Thursday, April 28, 2016

Sharp Practice 2 - first impressions

With Salute out of the way, those nice people at Lard Island have sent through my pre-ordered copy of the second edition of Sharp Practice.

Now as I've mentioned here before I've had problems with the first edition.  For one thing I found some of the unnecessarily ambiguous phrasing of the rules frustrating.  Another problem was that some of the rules were just plain annoying.  How many times did we roll for movement or firing and pick up the dice without remembering to count the number of ones and sixes to determine if random events occurred? My main issue, though, was with the disruptive effect of the game's inherent randomness on a finely crafted scenario.

It's fair to say I've remained interested in what the Lardies' games can offer despite, rather than because of, Sharp Practice 1.

I pre-ordered the basic package of SP2. This gets me the hard copy rules, a pdf version, and a pack of the cards that drive the game.

So far my impression is overwhelmingly that the rules show their line of descent  from the far more recent Chain of Command.

The starting forces that you need are, it seems, a little more structured (like the base platoon in a CoC game) and a little smaller.  The latter is A Good Thing; the size of forces in edition one's The Complete Fondler supplement were rather off-putting.

CoC features show in the use of deployment markers that are no unlike Jump Off Points, and in the use of variable numbers of Turns (CoC phases) in a Chapter (CoC turn).

Overall I'd say the first impressions are: nice production, improved layout, and the impression that this is more of a structured game and less of a slightly rambling kit of parts.  More when I get the rules read properly.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

RAGE in Leeds

I met up with Jamie in Leeds today for the latest Royal Armouries Gaming Event.  This one was focussed on the Hundred Years War.  It's not a period I've ever gamed before but Jamie's keen to recruit a couple of HYW Lion Rampant retinues.

Note, if you will, that he has finished his neither 10mm American Revolution armies nor his 28mm Ronin forces - he's a proper wargamer is Jamie.

The event takes place in a separate room on the fourth floor of the Armouries.  I had expected to find games spread throughout the galleries buy I suspect that on the whole this probably worked better as the concentration of games and gamers gave the room a nice buzz.

The first game that caught my eye was a small game (compared with their enormous Agincourt diorama two floors down) by the Perry brothers.  I took several, rather boring pictures of bits of the terrain I'll probably steal, but here are a few more dramatic ones.

I love the fortified manor house and the figures are gorgeous.  I shall be adding these pics to my file of terrain-making inspiration.

What do you think, though, of the dirt roads?  I have heard it suggested that the green strip down the centre of the road is an artefact of the age of the internal combustion engine and that medieval on roads it would have been trodden to mud by draft horses.  I'm thinking up replacing or improving my existing dirt roads.  Anyone know if I should flock the road centre lines or not?

Next up, is the Peterborough Wargames Society's 54mm game.

This was built by Mike Whittaker of Meeples and Miniatures fame and used the old Donald Featherstone Skirmish Wargames rules.  In true Featherstonian fashion, the bombard is built from cotton reels and balsa wood.

Speaking of Meeples, it was nice to meet and speak to Neil Shuck and Dave Luff, whose enthusiasm on the podcast has lured me into the world of Chain of Command.  I'm going to have to start working out the platoon organisations of the Andreivian Army in the 1920s in CoC format.

Probably the biggest game at the event (though I didn't see much action on the table) was this version of Agincourt by the Lance and Longbow society.  We met up with Will McNally from L&L who reported that he ran this game using Hail Caesar at Salute but I believe Impetus was, at least theoretically, in use this weekend.

Finally, the very friendly guys at the Harrogate club put on a game of Lion Rampant that I was very pleased to join in with.

Based on a doubling up of the Defending the Indefensible scenario in the Lion Rampant rule book, this scenario had a French sally threatening an English siege tower and bombard at Harfleur in 1415.

