Sunday, May 6, 2018

Cold Wars 2018 - Saturday & Sunday

After a very busy day at the show on Friday, I had intentionally planned a more relaxed day for us on Saturday. Wes and Codie were only able to attend the show for one day, so it would just be Chris and myself from the club and my dad, who was driving down for the day.

After meeting up and getting my dad registered, we did a quick passthrough of the dealer area and the morning flea market session. The only real noteworthy bit was that Chris and I stopped by the booth of The Wargaming Company. I had seen the company and its uniformed penguin logo at previous shows, but had never really explored their offerings before. The company's man product is a Napoleonic rules set titled Es Sans R├ęsultat (or ESR, for short) and as I was really keen to start a large battle Napoleonic project, and the internet, surprisingly, did not have much to say about the current edition, I wanted to see what we could discover. On top of that, I had heard that they were no offering starter sets complete with 10mm figures, bases, and flags for the French, Austrian, and late-war Russian armies - a definite enticement to start a new project. Chris and I wound up spending about an hour with the proprietor and rules writer, David Esteness, who went over the basic concepts and ran through a game turn for us. In my experience with big battle Napoleonic games, anything more than a small subsection of a battle requires a huge table and/or the game bogs down to quickly because the player has too much to worry about at too many different levels of command - in a way, the game can have the player wearing the hats of the corps, division, and brigade commander simultaneously. Our initial impression of ESR was that it doesn't do this. It clearly places the player in the role of the commander of a small army or corps. He/she must provide orders for subordinate division (or sometimes independent brigade) commanders, but do not have to worry too much about how those orders are carried out - as David put it, "You hired people to do that for you." At this point, the composition of the formation and its level of fatigue help determine the results of comment. If things go bad, each formation has its own reformation area to which fleeing units retreat to hopefully be rallied for further fighting instead of immediately heading for the hills. We watched intently as David played out a few rounds of combat for us and were impressed enough by the mechanics that I was seriously considering buying the rules and some starter boxes.

We hung around the vendor area a bit longer, but then headed for our game at 11:00. My dad isn't much of a gamer, having only played a handful of participation games at the dozens of conventions we've been to together. One rules system that particularly stood out for him was the computer-driven Carnage & Glory (he likes not having to worry about a lot of tables and dice). He played an American Civil War game with it at a show years ago (I was probably off fighting some obscure Napoleonic battle) and liked it, so I figured we'd look for a game at the show. When I saw that noted GM (and author) David Bonk was running one of his American War of Independence games, in 40mm no less, I was sold!

The scenario had been advertised as the fighting at Chadds Ford during the battle of Brandywine, but upon arrival we were told we'd be refighting the 1777 Battle of Short Hills. Chris, my dad, and myself found ourselves on the British side, along with two other gamers. One requested the command of our Hessian brigade, Chris took Grant's brigade of British regulars, while we gave my dad the smallest command - the infantry and cavalry of the Queen's Rangers. The remaining brigade was a massive one, including a small group of dismounted light dragoons, two big battalions of light infantry, two of grenadiers, two of Foot Guards, and an artillery battery. I suggested splitting it with the other game - he took command of the combined flank companies, and I had the Guards, dragoons, and guns.

The battlefield consisted of two parallel ridges with some fenced fields in between and a dirt track running across the center. American skirmishers were deployed across the forward ridge and their main line of resistance was arrayed on the rearward one. We entered the table on the long table edge, but because of the limited space were unable to deploy our whole force until the American skirmishers were driven from the wooded rise.

The battlefield on our left

...and the right
We deployed the Hessian brigade (with their jaegers leading) on the left and the light infantry and grenadiers on the right to drive the American advance troops from the woods. The rebels hung on to their high ground longer than we anticipated, but eventually sheer numbers won out and we drove them back toward the main American line. Unfortunately, the pursuit of these retreating skirmishers was a slow one, as our light infantry commander was overly cautious when it came to moving out of the woods and across the fences and the Hessian advance was bogged down by their slower and shorter marching pace.

