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.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Re-thinking my approach to WW II Gaming

I have been talking with my gaming buddy Don, trying to figure out why we are both so unenthusiastic about the latest version of Flames of War, and it appears that we both agree that, although they have simplified certain aspects of the rules, they are no longer "easy". Maybe we are both just getting too old and have too much of work on our minds, but the same level of enthusiasm is just not there anymore.

I started in Flames of War much like I did with Warhammer 40K and Warmachine; it was what everyone else was playing. If you wanted to game, that was what you played. Otherwise, you had to buy and paint both sides and find players for the rules you wanted to try. That is basically what happened with me and the AWI. (Interestingly, DBA is the one game where it was introduced to us by someone outside of the group and several gamers all took to it pretty readily.) I collected a late war US force (but never really finished it) and later a late war German force. I now have enough that I do not need to add to it, other than to flesh out the US force that I never finished.

Dice as Chart Replacements

As Don and I talked I think we both came to the conclusion that one of the reasons we like Memoir '44 (M44) and other Command and Colors variants is that some of the charts are built into the dice themselves. For example, in M44 the basic chance to hit infantry is 50% (2 INFANTRY symbols and 1 GRENADE symbol), while the basic chance for a morale failure is 16% (1 FLAG symbol). The rules you have to remember are how many dice to throw and whether you can ignore certain results (ignore a FLAG for being in a bunker, for example). For the most part, those rules are relatively easy to remember, with only a quick re-read when a scenario introduces an element that you don't play that often (e.g. hospitals, mortars, etc.). I always find a game's FAQ best indicates where a game designer has introduced complexity without elegance (e.g. The quirks of mortars).

As I am looking for a set of rules that allows me to replace FOW, but use those forces without re-basing, it probably needs to be at the same scale (i.e. a company per side). Besides, that will allow me to use FOW's force lists and points, should I want to do a pickup game. More to the point, I want the rules to use the mechanisms I like about M44, so custom dice with the odds built in is something I want to use.

Grid-Based

Another aspect I like with M44 is the use of a grid to regulate distance. I have never been fond of measuring and any disagreements about fractions of an inch disturbs me. That miniature purists claim that I am playing a board game with miniatures instead of a miniatures game with a gridded board is of no consequence to me. Whether the grid should be squares or hexes seems almost a religious discussion, one that I have had quite a number of with my old gaming buddy Justo. He always favored the hex (for symmetry) and I the square (for aesthetics and linearity). Now my concern is more with it being easier to make square terrain pieces than hex ones, but I am working on that.

Special Abilities

I have had an old TSR dice game called Dragon Dice for a while now and one aspect of the game is the use of custom dice to represent special abilities. In addition to the normal combat dice, indicated above, a unit could have one or more custom dice where the icons represent special effects. Examples might be the ability to move through terrain quickly, moving without affecting the unit's rate of fire, etc. So in addition to throwing the normal dice during combat these ability dice would be thrown to see if special effects come into play.

Command and Control

The one area where I would not take M44 game mechanics would be its command and control system. The left-center-right sector mechanism works well for the level of M44, but it would not do for the tactical level that I wish to play. Something like Battles of Westeros would be more appropriate where the command and control system is leader-centric. Of course this really depends upon the amount of friction you wish to simulate. Games like Flames of War do not really simulate friction in the command and control system as every unit can be ordered every turn unless it has some form of morale failure, such as being pinned. Generally, I like some level of friction as it is one more choice that the player must make.

As I develop more ideas along this line I will be sure and post them.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Know Your Blogger

The latest blogging meme to come along is for gaming bloggers to answer 20 questions about themselves and what they like. Personally I think reading my posts will give you more insight into whether you might like what I blog about, but here goes:

1. Favorite wargaming period and why: One might think that it would be the American War of Independence, but it is not, mostly because I have not found a set of rules that I really like. I really liked Napoleonics, but that is largely because of the childhood memories of the camaraderie in gaming with a club where we had huge games with 10 people per side. It is an incredibly colorful period, but it never really got me to research it, other than uniforms. I think if I look back to which period I consistently come back to time and again, it would be World War II, at the company or lower level (tactical). As a period it is well documented, you can get detailed perspective on both sides in English, and although the uniforms are not all that cool, the variety of equipment and environments is.