Playing two Lion Rampant retinues side by side worked very well as did using multi based figures and casualty count markers.  In the end we English triumphed by millimetres.  Literally; a French unit was 30mm away from capturing my bombard when action elsewhere caused a crucial fourth French unit to rout.
Our afternoon at RAGE (and lunch at Pizza Express over the way) was most enjoyable.  I shall certainly go again if they do another.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Speed Painted Fallschirmjäger

I've finished the early war German paras I showed just underway in the previous post.  They were stain painted over a white undercoat and then shaded with a Vallejo brown wash.

The chap on the right on a square base is one of the old batch I painted in the 1990s and to which I wanted to match these guys.  I think they work together OK.

Seen in the background are a couple of hedge/fence sections I've knocked up from bits I had lying around.

I now have four feet of 20mm fence.  I might need to start on some bocage soon, though.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

On the Workbench - April

Inspired the return to WW2 by trying out Chain of Command, I've found myself pulling out of storage some part-completed figures that have been unloved for years.

First up is a platoon of Hinchliffe (yes Hinchliffe, that old!) German MG34 tripod MGs.  I suspect I picked these up cheap at a bring and buy somewhere.  I don't usually use white undercoating for WW2 figures but these were already undercoated so I shall try a stain and wash technique with them.

Next we have some Ravensthorpe Fallschirmjaeger.  I have a full battalion of these guys for Rapid Fire.  They date back to a time before I realised that playing Rapid Fire in 20mm and TacWW2 in 6mm for battles of the same size was a dumb idea.  Together with the RF battalion, these guys will enable me to field an early war Jaeger platoon for a project I've had in mind for decades (of which more later).  White undercoat to match the earlier models.

Also in the pic below is an FAA German NCO who somehow escaped being rebased onto a penny when I switched from card squares.  He's now going onto a 2p piece as recommended for CoC.

On the left below are a couple ofGermans who had broken off at the ankles.  I've superglued them together and build up around the joins with Green Stuff.  I've then sculpted the Green Stuff to look something like tall grass.  I'll probably add grass tufts to the bases to try and hide the repair work.

And on the right are an FAA French command unit and some mortar crew.  Here we're back to my preferred black undercoat except for the officer's kepi which has a white undercoat so the red and blue will really pop out.

Hopefully having posted progress pics here will keep me focussed on sorting these guys out.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

CoC - The Probe, part five

It was now clear that the battle would be won by manoeuvre.  The Germans were ahead in force morale terms and had two Chain of Command dice they could potentially use to avoid Force Morale tests.  On the other hand the right flank German squad was very weak and at least one German jumping off point was in danger of capture.

The British commander decided to launch forward his left flank and centre sections. One would bypass the German right whilst the other would finish off the weakened German section (to which was attached the German platoon commander).  

In fact the Germans fell back before the British advance, the right hand section falling back into reserve behind the dug in central section. Of the two British squads pursuing, the left-most, with the platoon commander, moved forward and left parallel with the Kartenspielerweg.  The other moved towards the crossroads and an inevitable confrontation with the dug in Germans there.   

Needing to cover the table with just two sections, the German commander now split his dug-in section.  The MG team moved right to try and prevent the British crossing side-lane.  However the British, at this point, scored three consecutive activations and even spending a Chain of Commend die to interrupt the British move wasn't able to prevent the British CO getting his men into the triangle of ground in the far left corner of the table.

At this point, disaster very nearly struck for the British.  Their central section, launched forward to overrun the isolated German LMG team at the cross-roads, threw an agonisingly small number on their movement dice.  

The Germans then got two consecutive phases and the rifle team from the formerly-dug-in section hit them from the rear and wiped them out to a man.  It helped considerably that this German squad was mostly equipped with SMGs.  The loss of this whole section took the British down to Force Morale four and reduced them to rolling four command dice.

The four dice were enough, however, to allow the bloody remnants of the British section to exit the table running down the Kartenspielerweg for the narrowest of victories.

Talk on the Lardies Forum is of how games played within the context of campaigns using the At The Sharp End supplement are less likely to end in bloody fights to the last man.  I suspect this was the kind of bloody fight to the last man they had in mind.  the British had lost 26 men and the Germans 17.  The German Force Morale was 6 and the British 4.

