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.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Flying Lead - Owning the Rules (Part 2)

Gone to ground can create problems

This may be just an issue we created for ourselves after reading an answer to a question on the Ganesha Games Flying Lead forum which may have been carelessly answered.

If a figure has 'Gone to Ground' or been 'Shaken', it is deemed out of sight of the enemy, and therefore cannot be shot at again, unless some (undefined) situation occurs. This is similar to the 'Duck Back' and 'Hunker Down' results in THW games.

The problem comes with how you get out of that situation (where you cannot see of be seen by the enemy). We required a move to crawl out from behind the tree, rock, depression in the ground, etc. But, if the figure rolls one action, and they pop up, they are exposed, but cannot fire. So, they tend not to pop-up at all. This can lead to several turns of the figure staying 'Gone to Ground', waiting until they roll two actions.

This situation might be more realistic, but it slows the game down. Rather than requiring a move to pop-up, the simple act of firing should count.

By the way, I play that when a 'Shaken' figure recovers (spends two actions), then go to 'Gone to Ground' status so that they are still hidden until they do something else (besides recover).

There is nothing slower than two actions for a Short move (and that should be exceptional)

The first scenario Don and I played of Flying Lead was from the NUTS! scenario book The Big Hurt. The first scenario in that book is a battle that takes place in the middle of a woods. Thus everyone was reduced from a Medium move to a Short move for practically the whole board. This made some actions problematic, like crawling. Should crawling, a Short move in open ground be reduced to a Short move costing two actions? What if the person crawling is dragging an encumbrance (like a wounded buddy)? Is that a Short move for three actions?

After having played that scenario twice now, and another which was heavy on the woods also, I have come to the conclusion that a Short move costing two actions has to be exceptional, and there is nothing worse than that (which I am pretty sure is in the rules anyway). The chance for turnover is too great if crawling through a woods requires two actions.

So, I have amended these situations as follows:

  • Moving through woods reduces a Medium move to a Short. If the player already moves a Short (due to injury or crawling) it remains a Short.
  • One figure carrying or dragging a wounded figure moves a Short for two actions, unless the carrying figure is Strong, in which case it only requires one action.
  • Moving across a body of water deep enough to slow you down requires two actions to move a Short, unless the figure is Strong or Light, when it only takes one action.
Another idea for changing up terrain, is that the first move action is a Medium, but second and third move actions are Short. This means the game does not slow down tremendously, but does not allow figures to sprint through the brush like there is nothing there.

Also, given that the brush is thicker at the edges of a forest (and hence the LOS rules being as they are), it makes sense that you are slowed more at the edges than in the center. So you could make all move actions at the edge give you a Short move, while in the center use Medium for the first move action only, as indicated above.

Grenades should not be allowed to pre-measure

The one thing that bothered me about Warhammer 40K and rules of that sort, was the precise placement and measurement of template weapons. As I was throwing grenades at Don's squad, finding the precise point that would produce the most effect, it came back to me.

This change is simple: the player with the grenade throwing figure places a marker down where the grenade lands. They may not measure to that point (to see what range band they are in), nor from that point (to see who is in which blast band). If the target point ends up outside of the thrower's range, draw a line from the thrower to the marker and back the marker to the extent of the thrower's range, and then automatically count the throw as three failures on the 'To Hit' roll (meaning it automatically deviates a Long). The same rules would apply to firing rifle grenades or any HE rounds.


As I play more Flying Lead I may come up with additional changes. I would like to hear what you think about them, as some of your ideas may be better than mine.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Flying Lead - Owning the Rules

Well, I shall take TMP's and Ganesha Games' advice and own the rules that I buy. If something isn't clear,  or is clear but seems wrong, or is missing something, just say the hell with with author and the company that sold it to you; fix it yourself.

So, here are the things that bother me in Flying Lead, and what I am going to do about it.

  1. Leaders don't lead, they order people about.
    1. Leaders can't keep up.
    2. Leaders don't lead by example.
  2. Gone to Ground can create problems.
  3. There is nothing slower than two actions for a Short move.
  4. Grenades should not be allowed to pre-measure.
Leaders don't lead, they order people about

The big problem with Leaders (and NCOs) is that they are not part of the group, the group is what they give an order to. This leads to the issue that Leaders often cannot keep up with the movement of the group they are leading. Further, because they are not part of the group, they cannot participate in group activities, such as Concentrated Fire.

So, I propose that if a Leader qualifies as being part of the group (e.g. being within a Short of at least one other member of the group, forming a chain, etc.) the Leader can give one of the following orders:

Move Out! The Leader and up to five additional figures roll to activate. This is a single activation roll, using the lowest Quality that would apply. (Note that the Leader does not get the Leader Bonus to activate, so he may be the lowest roll.) If they activate they move as a group in the same basic direction. There can be minor deviations in each figure's movement, but in the end they must maintain the same relative positions, with less than a Short in deviation.
Move Out! fixes the biggest problems with Group orders: that the Leader cannot keep up with his men. He is so busy ordering people about, he has no time to move himself. Believe it or not Leaders can walk and talk at the same time and this order allows it.
Charge! The leader and up to five additional figures roll to activate. This is a single activation roll, however; each figures uses their own Quality to determine how many actions they receive. If any of the figures fails two or more actions, the round immediately turns over to the enemy; no actions are taken by any figures, even if they had a single success. The only allowable actions are:

  • Stand up
  • Remove Knocked Down or Shaken status
  • Move (towards an enemy figure)
  • Hand-to-hand combat
Note that this order cannot be given while the Leader or Group members are already in hand-to-hand combat.
    Charge! solves the problem of getting a group, and the Leader, into hand-to-hand combat at the same time. This is a much more natural Group order than "hey you guys charge them and I will follow you later", which is how the current system plays out. The reasoning for allowing each figure to separately determine the number of successes is so different Quality values would have different numbers of actions, which makes sense in a charge. The lower Quality will have fewer actions, representing their reluctance to enter into hand-to-hand combat.
    Fire With Me! The Leader and up to 5 additional figures may fire at a single target, using the same rules as Concentrated Fire, except that the Leader is always considered to be the firer.
    Having the Leader designate the target that others fire upon makes sense, especially as Leaders often carry tracer rounds for just such a purpose.
    These three additional Group orders should help the Leaders in Flying Lead actually act like leaders, and not like managers. I will be sure to give it a testing here the next week, as I continue to game on my holiday off.

    Command & Colors: Napoleonics Review

    For those not familiar with any Borg game, I suggest you read the reviews for Command & Colors: Ancients on Boardgame Geek. Otherwise this review might not make much sense.
    I played my first game of Command & Colors: Napoleonics (CCN) and I must say I am pretty pleased with the new game. It is sufficiently different from Command & Colors: Ancients (CCA), Memoir '44, Battlelore, and Clash for a Continent (by Worthington Games, and now called Hold the Line) that I don't feel like I am playing the same game, just with different blocks and scenarios.