2. Next period, money (and time) no object: Time always is the object for me, but if I had enough money to pay for really good painters and terrain builders it would probably be Napoleonics done in a bigger scale (40mm or 54mm). Probably in wood too.

3. Five favorite films:
  1. Platoon
  2. Shoot 'em Up
  3. Fight Club
  4. Saving Private Ryan
  5. Kenny
4. Five favorite TV series:
  1. Lost
  2. Mad Men
  3. Sons of Anarchy
  4. Breaking Bad
  5. Game of Thrones
5. Favorite book and author: Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

6. Greatest general: Hannibal

7. Favorite wargame rules: If it is based on what I play the most (which it should be) it would be the Command and Colors series of rules.

8. Favorite sport and team: I am not into watching team sports, only participating in them (and then only rarely). As a spectator it would probably be World's Strongest Man competition. As a participant it would be paintball (more of a hobby than a sport).

9. If you had a"use only once" Time Machine, when and where would you go: If I was only allowed to go to a new time, but not return, it would be when I finished college. I would have taken two more classes before continuing on the same path I am on now. If I could go and return, I would go back to the Greek hoplite period so I could witness and document how Greek hoplite combat really occurred, solving the argument over othismos once and for all.

10. Last meal on Death Row: I think this is when I would want the "one use only" Time Machine served up. Failing that, a Ribeye steak cooked to perfection, buttered cauliflower, a side of pork ribs with good BBQ sauce, and a bread pudding with butter rum sauce.

11. Fantasy relationship and why: Pass. My wife has been known to see what I am up to.

12. If your life were a movie, who would play you: Jonah Hill.

13. Favorite comic superhero: From the true superheros types it would be Iron Man. But if it were any comic hero it would definitely be Prince Valiant.

14. Favorite military quote: Do John Wayne quotes count? "Life is tough, but it is tougher when you are stupid." That is a variation on my dad's "You better be tough if you are going to be dumb."

15. Historical destination to visit: I would like to see the Imperial War Museum again. I was not old enough to appreciate it when I saw it as a kid.

16. Biggest wargaming regret: Probably getting into 6mm. I liked painting them, and the price, but I found that, for me, their small size only lends itself to element-based games and I am a single casualty removal kind of gamer.

17. Favorite fantasy job: Wooden toy soldier maker.

18. Top five songs:

  1. Mac the Knife (by Bobby Darin, of course)
  2. Fly Me to the Moon (by Tony Bennet, of course)
  3. Dark Heart Dawning (BT)
  4. Go West (Pet Shop Boys)
  5. Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor (by E. Power Biggs, of course)

19. Favorite wargaming moment: When I finally "got it", that battles were nothing more than micro-games strung together, and that if you did not understand how to win at the micro level, throwing more points, units, and terrain in the mix was not going to make you any better of a player.

20. What upsets you: Rules that are intentionally written with a level of ambiguity so you and your gentlemanly companions can work it out to your own mutual satisfaction. If I had wanted that, I would have written my own rules.

Hmmmm. Maybe that is too much information...

Mini Review of Tide of Iron

It is not my intention to provide a full review of Tide of Iron as there are already a number of excellent reviews over on Boardgamegeek. Rather, I just want to give some impressions and comparisons to other games I have played.
I bought a new board game that has miniatures called Tide of Iron (TOI). I had seen this game for a number of years, yet did not want to buy it as I did not want another Memoir 44 type game. Although I knew it was supposed to be at a lower scale than Memoir 44 I still thought it was similar in mechanics. Boy was I wrong.

TOI has been called "Squad Leader Lite" and that is a pretty apt description. Units are squads of infantry or individual tanks and ranges are pretty long in distance. For example a rifle unit can shoot a distance of eight hexes, ten if it is on a hill. The basic game has infantry, machine guns, mortars, trucks, half-tracks, and basic tanks. For the US the tank is the Sherman and for the Germans it is the Panzer IV and the Tiger.

What is novel about the rules is that each scenario gives each player a set number of squad bases and the types of infantry that can make up the squads. The player attaches the infantry figures to the squad bases in combinations that suit them. In the base game the infantry types are rifleman, veteran, officer, mortar and crew, and machine gun team. Each squad has four slots and each infantry figure takes up one of those slots, except for the mortar and machine gun, which each take up two. Each figure has stats which are usually combined in order to determine the total squad value. So for example a rifleman has a firepower rating of one, and a veteran a rating of two, so a squad of three rifleman and one veteran would have a total firepower rating of five.