I now feel that I have a reasonable feel for the rules and will offer them shortly at a Saturday afternoon session.

COC - The Probe, part four

So I managed to get in a few more phases of turn two last night before heading out to the folk club at the Royal.  The developments were quite significant.

When we left the game the British were beginning to move forward to attack the German right.  This developed into a three section attack when the British commander used a Chain of Command die to move one of his Jump Off Points over to that flank and threw his last section into action.

The German had in the meantime deployed his third section (in entrenchments) centrally to block any advance along the Kartenspielerweg.

The British now had three squads attacking one on the (British) left.  Unfortunately I misjudged the situation.  Rather than wait to inflict more kills and shock on the isolated German unit and give the flanking British section time to get behind the German flank, I launched a hasty charge and had a British section wiped out to a man in the resulting close combat!  Did weaken that German section though.

This leaves us with the following position:

Three British sections face off against three German.  All three senior leaders are now deployed.  The British platoon sergeant is with the weakened squad on the right.  He also has the one remaining man from the platoon's 2" mortar team.  The British platoon commander is on the left facing the German squad that's currently playing host to his opposite number.

The only undeployed units are British.  The PIAT team may end up on the right just to add some extra bodies to resist any German counterattack, whilst the sniper will struggle to add much given the limited visibility.

Speaking of the sniper.  I started construction of him on Saturday at teatime and finished him Sunday morning so don't judge too harshly:

Body of an Airfix paratrooper, rifle and helmet from Esci British infantry.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

COC - The Probe, part three

The first turn begins with the Germans rolling their five command dice:

The 6 we can ignore, it just tells us that the Brits will get the next phase.  With two ones the Germans could put two independent teams onto the table but they only have one - the Panzerschreck team.  They elect to leave it for now.  The two allows them to deploy a squad - they bring one on on their left flank.  The three would let them bring on another squad by means of activating its squad leader but they decide not to at this stage.

The British then roll:

The two fives immediately start them building pips on their first Chain of Command dice.  When this reaches six pips it'll be a valuable resource.  The two fours are ignored for now as the British player doesn't want to commit his platoon commander and platoon sergeant too soon.  The two is used to deploy a squad at the right flank jumping off point.

Play than swings back and forth for several phases with new units coming on and existing ones moving and firing. The two squads/sections on the right hand side of the table exchange shots at the limit of visibility through the trees (12").  Suddenly the British are taking casualties and picking up shock points.

The British platoon sergeant is suddenly right where he is needed.  He rallies two points of shock from the Bren gun team of the right flank section and has the whole section fire at the enemy squad inflicting two kills and two points of shock.

This is not enough to dampen the spirits of the enemy though.  Their left flank squad puts down fierce fire and wipes out the British section's Bren team!  British force morale falls from 9 to 8.

Knowing then that action is required, the British commander sends forward his 2" mortar team to support the right hand section whilst commencing a left hook attack with two of his four sections.  The 2" mortar fires smoke (off target) and the rifle team and section leader (all that's left of the right hand section) withdraw behind their jump off point.  Another section will be needed to drive forward on this flank.

But what's this?  The Germans roll four sixes!  The Turn ends, the Germans go first the next turn and there's a random event.  The Germans move their left flank squad into an better position, the 2" mortar smoke disperses, and it starts to rain, reducing maximum visibility to 18".  The last fact is pretty much irrelevant as the maximum visibility within the woods is only 12".

At the end of turn one the British have a badly mauled section on their right and two sections advancing through the woods in the centre of the table.  They are heading towards a single German section that's as yet untested.  Force morale stands 10:8 in favour of the Germans.

COC - The Probe, part two

The game begins with the  Patrol Phase.  This establishes the position and extent of No Man's Land between the two platoons.

Actually at this point I should declare who the two sides are in this game. The defenders are a platoon or German infantry - Regulars, nothing special but with enough entrenched positions for three teams.  