    The primary change from all other Ricard Borg games is that the combat dice are reduced as you lose blocks. Also, all units are not created equally, by any means. The British are tough in ranged combat, the French in melee. (The Portuguese Light Infantry doesn't hold a candle to the French Light Infantry, much less the British.) It will be interesting to see what they do with the other major powers. For now, though, we pretty much have to deal with the Peninsular battles, and the British battles in the Waterloo campaign.

    Many times you won't play a complete battle, but a portion of it. That is also a little different from other Borg games. I can see that when they get around to Borodino, you will probably play it over three or four different scenarios. Kind of like playing Stalingrad in Memoir '44, you don't do it in one bite.

    Cavalry has it tough, unlike in Battlelore. Terrain has more of an impact on it than it does with infantry or artillery. Also, terrain has more impact than in CCA, but less so that M44. One part that seems wrong is the tendency for Line infantry to hide in forests. Lights, no problem, but Line should be affected in ranged combat.

    I like going back to Flags only causing 1-hex retreats (except for Militia, which retreat three hexes). Leaders have less of an impact on combat than in CCA. That is probably accurate, but creates more differences, which will make switching between these rules all that much harder.

    I haven't really done an assessment of the scenarios. That will come over time, as I play them. (Hell, I have not even played all of the M44 scenarios yet.) But the first one (Rolica) was very tense and a close game (the British pulled it out in the end 5-4).

    So, I am looking forward to the next CCN expansion, even if it is the Spanish!

    Wednesday, December 22, 2010

    Ganesha Games Brouhaha

    Well, I started a real brouhaha on the Song of Blades and Heroes, etc. Yahoo forum. I wasn't trying to, but I was trying to get the authors to own up to not writing the rules to reflect their intent. I then posted two threads on TMP - Having problems with rules support? and Do U.S. players require too much precision with their rules? - and got a lot of interesting answers.

    A number of people harkened back to the 'old days' when rules came in books and were largely just ideas that needed to be expanded upon by you - sort of 'fill in the blanks' as you see fit. Interestingly, they still see it as being that way. These are 'your' rules, so interpret them how you wish.

    To me, local interpretation is the last resort. What that essentially means is that you cannot play outside your local group without expecting conflict as you meet new interpretations. That was fine before the age of the internet; communication between groups was sparse because they largely did not know about one another. But things have changed. Because of increased communications, people know more about gaming conventions for example, and in the U.S. that means primarily gaming, not trade fairs (see issue 24 of Battlegames where a U.K. correspondent describes Historicon and how U.S. conventions differ from U.K. ones).

    Because we bring diverse groups together for common gaming, I contend that U.S. gamers prefer rules to be locked down, and tight, so that a common understanding results. Having been on the various DBA forums for about a year, you still see people arguing over the definition of "move to contact" and whether mutually assured destruction occurs when elephants recoil into elephants. And DBA is pretty tight, once you understand Barker's writing style.

    I agree with several posters that we don't want to get to the point where people bring emails to games to prove some personal clarification they received from the author. That does not help anyone but the local gamers. That is why I call for better support through updated FAQs and errata sheets.

    Some made the point that "hey this is a hobby". Again, Battlegames #24 pointed out how it the 'new commercialism' is taking us away from that. First, I reject the 'hey it's a hobby' argument when people are taking my money. Just because you do not do it full-time as your primary job, does not mean it is not a business. If you take my money for your efforts, it is a business, period. And like any product sold to me, I expect it to work. If it does not, I am going to be coming back to visit you, even if it is virtually.

    People say the concept of rules support is a new thing. No, it isn't. How the support is given is new. The speed at which support is given is new. But giving support is not new. Maybe I was spoiled. I grew up with Column, Line, and Square, if which Fred Vietmeyer did answer questions by mail - lots of questions - and he eventually published these into a Referred Referee Rulings, what we would now call an FAQ. I guess I was spoiled because I dealt with a man who was ahead of his time. (Thanks, Fred.)

    Of course, I cut  my teeth on Avalon Hill board games and if you look carefully enough they had support too. Sure, you had to buy The General, but that was their communication medium. Inside every issue were rules questions and answers by the author or staff. Many issues had errata and clarifications, all of which were official. People might not like to subscribe to a magazine in order to get the errata, but it was there back then. (Besides, if you played Avalon Hill games with any regularity, who subscribed to The General. It was sort of a given.)

    Final point, and one I am debating posting to TMP: if a rules set includes a points system, is that not an implication that the game can be played competitively? And if that is true, should not the rules be written tight enough that disagreements on the author's intent should not arise?

    Sunday, December 19, 2010

    Squads for Song of Drums and Shakos

    If you have been following my brother blog, Wooden Warriors, then you know I have been gaming with Ganesha Games' Song of Drums and Shakos. Well I finally worked through the points lists to come up with a number of 400 point squads (a standard force size), so I can work out how many figures of each type to build.

    Here are my squads (in the format importable into the Squad Builder). First up, the French Legere (light infantry):
    ;French Legere (400)
    Hornist;30;4;1;false;Elan,Light,Musician,Pistol,Poor Shot,Sword;;
    Pvt (Chasseur);42;4;2;false;Elan,Light,Musket;;
    Pvt (Chasseur);42;4;2;false;Elan,Light,Musket;;
    Pvt (Chasseur);42;4;2;false;Elan,Light,Musket;;
    Pvt (Chasseur);42;4;2;false;Elan,Light,Musket;;
    Pvt (Chasseur);42;4;2;false;Elan,Light,Musket;;
    With a base Quality of 4 and Elan, these guys are tough, and will activate on a 2+ when within a Long of the Leader. I gave the NCO Elan also, as the original in the book excluded it. Granted, with a Quality of 3+, he probably did not need it, but it seems funny that everyone else has it but the Sergeant!

    I created a new character, the Hornist, which is the light infantry's Musician. Despite the characters in the original rules, musicians did not run around the battlefield unarmed. Drummers usually had swords and hornists often had a musket in addition to their instrument. In this case I gave him a pistol and sword, but had to make him a Poor Shot in order to squeeze him into 400 points.

    Here are the stats for some of my French Ligne:
    ;French Ligne (397)
    Ensign;44;3;2;false;2 Pistols,Flag Bearer,Sword;;
    This squad of 11 has it all: Leader, NCO, Musician, Flag Bearer, and plenty of muskets. The Grenadier marches by the Ensign (Flag Bearer) to pick up the flag in case it is dropped, otherwise he shoots anyone threatening the flag. The Ensign has two pistols, which is historical, as they are carried in a special holster on their chest. (Of course taking a standard out on patrol is not very historical, but we won't dwell on that.)