Another interesting element of the game is the use of command decks. The scenario specifies which command deck (or decks) is to be used by each side and each deck has its own characteristics. For example, the Air Support deck has cards representing airstrikes being called in, while the Morale deck has cards representing higher morale and determination that the troops have. During the course of the game the player will be allowed to use these cards to modify results. Examples are the ability to unpin troops more quickly, or find more cover, or move faster.

I like the basis for infantry combat which is that the attacker has a firepower rating while the defender's rating is based upon the cover it is in. Combat is resolved by rolling one die for each point of the attacker's rating, one die for each point of the defender's rating, and comparing the number of successes for each side. Essentially each defender's success subtracts one success from the attacker's total. When attacking, the player can state whether they are making a normal attack or a suppressive attack. A normal attack removes one figure for each success, while a suppressive attack either pins, disrupts, or routs the unit. The chance for success is based on a fixed value (e.g. 5+ for cover) or the range to the target.

Opportunity fire is handled pretty well in these rules. A unit gives up its action in order to go into overwatch. When an enemy unit moves within its line of sight, it can interrupt the movement and take its attack. The key, however, is that the enemy must move to trigger the opportunity fire. Machine guns are particularly effective in opportunity fire as they can fire at more the one unit moving within their line of sight.

the one aspect that I am finding fiddly is the one that attracted me to the game in the first place. I like the idea that a squad's firepower is the sum of each member's firepower rating (i.e. it is weapon based). If I were to design a WW2 game where the squad or fire team was the basic unit, that is how I would do it too. The problem is the fiddly nature of adding and removing figures from the base. In these days of low cost bidder and imprecise manufacturing, some figures don't want to go into their sockets while others easily fall out.

All in all I think I will find these rules to be really enjoyable, but I am not sure if I am ready to buy the other modules quite yet. I realize that I am late to the TOI party, but that is only the sweeter because the games no longer sell for a premium.

 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Battles of Westeros

Fantasy Flight Games has shown its continuing support for the Battles of Westeros line with the new title House Baratheon Army Expansion. This expansion is rather large and comes with 110 plastic figures, eight new commanders, six new units, 50 new Leadership cards, 4 new Gambit cards, 14 new skirmish setup cards, 29 map overlays (i.e. terrain tiles), all of the Baratheon tokens, 32 ship tokens, and last but not least, the map board for the Battle of Blackwater. The map is really impressive and comes with three scenarios to play out the battle. In addition, there are seven other scenarios using the boards from the core set.

This makes the sixth expansion to the series and it now has an impressive number of figures, units, commanders, and options available to it, gaining ground on the original BattleLore, upon which it is loosely based.

As a game system, I prefer the Battles of Westeros game as it adds choices for the player to make not present in the original series, and makes better use of commanders (leaders, generals, etc.) than any of Borg's designs. I worry that all of this variety is leading to a game that is getting harder to memorize all of the little special rules and nuances, which the original BattleLore game series suffered from. Only time and more gaming will tell whether this is true or not.

I have never really reviewed Battles of Westeros in the past, although I have referred to it a couple of times. Referring back to my comparison of the Command and Colors variants, here is how Battles of Westeros (BOW) compares.

Number of limited resources to manage: Here is where BOW differs from all of the rest. BOW does not use the ubiquitous Command Cards in order to determine how many units and in which sector units can be ordered. Instead BOW uses Leadership cards. Although it sounds like semantics, Leadership cards can only be played by Commanders and Comanders can only order units within a certain distance. This makes Commanders hugely important.

A second resource to manage are Command Tokens. A "turn" is much longer in BOW than in any other variant, so command tokens represent how many times you can order units. Further, more complex commands require more tokens. Related to ordering units, each turn each player received a number of order tokens (a third resource), which allow you to order any unit, not just those within command distance of a leader. Finally, you can carry over up to one command token and one order token to the next turn, adding another aspect to managing these key resources, especially as saved command tokens can gain you the first move on the following turn.

The fourth resource is your army's morale. I call it a resource as you can raise and lower it through actions you take. Take too many risky actions and you might crack sooner than you expected!