The attackers, meanwhile, are a British (dismounted) Motor Platoon.  I'm designating them as No1 platoon, 2nd King's Royal Rifle Corps.  They are reinforced by an additional section from No2 platoon, a medical orderly and, if I can get one pointed in time, a sniper team.

Anyway, back to the Patrol Phase.  The Germans start with four patrol markers spread across the table near their baseline.

I elected to take three patrol markers for the British.  They start stacked on the British baseline.  I thought the British would want to have the best possible chance of deploying across the Kartenspielerweg, which runs from bottom right to top left of the table. Having to cross it with Germans deployed to enfilade it would be unpleasant (though there are some undulations of the ground that break up line of sight).

After the Patrol Phase the German markers were spread across the middle of the board whilst the British ones were concentrated on the right. A German outflanking was possible but any Germans starting on the extreme right would be perhaps a little distant from the action.

The resulting Jump Off Points (these go on table a little behind the Patrol Markers and must be in cover) end up as shown below (German in red, British in yellow). Note that one of the JOPs is on the "correct" side of the Kartenspielerweg, albeit right next to an area of open ground.

More to come when I've actually started deploying troops!

COC - The Probe, part one

In which The Land of Counterpane returns to its cultural roots.

The Land of Counterpane takes its name from Robert Louis Stevenson's poem about playing with toy soldiers, buildings and ships when confined to bed with a childhood illness.  With the twins away at uni I have access to a couple of rooms that will remain undisturbed for a while.  Charlie's bed (overlaid with 2' square boards and a GW battlemat) has now become a battlefield.

I plan to play through, and document here, a full, solo game of Chain of Command.  This should get me sufficiently familiar with the rules to offer them as an option for a Saturday Afternoon Wargame.

My scenario is based on the fighting in the Reichswald, during Operation Veritable in early 1945.  I plan to use the standard scenario The Probe from the Chain of Command rule book.

The Reichswald (Imperial Forest) is an area of dense woodland right on the Dutch-German border.  My whole table is therefore wooded except a few areas of open ground and some long green lanes that cut straight through the forest.  I think of the long diagonal lane as the Kartenspielerweg, one of the main lanes still to be found on modern maps.

I'll try and blog regularly as I go through the game.  Hopefully this will be helpful to give you an idea of the rules in use. As usual the forces will be from my 20mm scale collection.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Crisis Point V - Sunday Report

On Sunday we played another three games; this time two Arc of Fire and one Force on Force.

Mark Kniveton and Ian Shaw continued their Force on Force game as Ian's NATO troops penetrated into the inner area of a medieval castle.

How fantastic is that?  It's a single acc-formed piece.  I understand Mark purchased it many years ago from Paul and Theresa Bailey of Keep Wargaming.

It was nice to see the blue bus in action again (below).  It was painted by Phil Gray and has appeared in past games that I've run and now resides in Mark Kniveton's collection.

While that went on Richard Phillips ran another game set in downtown Tchervbevan.  This was one Richard and I had discussed in the week running up to the event but I have to say that Richard took it far beyond what we'd covered.

I didn't know much about what was happening in this game at the time but Andy Canham's excellent account tells the story of a fantastic game that really tied up a lot of the remaining loose ends in the Andreivia story.

Finally, I ran Casevac, a scenario I'd prepared in advance in case it was needed.  This involved a NATO force that was tasked with taking a Mujaheddin-held village whilst dealing with the need to evacuate wounded soldiers after an IED explosion.

The NATO forces were Italian and commanded by Phil Gray.  This was a great opportunity to Use Richard P's Arietes and Centauros.

At one point the random events table gave the Mujaheddin air support - just enough to slow the Italian advance.  So out came the Hs-126.

Phil managed to call in the casevac helo quite early...

It soon became apparent that I'd given Jamie (who was playing the Mujaheddin) far to little in the way of anti-tank weapons with any decent range.  I provided him with reinforcement in the form of a T-55 but this was soon brewed up by the 105mm gun of the Centauro tank destroyer.