    Next are my newly minted British Line:
    ;British Line (398)
    Pvt (Center);26;4;2;false;Musket;;
    Pvt (Center);26;4;2;false;Musket;;
    Pvt (Center);26;4;2;false;Musket;;
    Pvt (Center);26;4;2;false;Musket;;
    Pvt (Center);26;4;2;false;Musket;;
    Pvt (Center);26;4;2;false;Musket;;
    Pvt (Center);26;4;2;false;Musket;;
    Pvt (Center);26;4;2;false;Musket;;
    Pvt (Center);26;4;2;false;Musket;;
    Pvt (Center);26;4;2;false;Musket;;
    Pvt (Center);26;4;2;false;Musket;;
    I could not figure out what to spend the last 2 points on, but that is okay. I could have made the Sergeant a Poor Shot in order to recoup some points, and use them for something else, but it almost felt like cheating to do that. If it were a competition, I probably would have.

    The main shocker here is that the squad is 13 figures, compared to the eight for the Legere. The Privates are very standard soldiers, but the Sergeant has a very interesting halberd to use. I also had some extra points so I gave him Steadfast to help with his morale, should the Lieutenant die and he need to take over.

    Next are the KGL Light Dragoons, of which I only have two painted so far.
    ;KGL Light Dragoons (400)
    I was surprised by the stats in the book for the Light Dragoons, as they were better than those for the Hussars. Thinking the statistics were reversed, I posted a message on the Yahoo forum, but the response was that, no, Sergio feels that the Light Dragoons were better. By then I had already built this squad, so I did not change the stats back, but used the Hussar stats instead.

    Again, because I had left over points, I gave the Sergeant Steadfast to increase his morale, should the Lieutenant die and he need to check morale and take over.

    I was surprised that I only had one figure less than the French Legere. This would be an interesting match-up, I think.

    Next are my Russian Guard Cossacks, the first cavalry figure I made, and which I have only one.
    ;Russian Guard Cossacks (400)
    Officer;102;3;2;false;2 Pistols,Elan,Lance,Leader,Mounted,Sword;;
    NCO;94;3;2;false;2 Pistols,Elan,Lance,Mounted,NCO,Steadfast,Sword;;
    With only six figures, those lances better be of value. Again, I used the extra points to give the NCO Steadfast, but I also gave a second pistol to both the leader and the NCO.

    I am looking at trying to cost out an artillery piece so I can make one and use it in a game. Will probably have to take a look at the 61-65 rules.

    So there I have it. Now to get to painting and making miniatures.

    Flying Lead - Western Union

    Yesterday Don and I played the Western Union scenario from the NUTS! scenario book The Big Hurt. I tried a few things differently, with regards to the scenario, rather than using the totally random method for reinforcements that I did last time.

    Considering that Don's forces were severely depleted from the first scenario, I decided that the forces were going to be equal in points. The first thing to resolve was how to deal with reinforcements. I decided that the best way was to use the German Enemy Activity Level and the US Support Level as indicators for the number of possible reinforcements, rather than modifiers to who got reinforcements. So, the Germans would get two and the US one. I then rolled on the reinforcements table, re-rolling any vehicles (don't want to introduce them yet). The German reinforcements came out as: Panzerschreck Team, and Half Squad. The US reinforcement was a Half Squad.

    The next part was to figure out the German Possible Enemy Forces (PEF). The scenario called for three, but as Don won the last scenario this one indicated that one PEF was removed. As I had decided that the game was going to be equal points, I had to figure out some way to reward the US for winning last game, but still keep the game even. I struck upon the idea that the initial German forces (the two PEFs) would be 75% of the point value of Don's starting forces and then the German reinforcements would be equal to the US reinforcement point value plus the difference between our starting forces. Thus, Don would have a quality advantage until reinforcements started coming on. Eventually, when both sides received all of their reinforcements, it would be an even point game.

    Reinforcements were deemed to come on the same was you receive Joys of War cards in the Hearts & Minds supplement of Flying Lead: both players roll a die at the start of every round and if one player's die roll doubles the other, that player received reinforcements. As I would find out later, the God of Randomness was still favoring me and punishing Don, which had a tremendous effect on game play. In hindsight, I should have decreed that the Germans could not get their second reinforcement until after the US had gotten their single reinforcement.

    The Scenario

    The Western Union scenario is basically looking for a break in a telephone line. You are given two communications specialists with your squad and you have to search three sections of the line in order to find one or more breaks, repair them, and then exit the board. If you lose the specialists before all of the breaks are found and fixed, you automatically lose.

    The board is a mixture of woods, tall grass, and open area. The open area is significant because it is only one spot (there is a second, but it is small and set away from the telephone line, so it does not play a role), and it is large. It also flanks the area where the US comes on, and the Germans had an LMG randomly determined to be there (which actually makes sense).

    My rules for the tall (a little above waist high) grass is that movement is not hindered and visibility is not  blocked but rather obscured (-1 to hit), unless either the target or the firer is prone in the grass. In that case the visibility is a Long and obscured, just like within a Woods. In hindsight I should have made it two Longs, as one Long would make all of the firefights very short (once again).

    The Game

    Don came on the board and my LMG team opened up on then from 5L away, still managing to take out one of replacement soldiers. Don ran his troops forward, but even though some were still in LOS of the LMG, he decided to keep running rather than dropping at the end of each bound. The LMG tagged one of the specialists out of action. At this point, with Don had four squad members left and one specialist, while I had one LMG team and an unrevealed Half Squad (5 soldiers).

    I decided to describe the medical rules (we were using the Man Down! rules from Hearts & Minds) so Don could start saving people, even if he lost this scenario. Don started dragging the two out of action soldiers (found to be T1 and T2 casualties) and that is when he learned to bound, basically denying my LMG a shot at him. Every time I would get two actions with them, and place overwatch, he would only get one action, which was not enough to allow him to get up from prone and drag the soldier one move, before dropping prone again. It was almost like the soldier had a sixth sense about when I had an overwatch marker on his position...

    Effectively, that was the end of the action on that flank. The LMG team never got off another shot, even after they shifted position. Back on the other flank, my first reinforcement, the Panzerschreck team, showed up, quickly followed by the Half Squad. At this point I think Don's morale broke (as opposed to the figures on the board). He had five guys facing 14 and he had not even swept the first sector yet!

    Don drove his troops into the center of the fire trap (surrounded on three side by troops, only one of which could fire at him though), and although his Sergeant knocked two enemy Germans out of action, the numbers told. First a grenade landed in the midst of his party and took out his BAR gunner and the second specialist (effectively ending the game for him). A second grenade landed in the midst for good measure, allowing a team of Hitler Youth (Green and Eager troops) to assault the Sergeant and (barely) finish him off.

    Meanwhile the US reinforcements had finally arrived about 12 turns after all of mine had arrived and, upon hearing the news from the sole survivor of the squad (who happened to be the guy who dragged the wounded off of the board), turned around to report the partial success (but mostly failure) of the mission.

    What Went Wrong?

    Although I am not playing to lose, the idea of running a campaign for one of the sides is to see how far you can go with that side, so that means not beating the bejesus out of it every game. People have to survive for there to be continuity.

    The first problem was the reinforcements. Statistically, I don't think it was a problem. If I roll a '1', he has to roll a '2' or more, if I roll a '2' he has to roll a '4' or more, and if I roll a '3' he has to roll a '6'. So half of my rolls make it possible for him to double me. But, I would roll a '1' and so would he, and so on.