The colorful advance of the Hessian brigade

The Germans had not made enough space for Chris to deploy his British regulars, but I was able to bring up my units on the right of the flank companies. My dad's rangers and cavalry were ready to enter the field as soon as I moved up to keep the enemy cavalry (positioned across from our right flank) in check.

Our initial plan had been for the Guards and flank companies to advance together on the right of the field, but as my battalions neared the first fence line, I realized that the lights and grenadiers were lacking in aggression this day, and that my men would have to take matters into their own hands (** I should note that my dragoons - numbering only a few dozen - were only allowed to deploy dismounted and could not deploy in open order...both of which seemed very odd considering historical practices...and would not be much of a threat to the solid Continental units, so I kept them behind as a reserve). As the Hessians and flank companies plodded through the woods and across the fields and kept the American right and center occupied, I decided to rush my men across the field and charge the small American batteries and the two smaller state line units guarding them. To cover my right flank from the lurking Yankee cavalry, I ask my dad to deploy the Queen's Rangers cavalry and have them attack the enemy horsemen, while his massive infantry battalion could serve as my reserve. The nimble horseman rode onto the table and quickly moved up in parallel with my infantry.

My battalions (masquerading as the Volunteers of Ireland and fusiliers) advance

The troops of the Frantz boys surge forward
With his squadron of dragoons in the lead and hussars in support, my dad pushed his troopers across the table and charge into combat. The American commanders decided to turn one of the batteries to fire (rather ineffectively) against the oncoming cavalry, which was fine by me, since it saved one of my advancing battalions from coming under fire. The other battery opened up on my second battalion, but had little effect.

When my dad's dragoons charged the enemy horsemen, the Americans opted to countercharge and the two forces clashed sabers across a fence line. The computer did its calculations and determined the Loyalist horse got the better of the foe and sent the Americans packing. This same turn, I had my guardsmen go in toward the enemy guns, as the real-life Guards officer General Charles O'Hara once claimed, "with zeal and with bayonets only." Unfortunately the enemy generals had not positioned their supporting infantry in a way where they could engage in the melee or fire into the oncoming infantry (their line of sight was blocked by the artillery itself). My Guards, who had suffered very little in their advance, carried the position without difficulty, captured the guns and dispersed the crews. Things were going well on the right flank!

The Queen's Rangers cavalry and Foot Guards charge the Americans lines
By this point, there Hessians and Light Bobs were moving steadily across the field and starting to draw the American forces opposite them into the battle, and Chris's battalions were beginning to arrive on the field. All of this encouraged dad and I to build off our successes and push on, so the Provincial troopers charged into the second line of American cavalry and drove them off the field. My Guards, meanwhile, turned towards the two infantry units who had supported the batteries and charged again. Though enemy infantry was finally able to get off their first valley, but my redcoats were determined and stormed through the hail of lead. Though the rebels were relatively fresh, I had numbers and troop quality on my side, and both the state line units withdrew in disorder.

The green-clad troopers rush forward to their next melee

After clearing the enemy guns, the Guards advance towards their next targets; Queen's Rangers infantry arrives in support
With their left flank collapsing and a fresh British brigade threatening to slam into their center, the American commanders (wisely) decided to give ground and call the game. I'm usually not this aggressive in games, but it seemed to pay dividends in this engagement. My dad and Chris both needed to get home at a reasonable time, so we all went across the street for dinner and basked in the glow of our victory, marking the end of our day at the show.

Sunday saw me return to the show solo (since Chris, like my wife, is a pastor). For the second show in a row, I took advantage of the free tables in the Sunday morning flea market and was able to sell a bunch of hobby-related stuff that had just been collecting dust around my house. Armed with some extra cash, I went back to the vendor hall and picked up some basing accessories, and the ESR rulebook, 1812 campaign guide, and some starter boxes and formation boxes to get working on the French and Russian Napoleonic armies...but more on that later

All and all, another fun convention!

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Cold Wars 2018 - Day One

I've been fortunate to have gotten a lot of gaming and hobby time in lately, so I'm hoping this is the first of several postings.