The final resource, which is an optional rule in the expansions, is the Gambit Card. This essentially allows you to use a special ability when you have momentum (initiative), but doing so passes momentum to your opponent.

Ratio of movement to combat range: This is very similar to BattleLore, with low movement rates (one or two hexes for foot) and better ranges (four hexes for a bow). That means most foot get hit several times before they get to attack back.

Terrain effects: Again very much like BattleLore, where terrain typically stops movement, but does not stop the unit from battling and rather than reducing dice instead indicates the maximum number of dice that can be thrown (thus Green units are usually not affected).

Number of dice thrown in battle: Again, it is very much like BattleLore in that Green gets two dice, Blue gets three, and Red gets four. There are some additions due to leadership cards, unit types, and other special rules like commander abilities, but they do not seem to rack up like they can using Lore in BattleLore.

Are battle dice reduced by range: No.

The odds of hitting: Another big change from BattleLore, BOW uses an eight-sided die rather than a six-sided one. This means that Green has three chances to be hit, Blue has two, and Red has one (with one chance for morale and one chance for special). So, in BattleLore where a Blue unit would hit a Green the Blue would roll three dice and get one chance in six (about 16%) to score Green, in BOW that same combat would be three dice with three chances in eight (or 37%), so that makes Green units much weaker and Red units much stronger.

How does Battle Back work: BOW uses the same support concept as BattleLore (only it is called Stalwart instead of Bold). I have always liked this method best as it leads to tactics like hitting the end of the line and rolling it up and penalizes isolated units, unless they are special.

Can you evade combat: No, unless it is a unit special trait.

Are battle dice reduced by unit casualties: No.

Summary

Again, the core change to BOW is that orders are Commander-centric, rather than sector-centric. That and the eight-sided die make for a pretty different dynamic. All in all, very much recommended for those that love Borg games.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Review of Arrayed for Battle!

Welcome to new reader La Long Carabine. I hope you enjoy reading the blog.

Well, I finished my Cold Wars reports (whew!). The only report I did not link to was Cold Wars Report (6) on my Wooden Warriors blog. In that report I published the battle report of the two games that I flew from Arizona to Pennsylvania for: Matt Kirkhart and John Acar's re-fight of the Battle of Zama using home-made wooden figures (aka "craftees") and Matt's rules Arrayed for Battle!. I did a mini-review of the rules on that blog entry, which prompted Matt to respond with four long comments. I've decided that the rules need the full review treatment, then I want to post my original comments, along with Matt's, plus any additional comments that came out of emailing him privately.

The Arrayed for Battle! rules, as far as I know, can only be obtained from the Files section of the Wargaming on a Budget forum on Yahoo. That forum is where those of us that like to make our our soldiers, terrain, and wargaming accessories hang out and discuss new ideas and techniques. It is an odd place for those rules to be, but maybe if there is enough demand, Matt will move them out to Google Docs where others can easily get to the them.

Rules Inspiration

Matt has stated several times that the basic rules are inspired by wargaming pioneer Joe Morschauser's rules. The basic idea is a unit has a combat attribute and the player must roll that value or less on a six-sided die (D6) in order to inflict a hit the enemy unit. There are very few modifiers to that roll. Morale is similar in that when a morale roll is called for the player must roll the morale rating or lower on a D6. Failing the roll results in the unit being routed (removed from the board).

Discussion with the Author, Matt Kirkhart

MK: Hey Dale,

Thanks very much for the great battle report and rules and figure reviews. Great stuff and just like with everything else on your blog, excellent "press" for the Craftees movement in general.

I thought I would throw in my thinking on the rules issues that your brought up. First and foremost, I'm a big believer in folks making the rules their own. They are at best guidelines and I think people should tweak and outright change things they do not like or that do not fit their gaming style or ideas. You clearly already know I feel this way, I just put this in for your blog readers who may not know that is my approach to rules even my own.

Second, I gotta go with Neil Thomas; any set of wargaming rules is indicative of the biases and preconceptions of the rules writer in terms of the writer's belief about warfare during that period as well as his preferences for types of play, characteristics of the game, etc. My rules are clearly not an exception. So, I will start there with my own biases and what I was trying to get the game to "play like."