    So, because of the randomness of it, and Don having pissed off the God of Randomness somehow, I should probably have had some "brake" to ensure that the German forces didn't get too wildly out of whack, the way they did.

    Now, if you had asked me yesterday about the effect of the German reinforcements, I would have told you that the first, the Panzerschreck team, never got into action, never fired a shot, never even got within range to fire. So, other than having a morale effect on Don, what use was it? Despite what Don says, the second Half Squad (what I called the Hitler Youth) took a long time to get up where it could get engaged too, primarily because the original squad was in front of it, in the way. It was only because US spread out to their right did it give me space to shift to the same flank and bring more rifles to bear.

    What can I say? Don was excited to play this game before we played it and now he is ready to switch to something else. I hope he is not soured to the rules like he appears to be with Song of Drums and Shakos, where his 1740's Highlanders were shot and clubbed down by Prussians.

    Next game we have is supposed to be Memoir '44 with the new Winter War expansion. Oooh boy!

    Wednesday, December 15, 2010

    Skirmish Gaming

    I've bought a number of Skirmish Campaign and Skirmish Elite scenario books based on looking through a few scenarios in two books and believing the whole series was basically the same. Unfortunately, I found that the ones I looked at were probably more exceptions than the rule (I am not sure because I do not have them all).

    I was expecting what I call skirmish scenarios, which was one platoon at most and this series has a few scenarios where it is a reinforced platoon at least and often much more. The first scenario in Skirmish Elite: Combat Jump Sicily has 50+ figures on the Italian (defender's) side and 25+ on the American side. Wow! I am not really able to handle that with one player per side using Flying Lead - at least not yet.

    I put out a call on the WW II Skirmish Yahoo forum to see if any other scenario books were more in the realm of what I was looking for, but came up negative there. Seems everyone wants a lot of figures and vehicles on the table. (I am guess that the skirmish rules listed in the front of the scenario books are ones that do better with those number of figures.)

    One of the ideas I was tossing around in my head was to do something like the "tactical" Napoleonics players do. For example, playing Waterloo with each maneuver unit a battalion or squadron is going to require a lot of figures and space, so what some do is carve out a specific action at the battle and focus on that, such as the attack on Hougomont or Kellerman's cavalry charge. Looking at some of the Skirmish Campaign/Elite scenarios, I was thinking of trying the same concept; play just a portion of the board.

    One of the problems that I see with the concept is how to model possible supporting fire from positions that have overlapping fields of fire onto your section of the battle. The Hearts & Minds supplement of Flying Lead has two interesting concepts regarding this problem: event cards and off-board fire.

    The event card system models random but probable events that affect your portion of the battlefield. Some cards meant to be played immediately while others can be kept in the hand and played at a later time. Not a new concept, I know, but what they model are assets that occasionally affect your small slice of the board, but are not yours 100% of the time. Examples are snipers, off-board artillery fire (directed by an off-board forward observer), off-board fire from a GPMG, UAVs (armed and unarmed), detonation of IEDs by an off-board observer, etc.

    It was while reading the sample event cards that it introduced the concept of how to model off-board fire. Basically it allows you to choose any point on your baseline from which to draw a LOS to a target, and if clear, make a specific strength attack. (In some cases you do not need LOS, but can target any point on the board. Example would be fire from an armed Predator drone.)

    I was looking at the first scenario in Skirmish Elite Combat Jump Italy where the scenario is a blockhouse/barracks surrounded by five or so pillboxes. If you focus in attack one pillbox as the scenario, you could have event cards for the Italian side that represent the overlapping fire from the left and right
    pillboxes, and cards for the central blockhouse. Fire from the left pillbox, for example could state that the LOS is drawn from the left  board edge, or even some point, while the right pillbox would do it from the right board edge. In the case of the blockhouse you would have a different point on the Italian baseline and would assume the firer is at a higher elevation (i.e. the second story of the blockhouse).

    The reason for the "randomness" of the event cards can be explained as lulls in the attack in these other sectors (off-board), giving these assets opportunities to fire at longer range targets (i.e. you in your sector). That could also explain the "Use Immediately" qualifier on the cards. Being able to hold a card could represent some communication or coordination between your side on-board and the asset off-board.

    I have yet to try this idea out, but at least it may be a way for me to make use of these darn scenario books! :)

    Monday, December 13, 2010


    Recently watched Band of Brothers (again) and the one thing that leapt out at me that wasn't present in the recent WW II skirmish games I have been playing were medics. I mean every combat scene had them screaming for a medic whether they were present or not! (This also led me to ponder whether I have seen any movies in which the German soldiers screamed out "Medic!" when someone was hit. Did they have combat medics like the Americans or did average soldiers pull them off of the line and stretcher bearers grabbed them?)

    Anyway, a big part of thinking about medics is also thinking about the soldiers' reactions. A guy gets hit, screams out, and the buddy who witnessed it screams "Medic!" and tries to help him (ripping off clothes, tossing sulfa powder on the wound, pressing the guy's gauze against the wound, etc.) but rarely do you see that in a set of rules.

    Don and I played Flying Lead last weekend and I thought about making one of his people a Medic (Combat), but didn't want to add too much complexity to start. But it did get me to thinking. Shouldn't Americans all have a first aid kit and should there not be some kind of reaction that the closest person to the guy hit has to tend to his wounds? Maybe some form of morale check and if they don't pass all three dice they have to move to the wounded guy and perform some task?

    Now, I understand that this is not always possible, and can even be downright dangerous to try first aid in the presence of the enemy firing at you. So maybe they drag them to cover first. Or maybe they delay when they go over to them, only going once they have taken out or suppressed the firer.

    Another idea was the act of screaming "Medic!" itself. Maybe each time some unwounded guy spends an action calling for Doc, there is a chance he actually calls out and says he is on his way, giving that side an additional character to patch up characters and pull them to safety. (Of course, if he finishes up, he disappears in the brush because some squad somewhere else screamed for him.)

    Given that medical support is usually attached to the platoon or company, it seems like having one on patrol with a squad is unlikely. (Although for our Hürtgen Forest scenario where we were rescuing a wounded Lieutenant it would have made sense to have a medic come along.)

    Some ideas to ponder. I need to research out the combat medics for the Germans in WW II.

    Sunday, December 12, 2010

    Mixing Flying Lead and NUTS!

    No, it is not a strange holiday recipe, but an attempt to use the scenarios from THW's NUTS! with the rules Flying Lead. It did not work very well.

    First, I have to say that I need to read the mission and campaign rules in NUTS! again to ensure that I was doing everything right. Actually, I know I wasn't doing some things right, because the way the rules read didn't sound right at all and so I tweaked it a little to be a little more balanced. Here are the issues I had:

    1. The reinforcement roll seems to occur every turn, so there are 6 chances out of 36 that someone gets a reinforcement. Given the time scale of NUTS!, that seems pretty frequent.
    2. The reinforcement roll seems to be done every turn until the game is over.
    3. It seems like the side that gets the reinforcement is the side with the higher EAL or SL, with no chance for the other side to get a reinforcement.
    Unless I got these points wrong, this seems like it could really extend the length of a scenario dramatically. A good roll might bring in two squads, for example, which is a hell of a reinforcement for a single squad (200% the current size).