This past weekend saw the HMGS East faithful descend once more on the Lancaster Host for Cold Wars 2018. Though I always enjoy these shows, I was particularly excited for this one, since I was taking two of the guys from my gaming group, Codie and Wes, to their first wargaming convention. My dad, who missed Fall In! was coming down for Saturday, and my mate, Chris, was coming along both Friday and Saturday.

After fueling ourselves up for the morning with some Dunkin Donuts, we took made the one-hour trek to Lancaster, where me met with Codie (who lives closer and traveled on his own) and headed to registration. I should note, that while the convention remains at the much trouble Host, the show itself has a new planning staff and from the very beginning we were impressed. Instead of the usual table of volunteers filing through the name badges of pre-registered attendees, we found touchscreens attached to small printers. A quick entry of our last name and first initials resulted in the printing out of our name badges and game tickets and were soon handed a nice drawstring bag and dice cup. Three of us had been able to sign up for an afternoon game in our pre-registration, so our next stop was the games table to find something for the morning.

The only upcoming game that could accommodate us was a demonstration of the Shatterlands skirmish game - a fantasy light RPG-style skirmish game set in fictional conflict loosely based on the French and Indian War. I'd seen this game at numerous conventions and had heard a great deal about it, but had never had the opportunity to play. We were joined by 5 others and each given one character for the small learning game. Chris and I were playing the bow-armed Rupani, while Wes and Codie each had one of the firearm-wielding Dumah. Each player was given a  unique character sheet, which is really where the game gets creative. Nearly each trait (Aim, Melee, Shooting, etc.) is assigned a circle with a certain color which corresponds with the type of dice rolled for that kind of action. As hits are taken in certain parts of the body, players tick off circles with a dry erase marker. After a few of these are checked off, there are a several circles covered with the same scratch-off material one might find on a lottery ticket. When the trait is worn down to the scratch off circles, the player scrapes off the silvery material to reveal the new color level - sometimes causing no change, but other times causing a loss in quality. All in all, a rather novel system.

My Rupani warrior

The field of battle for our Shatterlands game (with my character in the lower right)
Shatterlands uses a card activation system, including a reshuffle, so we all didn't get an even number of activations, but the game moved along pretty quickly. Chris on our left flank moved from cover to cover and began taking shots at the enemy when he could. Wes, in the left center of the enemy was also taking potshots at the foe (including my character).

Characters belong to Codie and myself locked in one of our multiple melees

In the second melee, my only hope of success was rolling less than this on 4 dice
The most interesting storyline in our game, was the combat that ensued between Codie and I. Between our figures was a cluster of cover that I immediately rushed to, but Codie beat me to it. Undaunted, on my next activation, I decided to charge into combat. Codie's character got the better of my own, and caused my warrior to go off balance. When it came to my morale check, we found out that my character's courage score was very low and so he immediately fled. The actual result would have carried me off the table, but out benevolent gamemaster (who also happened to be the game designer) allowed me just to retreat to the edge of the table. After rallying myself, I decided to try a second melee. During my advance, Codie took a shot at me, but due to the fact that my character had gone to ground and he rolled poorly, the bullets whizzed by harmlessly. I charged again and suffered the same result. To defeat Codie, I had to roll less on four dice than he did on three. When his roll resulted in a '4', I knew I was toast, and my character fled once again (and once more was saved the indignation of routing off the field by our benevolent overlord. At this point, I stepped away to use the restroom and by the time I return, Chris's fire had incapacitated one of the enemy, a blow to their force from which they could not recover in an introductory scenario. As it was getting near the end of the game's allotted time we called it. Those on the victorious side got to make some improvements to our character cards and the defeated advanced their experience as well. As a thank you for playing, we all got to keep our character cards and could swing by the vendor's table in the dealer hall to pick up a free miniature representing our characters. A nice touch!