I have to admit that I am in the camp of those who believe it is rather silly to have a set of wargame rules for the "ancient" period that span 3000 BC to about 1500 AD. I even think it is a bit of a stretch to claim that there was little in the way of significant weapons development that changed warfare during this very large stretch of human history, but even if one goes with that assumption it is difficult to swallow that the warfare involving the phalanx formations fighting on the open flat plains of Greece and Asia Minor was not any different than the warfare involving the flexible Roman formations against the "barbarian" tribes with their style of fighting in the rough and broken terrain of central and northern Europe, or even later than that the warfare during the Dark Ages or the Crusades. My rules are clearly influenced by my understanding of and desire to game the period of the rise and the fall of the traditional Greek/Macedonian phalanx, from about 700 BC to the end of the Successors influence. In my opinion, the rules do a pretty good job of providing a flavor for this period and type of warfare. Anything beyond this period or style of fighting would need some modifications. Could these things be addressed with the special abilities for each unit? Partly I think so, yes, but there are some more significant rules changes that are probably needed and at least one of your rules comments is indicative of this I think. Given that I'll now comment on the two points raised about the rules. I'll start with the "easy" one first.

It has not bothered me during play to leave the units where they are when they make contact (not "evening them up" in other words). Having a rule that only one enemy can be on each side makes the exact location of the enemy unit not as important. That said, I am clearly in the minority on this point, and your suggestions about evening up the units and how and when to do so I think are great and clean this up for most players. I really do not see my tendency to not want to even them up as being an important aspect of game play. It doesn't provide anything to the game that is representative of the period, make the game easier to play, etc., so this modification you suggest I think is probably good if for no other reason it reduces arguments between players during play. I'm all for that!
DH: This came up in the first game, which is why I brought it up. You are right in that the "one unit fighting per contacted edge" simplifies matters tremendously. However, there were situations in which very little edge contact still resulted in combat. This "sort of" corner-to-corner contact did not bother me, in and of itself, but with units not "evening up" you ended up with situations where a unit might have to swing very wide (taking two moves, in fact) in order to hit a flank, such as the situation below.
In figure 1, two blue units are off towards the flank of the red unit. However, as they attack (figure 2) the leftmost unit contacts with only a small portion of its edge in contact with the enemy edge. This is a legal contact, so the melee is fought.
In figure 3, as the melee continues the second blue unit, in order contact the flank edge, must swing wide and will still probably pass through the friendly blue unit unless it take two separate movements (two turns) to get around the friendly unit. Figure 2a shows why a post-melee slide changes the nature of charging and contact. On blue's turn three the second blue unit's path is clear and it can charge in one movement, without being disordered by charging through a friendly unit.

This calls into question, however, should the second unit be able to get into  flank contact so soon and so easily?
The second point raised is about units turning to face enemy who are in contact with their flank or rear if they are no longer engaged to their front or not engaged on any other side (in other words one enemy on each flank or one to the flank and one to the rear). Not turning to face is a VERY old school type rule that in my reading is only present in wargames rules before 1970. I honestly haven't read them all, but in the "classic" wargame books I've read to date I have yet to find a rule set after 1970 that does not allow a unit to turn to face the enemy. Be sure to appreciate here that why I like not turning to face is because of my own biases and preferences for understanding the period and having the game play in a particular way.

I really like not letting a unit turn to face and here is why: I wanted a rule structure that would mimic the descriptions of battle lines in the period I described above. Again, when you throw in the various flexible formations of the Roman heavy infantry and other more flexible approaches in warfare chronologically later, these ideas I'm about to state do not apply, and to me this was a significant change in the way ancient battles were fought. Anyway, I wanted a rule system that would allow movement of units to be fairly flexible until contact with the enemy occurs. At that point movement becomes greatly restricted. This I wanted to be particularly the case with heavy infantry that in my understanding in phalanx warfare in particular was something that once you committed it, it was committed and that was it. It was very difficult to "recall" a phalanx or maneuver a phalanx once it is in contact with the enemy, etc. Cavalry and light troops are described as having more flexibility even once in contact with the enemy, but not the heavy infantry. I also wanted to stress the importance of a coherent battle line in the game and the need to protect the flanks of that long coherent line. This too is a characteristic of the ancient battle accounts during the period so I wanted to reward players who maintained the battle line (which would require that units stay in line facing the same way) while using light troops or cavalry to "buzz" around the flanks keeping them protected. If you want to lose quickly with these rules the first thing to do is break your main battle line into more than one part, and the second thing to do is to leave a flank unprotected!