    Also, the shear randomness of the PEF/reinforcement might be okay to "mix it up" if playing solo, but it feels just that: random. I think I like the Skirmish Campaign method better of giving you a base force and (generally) a single reinforcement that comes on with some trigger.

    So, Don and I played the first scenario in The Big Hurt, a campaign book for NUTS! set in the Hürtgen Forest. The scenario calls for the player's squad to go out an rescue a Lieutenant stuffed into a hollow tree trunk. Sorry, no pictures. I forgot my camera.

    Bring 'Em Back Alive

    Sergeant Wallace chomped on his cigar as he pushed his men through the forest towards the creek on his map. That rat O'Reilly said he had shoved the wounded Lieutenant Myers, a little pipsqueak of a guy, into the hollow trunk of a large tree located at the bend in the creek. "God! I still laugh just thinking about this 90 day wonder stuffed in a tree, desperately holding on to his acorns", thought Sergeant Wallace.

    The squad been off of the line for awhile now and had gotten back up to strength, considering that we had two new replacements. Green horns. Don't even remember their names, must less want to try. The Sergeant throws them on right flank, then signals Ramirez to scout forward.

    Damned if he didn't step into a hornet's nest though because the next thing we hear is a MG-34 real close. The Sergeant starts screaming for everyone to open up. If it weren't for the cover of the woods, who knows how many of use would have caught it.
    The first German PEF turns out to be an LMG team, and it is right on top of the squad. I am not really sure how to deal with PEF movement, in relation to movement from revealed elements, so I opt to run it as a post-turn action (i.e. Reinforcement Roll, US turn, German turn for revealed figures, German turn for PEFs). As the PEF moved into visibility of the US, I rolled for what the PEF was, put the figures on the table, then ended their turn, so they did not get to fire.
    It wasn't long before we cleaned up that mess, killing the gunner and sending the loader running. The Sergeant reformed the troops and everyone started advancing again. Except for those replacements. Where were they?

    We hit a fire break in the woods, so we know it isn't far to the creek, but damned if these woods weren't thick. It is taking forever to slog through the woods. Next thing you know, though, we hit the creek and guys start chattering about how this mission is almost done, when...

    Ziiiiiiiiiiipppppp! Another damn MG-34 team out here! This time it is bad. People ducking in woods, the creek, nobody moving, nobody shooting. Every time I try to raise my head up, a spray of earth hits me in the face as the German gunner just rakes back and forth across our position.

    Slowly, we claw our way forward, the Sergeant coming up and kicking people to get up and shoot. "Where is that damn BAR?" I keep thinking. Eventually the LMG gets knocked out when the Sergeant flanks their position and lets rip with his Thompson. I look back and someone's hit, but I can't tell who. I don't see any of the replacements either.
    Two PEFs and two LMGs. I would actually like a squad, so this game gets a little more interesting. Meanwhile, the Germans get a reinforcement and it is moving straight towards the Americans very fast. What do I roll up? A panzerschreck team! I really don't feel like learning the panzerschreck rules, so I let them just fire their carbines. If things get hot, then I will unload with the 'schrek, otherwise I will just treat the situation like they are low on ammo with it.

    What is making this game long is that all moves are basically Short, because the whole board is woods, save for a small strip of green (the fire break) and the creek (which is 2 actions to get a Short move). Because movement is so slow, this leads to more reinforcement rolls, which increases the risk that this scenario will get out of hand if too many of the enemy show up.
    No sooner does the situation calm down than two more Germans appear, one looking like he has a fancy Bazooka on his back. They start firing and pin Ramirez down, while the rest of us try to get up and over the creek. Isn't long before we start hearing more rustling through the woods and half a squad of Germans show up, blazing away at us. Things get tangled up real quick.
    That's right. Another German reinforcement. This time a half squad (four riflemen and a Corporal). They quickly advance and start dominating the creek crossing.
    Next thing I know I'm hearing the chatter of the BAR. Finally! Let's lay down some fire and get this done. After a while the BAR stops firing and all I hear is the Sergeant's Thompson firing sporadically. First on my right and then later on my left.

    I finally get up some courage as I don't see anyone anymore and head across the creek. Sure enough, there is old Lieutenant Myers stuffed into the trunk. He damn near blew my head off with his .45 when I popped over the top. But, boy was he glad to see me. "I've been listening to them moving around me all morning" he said. "Let's get the hell outta' here."

    I pull him out and damned if the Krauts don't get a little feisty. Two of them run up on me and Jones, and the Kraut feints right, Jones slips on the muddy creek bank, and gets a bayonet through the heart. I just start blazing away as all these Krauts start popping up from behind trees everywhere. I yell to the Lieutenant to haul ass and then I do.

    I must have hauled ass a little too fast, or the Lieutenant was slower than I thought. I hear his .45 kicking out some shots and everyone retreats. I'm passing bodies everywhere, our guys and the Jerries. Man, this is a bloodbath.

    Eventually I see the Sergeant with the Lieutenant picking up the rear and we head back to our lines. We hear a German dogging us for a little while, but he doesn't keep up.

    After all that, being the only guy to make it across the creek and back alive, pulling the Lieutenant out of the tree, and what do I get? Nothing. I overheard the Sergeant say he was going to put me in for a medal and all, but nothing comes. Hell, even Lieutenant Myers gives me a dirty look every so often, and I saved his ass! Gratitude, that is.
    The soldier responsible for saving the Lieutenant did not get a Medal of Valor as he failed his roll, per the NUTS! table. Maybe him leaving the Lieutenant behind and running from a failed morale check had something to do with it...
    Scenario Aftermath

    Don's squad was pretty ripped up. I think there were two that were obviously dead on the field (tripled roll in combat), and only three that made it off of the field unwounded (one replacement, one veteran private, and the Sergeant); all of the others were taken out of the fight (doubled in combat). I rolled for them per the NUTS! rules, but made a slight miscalculation in the odds. In the end, four of the seven taken out of the fight died or were captured by the Germans; the remainder made it back wounded, but will not recover for several missions.

    I probably need to go back and have Don re-roll the casualties as I only gave average guys 50% chance to succeed on each die, rather than a 67% chance. That will likely translate into less deaths.

    As it stands now, Don's squad gets two replacements, making his squad five men until his wounded return or more replacements arrive. The good news is that one of the two replacements is a serious veteran (Quality 2+, of all things) and will probably kick some serious butt.


    Don had an interesting comment about the game: it didn't start getting interesting until he started losing guys and he had fewer figures to work with. I think I made a mistake by not treating this squad as two separate elements in the game. As the squad has two NCOs, the Sergeant should count as the Leader an the Corporal should count as an NCO, with one change to the NCO rule: he gets to run a group just like a Leader, only with Short range and with no +1 to the Quality. This allows you to have to fire teams, or a fire group and a manever group. I think it would play much better.