After finishing our round of Shatterlands we were looking for something to do before our other game started later in the afternoon, and as fate may have it, we saw that a two-hour demo game of Blood & Plunder had been added to the schedule and about to start. For those who may not know, Blood & Plunder by Firelock Games has been one of the most talked-about rules systems over the past two years. It is a skirmish level game set in the golden age of piracy (mid- to late-seventeenth century). It is a simple, but nuanced, rules system accompanied by a spectacular range of miniatures and model ships. It is most definitely not your typical pirate game, as the emphasis is put on historical tactics and abilities instead of Hollywood daring-do and hijinks. The game first began as a Kickstarter, which introduced the game along with the English, French, Spanish, and Unaligned factions- but I was late to the party. I was going to pull the trigger, but when I heard there was a second Kickstarter planned that would bring, among others, the Dutch into the mix, I was hooked (I should note that much of my research in grad school focused on the imperial rivalries between the British and Dutch in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries). I made my pledge last summer and had played a demo at Firelock's booth at Historicon, but the figures won't be shipped until later this spring so have been waiting patiently. In any case, I was eager for the guys to see how the game worked. Unfortunately, there was miscommunication between the gamemaster and the staff at the games table, and what was advertised as a game for six, was actually only set up for two. Having played before, I offered to sit on the sidelines. The GM spent sometime going over the background of the game, the forces involved in the demo, and the rules themselves.

Chris's French crew

The Spanish commanded by Wes and Codie

The demo pitched the Spanish against the French, with each side crewing a sloop. The game only lasted a few turns (but was long enough to give everyone a taste for the rules), so I don't have much to report. The first few turns saw the ships come ever closer to one another, exchanging a few shots, which resulted in a handful of casualties on each side (though more for the Spanish) and leaks in both ships. Ultimately, the Spanish brought the enemy ship in with grappling hooks and a series of melees began. The Spanish lanceros cleared some space on the French sloop, while the first French attacks caused considerable Spanish casualties. Our two-hour time slot was coming to an end, and though the losses from the melees were fairly even between the two sides, the Spanish had were having a hard time of the engagement as a whole - so we called it as a slim French victory. A fun, quick fight

After a quick jaunt to the vendor area, we headed to our last game for the day. This featured another ruleset I had previously played but was eager to show the lads - Sharp Practice. Our game was called "Race Across Carolina" and was set during the southern campaign of the American War for Independence. Wes and I were in command of the British forces, which included two units of grenadiers (one from the famed 23rd Fusiliers), three of Highlanders, and two groups of Hessian jaegers. Chris and another gamer had the Americans, comprised of three units of Continentals, two of state line, and two of riflemen. Codie had been unable to get a spot for the game, but opted just to observe.

My grenadiers advancing toward the bridge
The scenario was a classic bridge crossing situation, with the Americans playing the role of defenders and our valiant redcoats being ordered to get at least one unit across the creek at the table's center. As a veteran gamemaster, I appreciate giving a clear objective to my players in a convention game, but in this particularly set up, the object sort of turned into the game's undoing. In making the bridge the way across the creek, the game quickly devolved into a funneling of all troops into a close quarters scrum for one small point on the field - there was really no incentive for maneuver or nuance. To make matters worse, the gamemaster decided to explain the basics of the rules to the American and British players separately, which resulted in both sides learning the rules differently - the biggest impact this had was that for the first few turns, as my road column headed towards the bridge rolled one less die than it should have, meaning that the Americans got in position to cover the bridge with fire much sooner than our troops should have. To be fair, I was rolling pretty terribly for the first few rolls, but even a half dozen or so inches would have been a big help. Furthermore, while Wes and I had been told before the game that our Hessian jaegers were not armed with any melee weapons - even though they historically had short swords and the figures were appropriately armed - we were not informed until a few turns in that the GM insisted the jaegers be treated as line infantry, not as skirmishers and light infantry as we had (perhaps rightfully) assumed.

Our brave Highlanders advancing to provide covering fire for the advance to the bridge

The elite companies exchanging volleys with the Americans

After a long slog through the woods, my jaegers finally arrive on the scene

Oddities and miscommunications aside, we had a pretty good game. For a few turns our two sides exchanged volleys across the waterway, with varying degrees of success. Though our redcoats were taking casualties and picking up shock (one of our units of Highlanders was pushed back at a point), the Americans were definitely getting the worse end of it. After a number of volleys, we broke the riflemen and forced the state line to move to a quieter spot of the line, but the three units of Continentals were a behemoth that could not be bested, and took almost no casualties during the fight. As we neared our last turn, I figured only something heroic could break the stalemate, so in the last actions of the game, but grenadiers charged towards the bridge, into a hail of fire that caused at least 7 kills and harrowing amounts of shock.