We wound up about 3pm with Phill clearly in command of the situation.

My thanks go to Ian, Andy, Richard and in particular Jamie for their tireless efforts in setting up and closing down Crisis Point V.

On Monday evening I attended a meeting of the Dungworth Village Hall committee and presented them with a cheque for £50 which represented the surplus after we'd paid for the hire of the venue.  My thanks to all who contributed to a terrific weekend.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Crisis Point V - Saturday Report

It's now Wednesday and I finally have time to report back on Crisis Point V at the weekend.  I have to say I'm incredibly pleased with how it went.

For those of you who haven't been paying attention, Crisis Point is the once-a-year wargames event first organised in 2012.  I wanted to bring trade to the village and I thought we could probably raise some money for charity along the way.  Mainly, though, I hoped that Crisis Point would create a community of gamers whose creativity and enthusiasm would be greater than the sum of its parts.  In all of these respects the event's been a real success.

This year there were some deliberate changes from previous years.  For the first time we aimed to play lots of short games.  We had a definite aim of finishing Saturday's games on Saturday and planning Sunday's games on Saturday evening.  We also had, for the first time, multiple different rules sets in use; three being the simultaneous maximum.

On Saturday morning there were three games.  I ran a game of Pulp Alley.  This used my dungeon terrain to represent the tunnels beneath Castle Myelikvis in Andreivia.

Developed from an idea by Rob Connolly, the scenario involved agents of MI6 (Benedict Sharrock) and Russian Military Intelligence (GRU, Phil Gray) trying to recover a vital piece of computer hardware from Andreivian Intelligence (Jamie Crawley).

Sadly there are hardly any photos as I was too busy running the game, which finished with the Andreivian agents still in possession of the vital "Slicer" hardware.

The Slicer was needed to decrypt reconnaissance images stored in a KH11 spy satellite recently misplaced by the American NSA.  The KH11 was the objective of an Arc of Fire game run by Richard Phillips on the adjacent, much larger, table.  I rather stuck Richard with the job of running this, umpiring Arc of Fire for the first time.  He did a sterling job as far as I could see.

Somewhere in the eastern hills of Andreivia Russian and NATO troops were converging on the area where the satellite was thought to have landed.  A group of Mujaheddin holding the nearby village knew exactly where the satellite had landed, if not exactly how valuable its contents were.  Finally, a unit of the Andreivian Army would arrive, somewhat delayed, to also contest possession of the prize.

Meanwhile, on the third table, Mark Kniveton put on a large game of Force on Force.  Sadly, I have very few pics of this but I'm very pleased with how thoroughly Mark got into the spirit of the Andreivian setting.

After the Pulp Alley game had finished I ran a second game, this time a small game of Arc of Fire.  This was based on a scene from the film Full Metal Jacket. It involved a suicidal attack (by Andreivian Armenians, not Viet Cong) on the gates of a military base (Dvimin Military Academy, not Da Nang).  This game was one I'd planned for some time but I had to rearrange the sides when the Andreivia Matrix Game saw the Italian NATO contingent take over the base a week or so before Crisis Point!

Armenian commandos storm the gate and take casualties from their own,
inaccurate mortar support!
This game was great fun.  The attacking Armenians were led into the camp by a BTR-40 APC heavily loaded with explosives.  Benedict, as the Armenian commander, knew the rules under which the explosive would go off but Phil, running the Italians, didn't.

Benedict took out the guards in the look out tower early in the game and some excellent dice rolling saw off the ready guard (Joker's lot in the film) in short order too.  That left the Turks relying on their reserves...

The reserve squad moves up.
In an unexpected twist, Phil managed to capture the BTR 40 and was driving it back towards the attackers when the required combination of cards caused it to explode...

So much for the games on Saturday.  Many thanks to all who participated and to those who brought much sustenance for the hungry gamers.  

That evening we repaired to the Royal Hotel and enjoyed Dave's excellent pies (and a little beer).  We also planned Sunday's games, of which more in the next post....