    Second, I still see the group moves as being a problem. There should be an option where the Leader/NCO moves and acts with the group, not separate. This whole "roll to activate, give an order, now they activate, now go back to your orders" thing doesn't feel right. I think a Leader/NCO should have the option to declare that he is acting as part of the group, and thus the group activates (as always) at the lowest Quality.

    For example, a Leader (Q3+) declares that he will act as part of a group of five privates (four at Q4+ and one at Q5+). As the lowest Quality in the group is the one private with Q5+, that is the Quality that will be used. However, because that private is affected by the Leader, his activation roll is raised to 4+. The group rolls a 1, 4, and a 5. Everyone gets two actions.

    Another example is a Leader (Q3+) declaring that he will act as part of a group of three veteran privates (Q3+). As all of their Quality is 3+, that is the base roll. As the privates are affected by the leadership bonus they would normally be +1. However, the Leader himself does not get the bonus, making him the worst (effective) quality, thus the activation roll is 3+. The roll is 1, 4, and 5. Everyone gets two actions.

    Note, that the rules state that everyone has to be within a Short to be counted as a group, so the Leader would also have to be within a Short, not a long, in order to declare himself as acting as part of the group.

    One of the things we see is when the Leader turns over, but still has one action, they often use that single action to give an order. Don and I both think this does not feel right so I posted the question to the Song of Blades forum to see what the official ruling is.

    Finally, I tried one change to the rules as the way it currently is bothers me. Basically, if you beat an opponent and the die is even one result occurs, but if it is odd a different result occurs. (I can never remember which result gets evens either.) One result (Gone to Ground) is relatively benign, possibly even advantageous to the target, while the other, Shaken, is rather bad. What I did was make all beaten results (but not doubled or tripled) Shaken. That is probably one of the things that made the combat so bloody.

    Rich Jones, the author of Flying Lead, has come out with a new set of rules called Bushi No Yume, which he says are based on Flying Lead. As with the whole series of rules, they seem to consist of refinements over the previous set of rules. BnY makes the beaten result Gone to Ground, unless the die roll was a '6', in which case it is (equivalent to) Shaken. Interestingly, the doubled result is now (equivalent to) Shaken, with a Wound Check at the start of that players turn to determine the nature of the wound, unless the die was a '6' in which case he is dead. I don't like the change to the doubling result, but the beaten result is interesting. Gone to Ground is a better, less deadly version of suppression, but the deadlier result of Shaken is easy to remember: the firer had to roll a natural '6'. I'll probably start trying that.

    I still need to figure out how to play on-board mortars (60-80mm) in Flying Lead.

    As for game observations, I noticed three things:

    • You really need to keep your guys together so the Leader can keep everyone in command range and moving.
    • No one has still tried overwatch. I wanted to try it several times, but each time I either ended up with one action or turned over. Don does not think it is worth it (two actions to take one action in your opponent's turn).
    • Running in front of a machine gun may not instantly kill everyone in the first shot, but it makes a mess of the group (Gone to Ground and Shaken results create gaps), which eventually gets them killed as it takes them so many actions to get moving again.

    So, I think Don liked this game better than the first Song of Drums and Shakos game in which his Highlanders got their butts kicked. I think the more we play these, the more the simplicity comes out. Also, Don learned about Concentrated Fire, both as a firer and a target, so I think all of these game will get better with us becoming more familiar with the core rules and options.

    Tuesday, December 07, 2010

    Battle Mart 1/50 Scale Resin Models

    While I was at MAG-Con II I was able to take a look at the 28mm and 1/50th scale models (primarily Precision Model Design, but also Corgi) that Battle Mart has available for WW II gaming. The models look really good, and I could tell that some of it was in use in the NUTS! and Flying Lead games that I had played. (The Kubelwagen in th NUTS! scenario, for example, was Corgi.)

    In addition to new models, vehicle accessories, and terrain they also had some PMD painted models as a part of their "scratch and dent" sale. Now, I did find one scratch on one of the three vehicles I bought, but I think this was his way of getting the models out there and in use at games.

    Normally these models sell for about $30 unpainted (although Battle Mart is having a 20% off sale at the moment), but I was able to obtain each painted model for $20, so I felt like I was getting a pretty good deal. Here are some pictures:

    They are basic paint jobs, but effective nonetheless. I may do some detailing here and there, but probably not much. (Too much unpainted stuff to paint without having to worry about the painted stuff!)

    Jay encourages you to email him at if you want something and he does not have it (keeping in mind that his forte is 28mm WW II gaming).

    Now, for Christmas I need a Sherman, an M3 Halftrack, and a Sdkfz 251/1 Halftrack - at a minimum - to play some of the NUTS! scenarios I bought at MAG-Con II.

    Flying Lead Game at MAG-Con II

    We had a fun little game of Flying Lead at MAG-Con II where we were trying to learn the vehicle rules while also refereeing kids who had never played the game. Sounded like a recipe for disaster, but instead it made for some hilarity.

    The Scenario

    This was a variation on Willy's NUTS! scenario (see last blog entry) where an important RAF pilot was shot down and behind enemy lines. The difference, however, is that he was not in German hands and had sent out a radio message saying he was holed up in the ruins of a small village. Unfortunately the message went out unencoded and the Germans heard it to. The race was on to capture the pilot!

    This time, though, the pilot was played by a third-party.

    The German Forces

    As we were playing with vehicles we scrounged through Hill's bag of goodies and found a truck and a halftrack (251/1, I believe). The forces were as follows:

    • Heavy Halftrack (Armored +1, Off-Road, Personnel Carrier 9, Tracked, Vehicle) with driver (Q4+, C2), drum-fed LMG (Long range, C+3, Auto Fire), and Gunner (Q4+, C2)
      • Private (Q4+, C2) with KAR98 rifle (Long range, C+2) and Grenades (C+3)
      • Sergeant (Q3+, C3, NCO) with MP40 SMG (Medium range, C+1, Auto Fire, Move and Shoot) and Grenades (C+3)
    • Medium Truck (Vehicle, Wheeled, Personnel Carrier 12) with driver (see above)
      • Private x 3 (see above)
      • LMG team (Q4+, C2) with MG34 (Long range, C+3, Auto Fire, Stable, Crewed)
      • Officer (Q3+, C3, Leader) with MP40 (see above) and Grenades (see above)
    The Allied Forces

    Again, a British Paratroop Officer (but not a Leader) was sent as a liaison and was able to get a US reconnaissance squad.