This year's Cold Wars offered a Friday night flea market session,  which was going to start in an hour after our game finished up, so we all grabbed some dinner and a beer and debriefed from the days activity before heading to the bring n' buy. Codie bought a few books, and the rest of us opted to save up for later.

More on day two and three later!

Sunday, March 11, 2018

The Return of the Flintloque

It's been a while since my last post, but now as more of my long-awaited miniatures are arriving, I've had more chances to game.

One of my new projects has been a return to the very first miniatures game I played back in grade school, Flintloque by Alternative Armies. A fantasy game set in world loosely based off of Napoleonic Europe, I've always found the cartoon-style figures appealing and the creative backstory engaging and entertaining. Since two of my three current gaming mates come from a fantasy background and I was really wanting to do something Napoleonic, so I thought this would be a good fit.

First, a bit on the figures. I've been taking a greater interest in the German armies of the period, so I knew I had to get some of the game's equivalent, the dwarves of Krautia (Prussia) and the Confederation of Finklestein (the pro-French German states). I asked my wife what force she'd like to use as her own, and she instantly fell in love with the dogs. Like the dwarves (and ogres), the dogmen fight for both the factions in the game, the Elven Ferach (French) Empire and the orc-led Grand Alliance (the Coalition). She didn't want to be on the same side as pesky orcs, so Finklestein dogs it was - and we opted to go with a unit based off the Saxon hussars. To serve as their adversaries, I opted for a group of Prussian landwehr-inspired dwarves. Upon asking my two regular gaming mates for their preferences, I also ordered Krautian dwarf jaegers and Ferach marins de la garde.

Alternative Armies offers a rather affordable in-house painting service, and since my commute is leaving me very little time to paint, I decided to take advantage of it and was very pleased with the results.

Saxhunde Dog Hussars - I had them paint some dog line infantry to use as dismounted troopers

Dog hussar officer (painted to look like my own dog)

Krautian Dwarf Landwehr - based on the Prussian Pomeranian Landwehr

Krautian Dwarf Jaegers - Uniformed as Silesian Volunteer Jaegers

Ferach Elf Sailors - Based on the Marins de la Garde Imperiale

Marin Officer
Marin sergeant

Marin drummer
The Flintloque rules have gone through several editions, and while fun, can get bogged down in charts and percentage calculations (besides a decent amount of of my least favorite things in gaming). A while ago, my wife and I played a game using the free Flintloque "Lite" rules which we enjoyed, but it definitely dragged at points.

In a search for a game with some more fast play mechanics, I stumbled across the Songs series by Ganesha Games. The series started with Songs of Blades and Heroes, a fantasy skirmish system and includes a Napoleonic variant, Songs of Drums & Shakos. Some discussions I had seen online indicated that gamers have been taking elements of those two rules sets and combing them for use with their Flintloque miniatures. While that is my ultimate goal, I first wanted to master the core mechanics, so I played a game of Drums & Shakos with my friend Chris using our Elves and dwarves as stand-ins for the Prussians and French.

We played a standard meeting engagement with 400-point forces and set up the terrain using the random scenery generator in the rules and our battlefield featured a farm house, ploughed fields, and some fencing around an intersection. Activation is determined by die-rolls, with a player rolling 1 to 3 dice and scoring and gaining an activation for each die roll that is higher than their figure's quality rating. As long as the play rolls more passes than fails on the activation roll, they may continue activating figures. In our game, Chris rolled so effectively (as he typically seems to), that he activated all of his dwarves before I had a chance of to bring any of my elves into combat. When I finally got a chance, I had one of my marins fire his musket, but missed and I proceeded to roll a double failure. Chris responded by shooting and incapacitating my NCO.

