My blog about my wargaming activities. I collect a lot of 15mm miniatures for the American War of Independence and so collect a lot of rules for this period. I started miniatures with Napoleonics, so I have a number of armies in 6mm and 15mm figures for skirmishing. I have15mm WW II figures that I use for Flames of War, Memoir '44, and someday, Poor Bloody Infantry. Finally there is my on-again, off-again relationship with paper soldiers that I sometimes write about.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Battling with Battle Chronicler

I tried, for the second time, a battle report drawing program called Battle Chronicler. I am getting better results with this version than I did with the earlier beta version. This version, like most free software of this sort, suffers from a severe lack of documentation. But, it is usable (so far) and it does produce pretty pictures.

I am pretty handy with Macromedia Fireworks (now owned by Adobe and called something else), but it lacks a few things that Battle Chronicler has:

  • You can use inches for the ground scale, but millimeters for the base sizes. This is good for documenting DBA games. You don't have to convert inches to millimeters or vice versa, then convert again to pixels like with most drawing programs.
  • You can specify the movement distances (typically in 1/2" increments) by clicking buttons and keys, whereas with typical drawing programs you have to convert to pixels and change the X and Y coordinates.
  • You can make notes regarding the progress of the game, on a turn-by-turn basis.
Of course, all is not perfect, as you would expect from free software being developed by a single person. Here are the challenges that I have found so far (some of which may have undocumented or poorly documented solutions):

  • You cannot use the arrow keys to nudge an element (typically a unit) a pixel at a time.
  • There is not snap to grid, or snap to align, with any of the elements. This, combined with the lack above, means lining up a group of elements is a pain.
  • You cannot turn off the forward-facing arrow, which causes some elements to be partially obscured when multiple units are grouped together.
  • You cannot change the stacking order of elements. The last placed element is the topmost one, so it may cast a shadow on elements close by. It looks strange.
  • Some of the elements are drawn in XAML and I haven't found a good XAML editor yet.
If this continues to gain in capability and usefulness for me, I may invest more time in it. To start I should join the Google group so I can ask whether all of the above is true, and if not, how to access those features I am not aware of. Also, like everything of this nature, you get out of it what you put in. It obviously needs some symbols more representative of ancient warfare (e.g. a bow symbol for Bows unit, a sword symbol for a Blades unit, a spear symbol for a Spears unit, etc.) to make everything look better. Once you've built it, of course, everything in the future goes faster. Your first reports just have a large effort required to start, as you have to define armies, units, and so on.

I still haven't finished my last DBA battle report (on my DBA blog) using Battle Chronicler, but I do have the write-up done. Once I have it complete, I'll post an entry here pointing to it, should you wish to see what the results look like.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Writing Battle Narratives

There is an interesting thread on the Old School Wargaming forum that is discussing writing a proper battle narrative. I find it interesting because I often wonder if anyone ever gets anything out of the ones I have written. After all, I don't always enjoy the ones I read so it is very likely that others don't enjoy mine either. So, what makes for a good battle report? Here are some of the statements made in the thread so far (some contradictory):

  • It is not really a dissection of the rules sets so much as just seeing how a battle developed and the extent to which both sides' battle plans succeeded or failed.
  • I think it is an integral part of the hobby; wargames are story-telling games. So the write-up is for me part of the satisfaction of the whole gig.
  • So the Traditional battle narrative can be a useful tool to promote this [historical] association.
  • My personal favorite version is that which blends narrative with game mechanics, partly as it helps to understand what actually happened, partly because it helps me feel that I was there, saw and did etc and partly because it can help open a window on rules that I haven't seen.
  • I particularly like ones where you can glimpse a bit about the players behind their little 3 dimensional avatars.
  • For me a really well written narrative without any reference to the game might as well be pure fiction but can be rescued to some extent by extensive pictures of a game to allow you to guess at what really happened.
  • A report which features inanimate descriptions of events and die rolls with no infusion of imagination can be useful to understand mechanics but won't dram me back.
  • Even a mediocre blend of narrative and reference to actual game mechanics will hold my attention again and again. Charles Grant was a master of this sort of blended report. Lawford & Young's Blasthof game in Charge! is a superb example.
  • Put the game-mechanic stuff in footnotes.
  • [The report] describe[s] the action generally in real life terms but introduce the rule details where necessary.
  • One of the things that either approach must have is a map or photos with captions.Otherwise I'm lost and lose interest.
What other points do you think make up a good battle report? Is it narrative style, mechanical, or a blend? How valuable are pictures without arrows, details, etc.? Do close-up action shots really add anything to a report?

All of this got me to thinking about my own reports. Especially for DBA (the ones I write up the most) or DBA derivatives, the elements are not named they are just a type. Maybe that needs to change. Maybe a narration of the turns. I've definitely decided to stop doing one picture per player bound (with the occasional two pictures - move then combat outcome - per player bound); it is too much and doesn't really convey enough information.