    • Jeep (Vehicle, Wheeled, Off-Road, Personnel Carrier 3) with driver (Q4+, C2) and M1 Carbine (Medium range, C+2, Move and Shoot), gunner (Q4+, C2) and .50 caliber MG (Long range, C+3, Auto Fire, Stable, Armor Piercing, Lethal against soft targets)
      • British Paratroop Officer (Q3+, C3) with Thompson SMG (Medium range, C+2, Auto Fire, Move and Shoot) and Grenades (C+3)
    • Jeep (see above) with driver (see above) and M1 carbine (see above)
      • Sergeant (Q3+, C3, NCO) with M3 SMG (Medium range, C+1, Auto Fire, Move and Shoot) and Grenades (see above)
      • Private (Q4+, C2) with M1 Garand (Long range, C+2, Move and Shoot) and Grenades (see above)
      • Private (see above) with BAR (Long range, C+2, Auto Fire) - no Grenades
    • Jeep (see above) with driver (see above) and M1 Carbine (see above)
      • Officer (Q3+, C3, Leader), with M3 SMG (see above) and Grenades (see above)
      • Private x 2 (see above) with M1 Garand (see above) and Grenades (see above)
    The Pilot
    One of the RAF's aces, and the son of a Lord to boot, it is important that each side recover him for their own propaganda purposes.

    Pilot (Q3+, C2, Born Driver) with no weapons.

    The Game

    Both sides started off of the board, with the pilot hidden in a building. Neither the German nor the Allied player knows the exact location of the pilot.
    The Germans won the toss and chose to let the Allies enter the board first. Given that it is easy in Flying Lead to turn over without doing much of anything, the action describes events, not turn-by-turn actions.

    The figure below shows the village ruins with light woods surrounding it and a pair of giant hands to the south.

    The Germans send the halftrack forward to scout out the town before the truck comes on. They see nothing anywhere, but can hear fast-moving vehicles to the northwest.

    The American jeeps come screaming onto the board and swing around the right flank. They can barely hear the clank of the German halftrack over the roar of their engines. They are apparently to the southeast of their position.

    The Germans dismount their scout to check out the building. No one on the first floor...

    The Pilot desperately jumps out of the top floor window into the street (he must also have the Acrobat attribute) and starts to run towards the Allied jeeps, waving to catch their attention.

    One of the jeeps notices the waving pilot and grinds to a stop. "Cover fire!" yells the Sergeant.

    Everyone jumps out and starts firing wildly at the gunner on the halftrack. Miraculously, no one (including the BAR gunner) hits the pilot who is in the line of fire! "Spread out you screwballs" screams the Sergeant, "before ..."

    Too late! A ripping sound tears through the air as the MG34 opens fire on the group. The BAR gunner goes down, but is not out. "Run for cover!" the Sergeant yells, but all of the troops hesitate, unsure of what to do. They feebly return fire.

    The air rips again and the Sergeant and a private go down from the fire from the halftrack's MG and the German Sergeant's MP40!

    "Bloody hell!" the pilot yells. "Get that jeep started soldier" the pilot yells to the driver. Unfortunately, the driver was scared out of his wits, so he started the jeep and took off! "Wait for me you idiot!"
    At this point everything had been played straight. This was not some hokey morale check that the figure failed, but more of a failed Player morale check. He ordered his man to drive off before the pilot had reached the vehicle!

    The pilot and the BAR gunner run after the jeep with the pilot barely jumping on-board, but the gunner, weighed down by all the ammo, could not catch up.
    The BAR gunner only got two actions, which was not enough to reach the vehicle, but the pilot got three, and passed his Quality check to leap on-board without a problem.

    The trees were getting just a little too close and one of the jeeps hit a patch of mud, causing to to skid out of control into a tree! The jeep was immobilized, but no one was hurt. They all quickly dismounted and headed west.
    If a player turns over initiative and there are still some vehicles that moved last turn that did not get a chance to activate, they automatically move one action straight forward. In this case, the player had left his vehicle moving while still pointing at a tree, so when the mandatory movement occurred, it went into the tree. This caused hoots of laughter, especially as we discovered that the method for determining what happened was to have the jeep "combat" the tree. Tree 1, jeep 0.

    Hey, you cannot script this stuff. This is what happens when you put vehicles into the hands of kids.
    Here is the view right at the point of the critical turnover. The Paratroop Officer is in the lead jeep with the .50 cal, the pilot is barely hanging on in the second jeep, the BAR gunner is quickly being left behind, and the men from the crashed jeep (seen with steam rising from the radiator) are heading west.

    The BAR gunner hears a sickening clanking sound coming up quickly behind him. He turns and looks...

    This was called "let's test the overrun rules". Again, howls of laughter from everyone as the resolution was to conduct "combat" between a halftrack and a human. The rules should stipulate that said death was definitely a "gory death". 

    The Germans have one more chance to bring home a victory. This last shot, and the subsequent activation of the pilot's jeep, determine whether the pilot gets away or not. And the roll is ... '1' for the Germans and a '6' for the Allies! The Germans just didn't have any accuracy at the higher speeds. (That and a speed bump threw off their aim.)


    Needless to say, everyone had a good time, including the spectators. It is interesting what the random minds of kids can conjure up! Definitely a great set of convention rules as it was easy to teach and grasp.

    NUTS! Battle Report

    The first game I played at the MAG-Con II convention was NUTS!, which was also the first time I played that particular THW game (although I have played half a dozen other THW titles in about a dozen different games).

    The scenario was a rescue mission, whereby a British pilot had been captured and was being held somewhere in the ruins of a city by the Germans, and a British paratrooper and a U.S. Reconnaissance squad (in jeeps) received intelligence as to the general area where he was being held. (Apparently they intercepted and decoded a transmission as they knew the Gestapo was coming for him, but apparently didn't get the street address despite the Gestapo knowing exactly which building to go to... Damn those incomplete intercepts!)

    Here is the layout of the city from the Southern end:

    The American came from the southwest (the left side of the picture, on the lower road) and the Gestapo eventually came on the northeast (the right side of the picture, on the upper road). Here were the locations of my teams:

    The MMG team (gunner and loader, both REP 4) were on the second story of a ruined building and their mission was to be able to pin down troops in the center, near the statue, fuel dump, and any "right hook" against the building where the pilot was being held.

    The Sergeant (REP 5) was holed up with two riflemen (REP 4), and their mission was to block a US "left hook" against the building where the pilot was being holed up.

    Finally, the pilot was being guarded by a German officer (REP 5) and two riflemen (REP 4) in the building by the northeast road. The transport, when it arrived, would simply be able to enter the road, turn left to the rear of the building, pick up the prisoner, then reverse out of the alley back onto the road, and escape. Given that there were no restrictions on where the prisoner was placed, and the US did not know which building he was in, I was pretty sure I had this scenario in the bag.

    The US swept in on their jeeps and dismounted immediately into three groups (A, B, and C on the map).

    Team A (BAR gunner REP 4, British Paratrooper REP 6 (I think), Rifleman REP 4, and driver with carbine REP 4) moved to the first building and dismounted (except for the driver), out of sight from all of the Germans.

    Team B (Sergeant REP 5, two Rifleman REP 4, and driver with carbine REP 4) drove to the point on the map before the MMG opened up on them, forcing everyone to dismount. The only result of the fire was that the MMG ran out of ammo and one of the riflemen went berserk (passed on two 6s), so he would not need to take morale checks anymore. This wasn't looking good for the Germans.