Our elves and dwarves moving into combat
Thankfully, I soon regained the initiative and pushed more elves forward to open fire, causing one dwarf to recoil. By this time, Crhis regrouped his jaegers into small groups, pushing one straight towards me and moving another around the building to threaten my flank. Unfortunately, my luck did not change as my next three attempts at firing were all misses, and two attempts resulted in the firers running out of ammunition (to be fair, a figure suffers ammo depletion with a roll of "1" on a d6....which seems a greater odds for that occurrence than there should be).

More dwarves move into the fray

A firefight erupts near that fenceline
At this point, Chris started getting a bit more aggressive and had one of his jaegers charge into combat with one of my elves at the fence, but the diminutive warrior failed to get the upper hand and was knocked down. Around the same time, the dwarf flanking force started running out of ammunition. Hoping to finish me off, he sent a few more into dwarves into hand-to-hand combat, but lost two wounded and another recoiled.

The first of several fierce close combats
My elven reinforcements coming up for the rear

A violent scrum ensues
By this point, the hour was growing late and both of our squads were nearly out of ammunition, so we called it a draw.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Looking Forward to 2018

Overall, 2017 was a very good year of gaming. With my schedule free from the confines of graduate school and my job situation becoming a little more stable, I have been able to game more regularly for a change. I was also able to attend four miniatures games conventions, a personal best, where I both ran a handful of games and tried my hand at a few as well.

On the purchase front, my endeavors were mostly focused on scenery as I bought terrain pieces for my pending projects. Lots of buildings, trees, hedges, and bridges now sit in tubs in my gaming room waiting for their triumphant debut on the table. There's been a lot of building, gluing, sealing, and some painting (much of which has been highlighted on this blog), but I'm generally pleased with the results. I've also backed a few Kickstarters, ordered a large World War II collection, and picked up a few packs of unpainted miniatures.

Most importantly, I have finally been able to form a semi-regular gaming group. We started off strong, meeting weekly to play either a minis game or some type of strategy board game, but as two of our number are ministers, the holidays slowed us down a bit, but we're hoping to hit the ground running this month.

Currently, our gaming options include:

  • SAGA - This has proved to be a crowd favorite and the interest inspired me to pick up a Saracen warband from Footsore Miniatures a few weeks ago (a review to come soon) and has made at least one of my mates consider buying his own. I'm excited for next month's release of the second edition of the rules, which promise to breathe some new excitement into this old favorite.
  • Force on Force - As I mentioned in my first post, this was the ruleset that really got me into serious miniatures gaming, and so I'll always have soft spot for this game. It's a fun one to pull out on occasion, but as often happens, the actual gameplay has gotten a little stale for me. I've occasionally used my 20mm modern warfare collection for games of Skirmish Sangin, but that system has never really excited me. I haven't run it for the new group yet, but I might in the future if we want some variety.
  • Andy Callan's Paper Soldiers rules - In an effort to fly the flag at some of the local shows for Helion & Co., I was gifted a set of American Civil War paper soldiers by Peter Dennis (the illustrator of Helion's great paper soldier series). The figures came with two simple rules written by Andy Callan. We've played one game so far and had a lot of fun, so I can see us setting up some more games in the future. I might just have to pick up the AWI book...and perhaps the upcoming Jacobite one, too!
We also have a few irons in the fire, that should sprout into real games soon:

