most satisfactory game for all.  Even the "losers" seemed to enjoy themselves.

Other games were real eye candy.  We had sailing ships, WWI flyers, WWI trenches, Iran-Iraq War, War of 1812, Johnny Reb, space invaders, etc.  Some pictures:

Sails of Glory

Iran-Irag game

Johnny Reb

Ranger Rick (center) did a great job running the tournament

Wings of Glory
As a result of the day it has been decided to have TundraCon 2016 next January 9th.  It will remain a one-day affair but we look to expand the game offerings and get a bit more space.  Mark you calendars now!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Name that Battle

Our group had the great pleasure and honor of gaming with the author of our favorite rules set, Dean West who among other things created Final Argument of Kings.  The table was 12'x6' with a long ridge line running most of the defender's side.  Smaller ridges and built up areas broke up channels of attack.

The Prussians, the attackers, were told that even though the Seven Years War had just begun, a Russian army was near the frontier.  They had been seen off in dramatic fashion a couple of days ago and now Frederick was free to turn his full attention on eliminating the Austrian field army.  Being thoroughly out-scouted, the Austrians deployed first.  Looking at the table from left to right, near the table edge was a fair-sized sets of buildings and some woods.  Some decent ground extended right till you reached a farmstead.  A smaller ridge went right from there, roughly in the middle of the table, with it ending in another small village.  The Austrians were told they could deploy as far forward as the line of buildings.  They needed to maintain the center road exit which represented their lines of communication.

On the left Frederick placed four cuirassier and dragoon regiments and a brigade of three light cavalry regiments.  Although it was good cavalry ground, it was also the flank where we weren't pressing.  Opposing the Prussians (me) were a mix of Austrian cuirassier and dragoon regiments.  Small advantage to the Prussians here.  Next was a large brigade of Frei Korps troops.  Two jager battalions and four regular FK battalions.  Next to them was a brigade of fusiliers and then musketeers, with a grenadier brigade in reserve.  Two heavy batteries supported our center.  The musketeers were to keep the Austrians around the farmstead busy.
The main infantry effort was to the right of the farmstead.  Four musketeer brigades formed there in two lines of brigades.  Their right was protected by four cuirassier regiments and some lights.
Looking down the table from the Prussian left.  Austrian cavalry in deployed in three lines beyond the "village," which is occupied by lights.  Armies tended to avoid fighting in built up areas in this period.
Using grand tactical movement the Prussians surged forward on the right, answered by aggressive Austrians who also raced for the center ridge.
One of many inconclusive cavalry clashes on the left.  Win some, lose some, a few melees produced the only permanently routed troops.
Things quickly heated up in the center as both sides made aggressive moves.  On the Prussian left/Austrian right both sides infantry were passive.
Note the vast expanse of ground between the infantry lines, compared the the upper part of the photo where they are going at each other with hammers and tongs.

On turn five, news came to Frederick that the Russians were in the woods to his right and rear.  Next turn they would hit table.  He began to reorganize his reserves as the lead Russians appeared.

It seemed for moment that victory might be within our grasp.  A wildly successful charge by Prussian light cavalry sent many Austrian battalions packing.  But by now the Austrian infantry was hammering away at the Frei Korps and Fusilier battalions, which were in danger of being overwhelmed.  With no infantry available to follow up the cavalry success, most of the routed battalions were rallied behind friendly troops.
On the right, with interior lines, the Prussians formed to await the Russian onslaught.  The Prussians were not out-numbered on paper by 3:2.  I say on paper because enough damage had been dished out and taken that it was hard to judge.
The left wing cavalry forms for one last push.  von Seydlitz had new respect for the out-numbered Austrians who had fought him to a standstill.
Fighting becomes general across the entire front as the Prussians marshal themselves for one more try.
The Austrian view, looking towards the advancing Russians in the distance and the increasingly successful Prussian cavalry on their left.
The Austrian view of the center.  The farmstead has been removed for ease of play.  The lichen clumps outline where it was.
And the Austrian view of the right.  That is a Frei Korps cavalry group parked in front of the two heavy and one light batteries on the ridge.  Auf Wiedersehen!

Russian and Prussian grenadiers come to grips.  The Russians are forced back but at a powerful cost.  At this point the newly painted Prussian grenadier Guards were to fire their first ever volley.  As their owner I claimed right of toss, stating "this first throw will determine how they will perform from here on out."  And I threw a three on 2d6, high numbers being desired.  So there you go.  Doomed to mediocrity!

Whang, bang, clang with the regular beat of musketry and cannon fire nearby.

And so it came to a close.  The Prussians failed to accomplish their objective despite giving better than they received.  The pressure of the on-rushing Russians, even if they didn't get fully engaged, forced enough Prussians to turn to face to prevent the full break-through on the right.  High honors to both sides.

So, figured out the battle yet?  To me it is obvious, but then, I picked it out.

Great fun playing with Dean and Kermit.  We got a couple of rule clarifications and changes as 2nd edition is prepared.  Hope you enjoyed reading about it as much as we did playing it.

Friday, January 2, 2015

2014 goodbye, hello 2015

Haven't posted much lately.  Not that there haven't been games.  They just weren't particularly memorable or they were playtests for our mini-con coming up.  I've done a lot of painting in December, finally hitting my yearly goal of averaging 3 figures a day.

Then there was some heart-wrenching news yesterday.

So some pics from recent games.
 "Surrounded" mission in Flames of War.  British and Americans attacking, Germans in the middle.
 We ended up having an interesting town fight as I tested the value of a sniper.  Useful in this game, pinning the Germans before being assaulted.

Don't seem to have any pictures of the Dutch Harbor playtest.  Guess you will have to come to the Con to see it!

 Epic Armageddon (I think) in micro scale.  Space Marines [Oo-Rah!] vs. Space Elves.
 Some escapee from an Anime film with oodles of firepower.  Some skimmers as escort.
 Drop pods brought in more Marines, but they were slaughtered.  Not my cup of tea, but kind of interesting.

Then the event that really ripped at me.  I learned through Facebook that a valued friend had lost his battle with cancer.  The black beast has claimed another.  Steve Allie, the officer on the right, had been sending out encouraging messages and planned to be at the 200th anniversary event in New Orleans.  Then he was gone.  The reenacting world will never be quite the same.  RIP Captain.