    Team C (Officer REP 5, one riflemen REP 4 manning the .50 caliber MG on the jeep, and driver with carbine REP 4) went around Team B and moved into a position where they could plaster the building where the MMG was located. Their fire caused the MMG team to hunker down. With their morale broken, they were no longer going to be effective until someone came and rallied them. This was now looking bad for the Germans and it was only the first turn!

    The prisoner transport coming on relied upon both sides rolling the same number on the activation die at the start of a turn. This normally indicates that neither side acts, as there is a lull in the action. This is basically 6 in 36 chances or about 16% chance per turn.

    On turn two and three the Americans attacked up the right flank (south side) to capture the MMG team. The BAR gunner and the Paratrooper charged up a debris mound to get to the second floor while the rifleman swept fearlessly around the rear of the building in case the Germans popped out there.

    Given the poor morale state of the MMG team, they surrendered as soon as the American appeared in the window. As the thrust of the American attack was solely on the south side (isn't full knowledge of the enemy OOB a great thing!) the German Sergeant and his team shifted left, running in the alley behind the building where the prisoner was kept, in an attempt to block on attack from that side.

    Meanwhile, the jeep with the .50 advanced forward and the two rifleman in prisoner's building opened up, trying to shoot the driver. Both missed and received a burst for their troubles, resulting in Schmidt going down, obviously dead. The officer, being a veteran, decided that staying out of line of sight from the .50 was a good idea.

    Finally! A lull in the fighting meant everyone could hear the approach of the Kubelwagen sent to retrieve the prisoner. The mission was coming to a close.

    The jeep with the .50 cal needed to be stopped, so it would not interfere with the escape of the Kublewagen, so the German Sergeant sent a rifleman out to the left of the barrels to draw fire. Hopefully the cover would ... oh well, another soldier out of the fight. But, on the bright side both the rifleman on Team B who fired and the .50 cal ran out of ammo!

    The second German rifleman came around the corner and fired, causing the American riflemen to duck back. The Sergeant went right and sprayed the jeep with his SMG and put one through the driver's head (obviously dead) and forced the gunner to duck back into cover, leaving the machine gun unmanned.

    The Officer ordered the remaining rifleman to the northeast street to provide cover, should a jeep pop around suddenly, while he took the prisoner to the back of the building. On comes the Kubelwagen...

    The Americans have one more chance, but when they roll to activate, it is the Germans who get to go first. With a roar the Germans take off with the prisoner.


    The Germans had two OD, one OOF, and two captured, while the US had only one OD. So although the Germans won, it was a victory that came at a high cost.

    So how did I like the rules? I bought the game! :) Granted, I mainly bought them for the campaign information, but I can see using the rules for solo games when I feel like letting the reaction system take over.

    All in all an enjoyable game and one that was very visually appealing. I wish I could do it more.

    MAG-Con II

    I just returned from MAG-Con II in North Houston, TX and I have to say I had fun. All in all I was able to:

    • Play a game of NUTS!.
    • Demonstrate a game of Song of Drums and Shakos using my 42mm Napoleonic wooden soldiers. (Blog on preparing for the convention and the battle report.)
    • Play a game of Sharp Practice.
    • Demonstrate a game of Flying Lead using WW II figures.
    • Coach a new player in a game of Memoir 44. I think I irritated the opponent of the person I was coaching, but oh well. He really did not know the rules that well, so they both really needed coaching.
    I like conventions because you can try out new rules that you are interested in, but are not sure if you want to commit the time and money into a new set of rules or period. As I have played Chain Reaction and a number of other Two Hour Wargames rules, I was fairly sure what NUTS! would be like, but I never bothered to pick up the rules. I mean, once you have Chain Reaction, which Ed gave away for free, you have pretty much all of the modern weapons so why would you need NUTS!?

    Well, it turns out that the reason is the same for any period-specific set of THW rules: you buy them for the campaign system and the stats on some of the lesser used weapons, like tanks. Like all THW products it suffers from editing, but is usable once you ask the right clarifying questions on the Yahoo forum.

    I really like the scenario books so far, but given the obvious editing errors I see just reading it, I won't know if they contain any key missing items until I try to play them. Then I'll go to the forum and look to see if the question has been asked and answered first, then start marking up my copy.

    I'll try a post a battle report of the NUTS! game, but I don't have many usable photos and the scenario went pretty quick. But the board was absolutely a knock-out, as were the figures.

    I have had the rules Sharp Practice for a while, and even bought the two AWI scenario books, but could never get through the rules. The game I played really helped me understand the basics and give me a foundation for re-reading the rules. I've already started asking questions on the TFL forum so I can better understand the finer points.

    I am not sure I will post a battle report of the Sharp Practice game as I have no photos of it. Getting my head handed to me has absolutely nothing to do with it...

    The game of Flying Lead was a hoot, especially as it involved fast moving vehicles with machine guns, run by hyperactive kids, and supervised by adults who said "sure, I'll let you make that move". I have some good photos of that game and it would make a great battle report. It is not often you see jeeps crashing into trees and halftracks running over soldiers, after all.

    There were no pictures of the Memoir 44 game (that I have), but I do have these others. First up is a board Hill built. My understanding is that he took the rules, resolution charts, etc. from a Lock & Load board game and converted it to 1/285th scale miniatures. It was a great looking board, and had four to five players.

    Next is a board used for the Frontline Command WW II rules from Frontline Games and sold at Battlemart. Those are 28mm scale, resin buildings, all with removable tops folks (which are also sold on the Battlemart site) for the Battle for the Tractor Factory at Stalingrad. I didn't get to play in that one either. (My suitcase was heavy enough with Battlemart goodies. More on that later.)

    Here is Willy's table for 6mm Napoleonic gaming. We played the Sharp Practice game on a board similar to this. As you can see, he has nice buildings, fences, hedges, roads, haystacks, and woods. The larger trees in the rear are from Dollar Tree and I think he said $1 for two trees. Will have to go hunt for some.

    Finally, something I have looked at the box of and wondered if I should buy, but never did because of a review, these are the two Wings of War vinyl mats you can get. They look very nice and the cards mesh well on them. The surface is a little slick, as the review said, but less so than the table tops or blankets we generally play on. Maybe the next time Pyramid Comics and Games has a 50% off sale I will pick these up.

    Well, that is it "from the convention floor" (and several days later). I hope the next MAG-Con gets as good or a better turn-out. We need to turn this economy around so that the vendors will feel there is more of a reason to come next time, as I got the impression that sales were down and lower than expected.

    As a final note, my condolences to Justo, as I understand that a family member of his passed and he had to miss the very convention he spent so much time organizing and promoting.

    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.


    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:

    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
    D4, Green
    E5, Reluctant, Green

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


    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:

    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
    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 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.

    *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.

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    About Me

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    Huachuca City, Arizona, United States
    I am 58 yrs old now. I bought a house in Huachuca City, AZ working for a software company for the last three years. 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").