  • World War II skirmish games (Chain of Command/Disposable Heroes 2) - Many, if not most, of my blog posts have referred to my drawn-out build up for a World War II game. I purchased enough figures to play through two of the Chain of Command pint-sized campaigns in September 2016 and gave them to a friend who has previously painted all of my minis. His own wargaming business and some unexpected real-life issues have delayed his progress and I'm still waiting for the Tommies and panzergrenadiers to return to the depot. In the meantiem, I put in a large order with Britannia in November for some painted miniatures and vehicles and expect to receive my GIs, British paras, and Fallschirmjager (which will allow me to play another five pint-sized campaigns) within the month.
  • Blood & Plunder - Several months ago, I backed the Kickstarter for the expansion for this hugely popular game. I had missed out on the initial release, but had heard nothing but great things about the minis and rules from some friends and when I found out the expansion would feature the Dutch American colonies (which I spent a large amount of graduate school researching), I was sold. The figures were supposed to arrive in March, but we're now expecting a May arrival. The few turns I played of the game at Historicon really impressed me. It's a simple, yet elegant, game filled with well-researched period flavor.
  • Song of Ice & Fire - I backed this game on Kickstarter and the modest pledge came with a massive amount of well sculpted figures (in colored plastic...which at least won't mean I have to rush to the painting table). Though what I've seen of the gameplay for the included rules have not impressed me much, I'm willing to give them a try. Just in case, I've also purchased a copy of Dan Mersey's popular Dragon Rampant rules and enough extra minis to play a proper game with that system.
  • Star Wars Legion - Since the rest of my new group members are new to historical gaming, I've been trying to find more game options that will have a wider appeal to all. The Song of Ice and Fire game will certainly fit this bill (and also to leave the magic aside for some generic medieval warfare if we'd like), but when I first heard of the upcoming Star Wars Legion game, I knew it would definitely be another great gateway project for my novice gaming friends (all of whom are Stars Wars fans). I've pre-ordered the starter set and now just need to get some terrain pieces sorted!
  • Flintloque/Songs of Drums and Shakos - Lastly, I've recently gotten back into one of my most favorite historical conflicts - the Napoleonic Wars. Waterloo was the first battle I ever really studied and the era has fascinated me off and on since. Besides burying my nose in a few new Napoleonic books, I've also been keen to get a Napoleonic game on the tabletop. A few weeks ago, I picked up copies of the Blucher and General d'Armee rulebooks, but I don't think I really have the time or, most especially, space to undertake either of those projects at present, so I figured I needed to turn elsewhere to scratch my early nineteenth-century fix. Considering the limitations of my schedule and gaming room, as well as the interests of my club members (none of whom are particularly interested in the Napoleonic Wars), I decided to return to the first miniatures game I ever had - Flintloque. Set in a world which mixes fantasy races and the coalitions against Napoleon, the miniatures are fun and full of character, and the game's narratives are always light-hearted and entertaining - all in all, great ingredients for a casual weeknight game. I've played all three editions of the Flintloque rules, and while they are serviceable, they are very chart heavy and can be a bit cumbersome in some of the mechanics. After poking around some other blogs and at conventions, I've heard of people using the Flintloque miniatures with Ganesha Games' Songs of Blades and Heroes and Songs of Drum and Shakos skirmish rules (or some home-brewed concoction of those fantasy and Napoleonic sets), so I picked up copies of both and have been rather pleased with my readthroughs. They present quick, but exciting games and should fit Flintloque exceeding well. I've also gone ahead and ordered a few units of figures pre-painted direct from the manufacturer - a service that made the game even more appealing. I'm hoping that once my collection is built up a bit further, that we'll be able to move up to larger battles using Dragon Rampant or some other ruleset.
Lots of plans floating around, but I'm excited to make them realities and to share them in this space.

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Fall In! 2017 - Part II: The Rest of the Show

The craziness of the season and work has prevented me from updating the page as much as I'd like, but I'm going to try to catch up.

When last we left my Fall In! AAR, my friend Chris and I had just finished a game of Chain of Command. We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the vendor area and the exhibition halls before we grabbed dinner and headed off for our second game of the day: a playtest of the World War II company level rules, Hail of Fire. I had seen this game being run at the last couple conventions and was curious to try it (at some point I'd like to get into a non-Flames of War company-level WWII game) and so I convinced Chris to give it a whirl.

The rules themselves are only a few pages, so it was a nice, quick pick-up game after a long day of wandering around the show. The German side was commanded players experienced with the rules, while the Allied commanders were all green, so it might have been helpful to have a little more explanation of the rules before we dove into the game. That said, once we got the hang of it, it ran fairly smoothly, though there were a few times were we were missing stats or some rules didn't quite make sense, but having run playtests at shows myself, I think the GM (Brandon) did a commendable job of running a fun game!