So, this is the reasoning behind the rule of not allowing a unit to "turn to face." I do not mean to imply that these units did not fight to their flanks and rear. They just were not able to reform the entire unit while in contact with the enemy in a way that allowed them to fight just as well after doing so as they would have had they initially contacted the enemy with their front in that direction.
DH: For me this is clearly an issue of aesthetics over time. What I mean by that is if the game mechanics are such that a unit will last in melee only two turns on average, having a unit hit in flank and not turn when contacted doesn't really both me. Having it not turn on the second round I am still okay, but for turn three and after, it starts to look strange.

In your rules, units can easily melee for more than two rounds given a basic 50% to inflict a hit and requiring three to four hits before a morale check is called for. For the flanking unit not to turn for, say, six rounds, looks strange. Of course, it is fine if it does look strange if it is giving you the result that you want, but I wonder whether it is. Units on the flank should get the flanked unit to a morale check faster, but the net effect of the current mechanic is that the flanked unit has less chance of winning; the flanking unit still grinds as slowly through the flanked as if it hit it in front.

So I looked at the mechanic (the odds to hit and how long it would take to break a unit) and figure that it is producing the result you want (i.e. a slow grinding down of a unit, even when hit in flank) and the aesthetic, and that is why I say it does not look quite right. I cannot imagine pikemen, who are armed with short swords for just such the occasion when they are outflanked, that are on the uncontacted flank, are going to keep formation and wait for the unit to break. But, then again, I don't know...
In the game there is a mechanism that allows something similar to turning to face to happen, but heavy infantry are not allowed to do it. Once they are committed to a path that contacts the enemy, that's the way they will face until they are disengaged from the enemy either through winning or losing the melee (becoming "spent" or "broken" in the rules). Light infantry and cavalry are not so committed. Light infantry may disengage (move away and end facing the enemy) and so may cavalry. In addition, cavalry can only be "re-engaged" during that same turn by other cavalry (even light infantry cannot "catch" them when they disengage). So these troops not in a phalanx formation do have more flexibility in disengaging with an enemy to their flank or rear and eventually "turning to face" the enemy, but even these units are not allowed to maintain melee contact while doing so. They literally must have somewhere to "move to" to get away from the enemy and reform facing them. This creates a flexibility in maneuver after melee contact that I think is consistent with the reports of units in ancient warfare: cavalry with the most flexibility, light infantry next, and heavy infantry without any real flexibility once committed.
I think of troops being "committed" as being different than troops in combat.
But again, the lack of a "turn to face" maneuver in the game is VERY inconsistent with modern rules, which from a game play point of view may not be such a good thing. Players count on this and it is sometimes the source of frustration and confusion when they are not allowed to do this with their heavy infantry units during the game.

So, Dale your idea to allow the unit to turn to face and be disordered is a nice one in terms of fitting in with the existing game mechanics. In fact, I think it is a brilliant use of the "meta-view" of the game as a whole as it adds in nothing new in terms of a new rule mechanic and it is completely consistent with how "disorder" plays out in the game. Would I do it in my games? I would not for the period I'm describing because for me I just don't see the heavy infantry of that period being able to accomplish that. Would I use it in other periods, say Imperial Romans fighting Germans or other "barbarians" in the rough terrain of northern Europe or Britannia? Frankly, yes I probably would. This seems more consistent with the reports from folks like Caesar and others for the warfare of that period, in particular the smaller unit conflicts that were so common.