I am leaning towards using maps to show the overall movement and results, with pictures of the miniatures to support some specific action in the narrative, such as a critical melee.

During the games, I still take a picture at the start of the attacker's turn; it helps me remember the action and count the dead. But, as I look back on them, I don't see the "eye candy" value of a wide-angle shot of the whole board, the troops, and my opponent's belly.

I'd like to hear what you think on this.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Skirmish Campaign, Skirmish Elite, and Flying Lead

I have been collecting 28mm WW II figures, individually based on 1" washers, for some time now. (Note that I have not said that I have been painting any; I have collected all of these through random sales on eBay, at hobby shops, off of forums, etc.) I am now getting around to actually gaming with them. I have played two or three games of Flying Lead with them and enjoyed it enough to keep going with those rules, although there are some things missing from those rules.

I've owned a copy or two of various Skirmish Campaigns and Skirmish Elite books and decided to get more on my last trip to HI (where there is a great hobby shop called The Armchair Adventurer). These books support a number of WW II skirmish rules, but Flying Lead is not one of them (which makes sense considering these books pre-date Flying Lead by a few years). So, I've decided to try my own hand at coming up with conversion factors.

Skirmish Campaigns' System


These books use a system or rating figures in three ways:

  1. Six levels of training.
  2. Six levels of morale.
  3. If a Leader, three levels or leadership.
In addition, they sometimes add "flavor" rules to represent certain historical situations, such as the fanaticism of a unit, the extreme bravery of a particular soldier that won a Congressional Medal of Honor, Victoria Cross, Iron Cross, etc. at that particular action.

Morale


The morale rating in Skirmish Campaigns represents "the ability of an individual to stay cool under fire". I see this as equating to Flying Lead's Quality rating, which represents "the overall willingness and ability of the character to do his 'job'. It encompasses training, morale, and reaction speed."

Note that Quality mentions both Morale and Training, the two factors in the books, but I see Quality more as morale than training as it determines the ability to take action and sustain it. Also, the game's morale checks are based on Quality. What training aspects there are in quality I think comes from the confidence obtained by that training, and that is just another way of saying morale (in my mind).

The books classify Morale as follows:

MoraleDescription
A+Fanatics (Kamikaze, etc.).
ATop quality, highly motivated troops (SS Panzer Grenadiers, Commandos, Rangers, some Japanese).
BVeteran troops, troops defending their homeland.
CAverage motivated troops, motivated partisans, exhausted veterans.
DReluctant or shell-shocked troops.
EExtremely unwilling troops, forced conscripts.

Note that the Morale rating in applied to an individual, not to a unit.

In general, I use a Quality rating of 3 through 5, only using a 2 or 6 in exception circumstances, and prefer to use other attributes as modifiers. Here are the conversions that I am going to try:

MoraleQuality and Attributes
A+3, Fanatic, Eager, Fearless
A3, Elite, Steady Under Fire
B3, Steady Under Fire
C4
D4, Green
E5, Reluctant, Green

Feel free to drop some attributes if you do not feel them necessary or pertinent to the scenario.

Training


Training is  reflected in one of six levels, representing "the amount of training a unit has and the amount of time a unit has trained and/or fought together". How that training attribute is used is up to your game system. Note that this attribute applies to all members of the squad. The values in the books are as follows:

ValueDescription
T1+The most elite, extensively trained specialists who have seen combat (Fallschirmjager Engineers or US Rangers).
T1Elite soldiers with extensive combat experience, very well trained and disciplined.
T2Well trained combat veterans of quality armies, elite units of lower quality armies.
T3Well trained regulars with little or no combat experience, regulars of most armies.
T4Untested green troops with poor training (Russians 1941, Norwegians 1940).
T5Very poorly trained troops such as civil militia and prison troops.

Given these descriptions I see the training as associated more with the Combat attribute than with the Quality rating of Flying Lead. Combat is described as representing "the character's skill in combat". The values for Combat tends to run from between 1 and 3 so my conversion for Training to Combat is:

TrainingCombat and Attributes
T1+3, Danger Sense, Fearless*, Light, Specialist, Stealth
T13, Danger Sense, Light
T23
T32
T42, Poor Shot
T51, Cannon Fodder

* Although Fearless affects morale, a very high level of training, as represented by this rating, can overcome the specific effects Fearless cover, so seems appropriate.

Feel free to add or remove attributes as seem appropriate. For example, combat engineers should have Specialist (Demolitions) and snipers should have Marksman, Stealth, and Sniper. These are just general factors.

Leadership


Leadership is rated as 1 to 3 asterisks with 3 being the highest. Again, it leaves it to the game system to translate the values into something meaningful.