That said, a possible modification for the "phalanx period," for lack of a better term, would be to allow a heavy infantry unit that is in contact with only one enemy unit and that enemy unit is to its flank or rear to still not be able to disengage or turn to face, but instead to fight that enemy unit with a STR of 3 instead of the normal STR of 2. It basically turns that fighting capability of the heavy infantry unit on that side into the functional equivalent of a "medium infantry" unit like a peltast unit. Historically this is probably what it looked like as they cohesiveness of the phalanx just isn't possible to maintain to the flank so you end up with these heavily armored fellows in a looser formation fighting with a mixture of swords, spears, etc., much like what a well-armored peltast unit would be doing fighting to its front. Heavy infantry usually have at least a STR 4 to their front, so they would still not be getting the full benefit of the phalanx formation, but their good armor and weapons would still allow them after the first turn anyway and if fighting no other enemy unit at the time to rally their resources and fight a bit more effectively in that situation. Similarly, the STR 3 is still greater than the STR 2 the unit would be using if there were multiple units fighting it with at least in one case the unit fighting an enemy to its flank or rear. So if it is only fighting to its flank or rear against one enemy its STR would be 3. However, if it is fighting one unit to its front and one to its flank, that flank attack STR would be 2. Against multiple enemies the psychological impact would be tremendous and they would not be as likely to be able to marshal enough resources to fight equivalently to a STR 3 to its flank or rear in that situation.

Units that are typically STR 3 to their front to start with would not get this benefit and would still be STR 2 to the flank or rear even against only one enemy unit. Usually STR 3 units are light so they would have the opportunity to disengage and face the enemy with their front anyway. STR 2 units to their front are usually skirmisher units or very light infantry (poorly armored) so a well-armored STR 3 to its front unit probably fights like a skirmish unit to its flank or rear. I'll have to give this one some more thought.

Note: this was written after Cold Wars, but for some reason not published. The rules Arrayed for Battle was the primary game I went Cold Wars for, so here it is, better late than never!

He brought a knife to a gun fight ...

I was able to get a game of Flames of War in last weekend and it was interesting, but not quite as much as it could have been. I thought I had telegraphed my intentions as far a lists were concerned; I wanted to play the new Fearless Trained King Tigers list from the new Devil's Charge book. When Don told me he was bringing 76mm Shermans, I quickly looked at the stats and started sweating. Sure, my Kings could blow the Shermans apart with ease, but he was probably going to outnumber me 3:1 and would swarm my flanks, so I expected a tough fight. Then Don said he didn't want to learn the air rules yet, so I chucked my AA and tried the new Skorzeny Commandos on a lark.

Imagine my surprise when Don showed up with a U.S. Light Tank Company and there were no big guns. I was immediately suspicious, figuring that I was missing something somewhere, but no, Don had brought a knife to a gun fight! Today, he told me that after the game he had felt "violated". (I am sorry Don, but I am laughing right now.)

I had set up one of the best boards as I had lots of new terrain. I got one set of Farmhouses, the Calais House, one set of Fields and Fences, one set of Rural Roads Expansion, and another set of Rural Roads, all from Battlefront. The only irritation was that you get two fields in a set of Fields and Fences, but only enough fences for one of the fields. Still, they all look good. My only problem with Battlefront terrain has been with the rivers, which seems to be using a chemical that causes them to stick together. They are now losing their paint. But the roads and the farmhouses are absolutely must buys. Here are pictures of the empty board.



I gave Don the option of mission and side of the table, but Don wanted to roll. We rolled up Surrounded and with my force (optionally) Always Attacks, I ended up attacking the Americans in the center (the band of hedged fields) while my forces would come from the left and right (in the picture below).


Just as a note: I kept this board set up and we are going to use it again. Only this time Don will choose the scenario! I will definitely change the force (and possibly even the list), as I really did not like this King Tiger list all that much, especially at 1500 points!

Don set up his Armored Rifles platoon and a Stuart platoon on the bottom half (in the pictures above and below) and I attacked with one King Tiger from the left and one King Tiger CiC and a Gepanzerte Panzergrenadier platoon from the right. Don ended up popping 2 Scott Assault Guns in this section, facing my Panzergrenadiers.

My PG assaulted across the plowed field and over the hedges (they were not hedgerows) and took out one Scott before I started grinding the Armored Rifles. All that said, they did not have enough muscle or bodies to win, but I think that it helped Don and I re-learn the assault rules. (We only messed up maybe two or three times!)


On the top half of the board, Don kept his Priest Battery in the center, but they basically died from my CiC King Tiger's fire and a Panzer IV platoon (4 tanks) coming up the road. Don's luck was horrendous and whiffed all hit rolls as the Panzers approached, so it was really over before it started. Meanwhile my last King Tiger (I had 3) slaughtered the Stuarts guarding the objective in the ford while the second Stuart platoon was slaughtered on turn 1 by the Panzer IV (rolled 8 dice, needing a '6', and rolled 4 hits and 4 firepower checks!). No wonder Don felt violated!