LeadershipAttributes
*Leader (or Second in Command if the second leader in a unit)
**Leader (or Second in Command if the second leader in a unit), Fearless
***Leader, Hero, Fearless, Fear

Other common attributes for leaders include:

  • Acrobat: good for leaders that seem to survive deadly firefights relatively unscathed.
  • Chucker: good for those leaders that take out machine gun nests with grenades.
  • Close Quarters Battle Specialists and Dashing: good for those leaders that take out the enemy in hand-to-hand combat.
  • Combat Fiend: good for leaders that always appear in the thick of action.
  • Marksman: good for leaders that make those fantastic shots (Sniper is good for that too).
  • Fear: good for particularly ferocious or scary leaders.
  • Hero: good for those leaders that were historically recognized for extreme bravery and heroism, and survived to tell about it.
I would reproduce some of the scenarios, but that would be a violation of the books' copyright and against the spirit of buying such material. However, as I play out the scenarios and write up the battle report, I will list my conversions for the troops.

Tell me what you think and how you might convert statistics in those books for Flying Lead.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Splitting DBA off

I've decided to split off my DBA gaming off into a separate blog - Dale's DBA - so that those who are following this blog for the DBA content won't be annoyed by all the non-DBA content.

So, look for the DBA and DBAS (De Bellis Antiquitatis Solus) content at Dale's DBA. If you drop following the other blog, I will understand. :)

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Oinking good fun

Jim brought by some Dark Ages troops and we played a Pig Wars scenario. I thought I had played them before, but the more I think about it, the more I realize it was just described to me. So this was my chance to try them out.

The scenario was some (20) poor, untrained peasant villagers defending themselves against (20) battle-hardened, armored Viking raiders. [gulp] Good thing the villagers built a wall! Still, I thought the villagers were as good as dead, but I was willing to give it a go.

The village basically had one log gate and the rules were such that the gate could be dismantled, but it made the warriors attempting it vulnerable (had to put down weapon and shield) AND two of them had to succeed. I put my villager with a miner's pick in front of it, along with an experienced club man and waited.

The Vikings attacked the gates and walls and the villagers got a string of good rolls, killing Viking after Viking attempting to dismantle the gate. The Vikings at the walls weren't much better. Almost all of them fell in a string of Villager moves. Eventually the Vikings had to morale check and passed.

The crack in the defense came when the Viking chief got into combat (Elite, Full Armor, Sword) and killed my villager defending the corner of the wall. This allowed the Vikings to leap over the wall. Next thing I know there are three inside the wall and I am dying when beaten by 1 PIP. I was sure the game was over.

But, the villagers got their card, counter-attacked and slaughtered a Viking (while losing two of their own), requiring both sides check morale. The villagers get a modified 6, forcing the weakest to run for the hills (literally). The Vikings, on the other hand, get a '2' and the force routs! (Well, the leader is standing there blustering at his cowardly warriors, but he leaves to track them down.)

In the end the Vikings lost 10 men, 4 of which were fully armored. (He did NOT have good die rolls.) The villagers lost four militia and two trained men.

Rules Summary


Jim prefers the dice method instead of using cards for casualty resolution (he has some conversion chart), but it altered the odds of success just a bit! Basically it made Fully Armored warriors much harder to kill, and all of the villagers counted as Fully Armored as long as they were fighting from behind the wall, so...

The rules are pretty simple. Like The Sword and the Flame you use cards to determine which side goes next with a unit. As we each had only one unit, it basically determined who went next. I think we did this wrong though, as I believe you are supposed to make cards for your units and use those, not use playing cards. So, using that method you could end up moving twice in a row, but never three times in a row.

Combat is also simple. Each side draws a card and adds that to a weapon value, combat value, and tactical modifiers. The weapon value is generally a 1 or 2, the combat value is 0 through 3, and there aren't many tactical modifiers, although there are some that we missed. The problem was we were using a D6 instead of a card value so our base number was 1 through 6 while a card's number is 1 through 13. So, if you have to beat your opponent by 4, it is much harder to do with a D6 than with a card!

All in all it looks like an interesting, quick game, but like Jim said, you would probably be bored with a steady diet of it. It feels very similar to Songs of Blades and Heroes, but with a guaranteed activation system, which is no fun. I'll probably get my own figures for this, but play SBH.

By the way, I am hoping to put on a test game of Flying Lead using my Heroscape hexes soon. FL is basically the SBH rules for modern period. I have been collecting quite a few 28mm WW II and I am anxious to try a bigger game. Maybe I will put on such a game for a convention once I work out an interesting scenario.

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Huachuca City, Arizona, United States
I am 50 yrs old now. I bought a house in Huachuca City, AZ (although I have a townhouse in Houston, TX and a small home in Tucson, AZ) working on a contract for "the next two years" that is going on five years now. To while away the hours I like to wargame -- with wooden, lead, and sometimes paper miniatures -- usually solo. Although I am a 'rules junkie', I almost always use rules of my own (I like to build upon others' ideas, but it seems like there is always something "missing" or "wrong").