The pictures above and below show the game at the end. White puffs are dead US tanks, save for 2 dead German halftracks.


One last look at the table from another angle.


The last picture shows the King Tiger that sat on the objective for three full turns and just kept shooting Stuarts that felt compelled to come out and contest the objective.


I won the game at the start of the sixth turn, so it took some grinding to get through all of that American metal.

Impressions

King Tigers: As strange as it sounds, King Tigers are not very exciting to play unless there is some threat to them. Otherwise it is boring and slow. I was looking forward to a dance with a horde of 76mm Shermans. I was not looking forward to getting whacked by air support, but that is how the U.S. killed them.

Skorzeny Commandos: A bit of a giggle, but I was using them as cheap recce, hoping to cause problems with Tank Destroyers popping out in ambush. But there were no Tank Destroyers and no Reserves (my secondary use of them), so all I was left with was spreading rumors, trying to pin U.S units. They were not very successful. I lost two for being too close to my units (and not being able to flee fast enough) and two by being spotted as frauds. I am not sure that the original AA would have done better, but it stopped me from getting a panzerfaust with my Panzergrenadier Platoon Commander, which was probably significant.

Panzergrenadiers: Given that I was facing dug-in U.S. Armored Rifles, the extra machine guns on the halftracks helped a bit, but I need to re-read the rules and see if they should have been allowed to stay around. Never got to use the "pinned MG teams fire ROF 2" rule as I kept getting assaulted by Stuarts after I got pinned.

Panzer IV: Solid, as always.

Assault: I like the 8" assault "bubble", but I know we played it wrong once or twice. It is hard to sort out what happens with mixed platoons. Need to read more.

I know the battle report was brief, but then so was the game. Next time, I expect Don will bring the guns. :^)

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Shaking Off Gaming Burn-out

It has been a number of months since my last post on all of my gaming blogs for a number of reasons. First, Cold Wars seemed to have scratched my gaming itch for quite a while. Second, I have been working on a new business model and so had to change my focus away from gaming and give my career skills a bit of a boost; I have been slacking for too long.

Since Cold Wars I can count the number of games I have played on one hand. Interestingly, most have been Borg (or Borg-like) designs. I have not even been gaming solo. Also, my painting and modeling can to a halt too.

Downsizing

My gaming buddy Don has been talking downsizing his miniatures collection and gaming effort. He mentioned dropping miniatures and sticking to board games (largely Borg designs), but I think he is just going to cut down his Flames of War collection. I doubt he is going to sell his new 25mm Ancients collection (or his old 15mm DBA one), or his 15mm Vietnam collection, but I am waiting to see if he sells the 28mm WW II collection, though. I am sure he is going to sell his various impulse buys like moderns, strange scales, and his excess Sherman's (do you really need 300 Shermans?).

For me, I am still debating selling off the 15mm AWI. I am still not satisfied with any set of rules I bought. To be honest, I bought them for two reasons: I like the uniforms, and that both sides' histories are written in English. To me the latter is a large selling point. If I sold the figures off, that would leave me with 15mm Flames of War, 28mm WW II skirmish, 15mm DBA Ancients, my old Warhammer 40K forces (which I will never sell), and all the wooden soldiers I can build.

AWI

The AWI rules that have worked out the best have been DBA or HOTT variants, but our one game of Black Powder was okay. If I use large enough hexes I could make a variant using Battles of Westeros (a Borg-inspired design) and use four bases per unit. But, if I do that I will just be perpetuating the problem and forcing me to keep the figures. :^) But, it might help re-energize me.

Flames of War

Now that I have sufficiently purged Flames of War version 2 from my memory it may be easier to make the transition to version 3. I am planning on running a game at home (to leave setup, if necessary) and trying to really get the rules down. I look forward to trying the Fearless Trained King Tigers from the Devil's Charge book. That might help re-energize me too.

I doubt that I will contemplate tournament play again though. Although I enjoy the WWPD podcasts, their content seems to be becoming very oriented towards min-maxing lists. It hasn't stopped me from listening though.


Well, enough babbling. Hopefully you will see something new from me soon, either a new AWI variant, some Age of Sail gaming, or a Flames of War report.

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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").