As for the engagement itself, Chris and I found ourselves commanding two wings of attack made up of a company of US paratroopers and a squadron's worth of mixed British tanks (primarily Shermans and Cromwells) and a few other support units (including an American recon troop and off-board artillery). We were facing off against a German panzergrenadier platoon supported by a mixture of anti-tank guns and armored vehicles.

The battlefield from our right

The field from our left
The battlefield presented to very different tactical challenges. Our right flank was densely packed with hedgerows and a small village, while the left was largely open with a smattering of thin tree lines. Our objectives were two of the farmhouses on the left, the triangular, hedgerow-enclosed field, and one of the buildings in the village. We decided that our best way to approach the hidden enemy was to launch a pincer assault/double envelopment. I would lead a platoon of paras, the recon platoon, a squadron of tanks forward in the center to discover the whereabouts of some of the heavier German assets and put pressure on the central objective, while the two flanking wings (commanded by Chris and another player) would mount swift flank attacks with their armored squadron.

My paras and recon teams inching forward to sniff out the Germans

The recon platoon and Para .30 cal setting up shop
I advanced a few of my para teams through a wheatfield just outside the village while my recon platoon and .30 cals took up position in a grove of trees atop a small hill overlooking the triangular field. There were joined by a friendly FOO from the right wing units, and together the began laying down some fire on German units that popped up in the center. They had some initial success, but return fire began to decimate the recon teams and killed the FOO, ending the barrage. Meanwhile, a multitude of German teams opened up a galling fire from the cover of the village and started ripping my paras apart. As the recon teams began to fall back, the surviving German infantry got rather ambitious and surged across the road and charged the paratroopers, getting the upperhand in short order.

While the fortunes of war were stacking against me, the Germans were unaware that they were sealing their fate. The game gives each side a finite number of activations per turn, which can also be used to react to enemy actions. In this case, since the German players were burning their activations left and right to respond to my platoons' actions, this left them with few actions of their own, and very little chance to react to our flanking forces. This meant that the para platoons and support tanks in the wings had a much easier going toward the objectives. The right wing advance almost unopposed into the village, while Chris's men on the left found themselves engaged in a duel with some dug-in anti-tank guns but not much more. While I was fretting that my line was going to collapse...our forces were launching assaults on two of the objective houses.

The Germans in the village began launching counterassaults against the flanking intruders, but could not overpower the hordes of Shermans. Chris's skillful maneuvering soon had his infantry in strong positions and had what was left of his tanks were threatening to hit the immobile Pak guns from the front and flank simultaneously. I decided to lend a hand at this point, and brought up my platoon of Cromwells to overwhelm the two gun platoons.

My tanks getting the first batch of AT guns in their sights

Going in for the kill against the second gun platoon
When bad things happen in the game (platoons break, objectives are taken, turns pass without retaking lost objectives, etc) each side pulls cards called "crits" which have random numbers assigned to them. These are kept secret, and when a certain number is reached (in this case, 18), the game ends. With the defeat of the AT guns on the German right, Chris was able to take our third objectives and the Germans were drowning in crits (we later found out that they had 17 points to our 1) and so we called it. Brandon, our gamemaster, was greatly impressed and told us in all the previous playtests the Allies had never taken a single objective, let alone three! All told, a fun evening.

As for Saturday, I had initially planned to meet up with my father who was planning on coming to the show for the day, but he had to bail at the last minute, so I wound up wandering around on my own. Besides exploring the vendor and game halls and flea market, I also helped staff the tables for the store where I work part-time by showcasing the line of paper wargaming soldiers from Helion Publications (expertly illustrated by the talented Peter Dennis) - for more info see my previous post.

Keith Stine runs a demo of his Disposable Heroes 2 rules

A beautiful game of 1870
A close up of the latter

Met set-up of a (brief) demo I played of the "By Fire and Sword" Eastern Renaissance rules -
don't my Ottomans look pretty?

Since I had off that Sunday, I made a rare third trip to the show, which involved some more poking about and selling some old gaming stuff to make way for new toys.

Overall, my haul included some modeling supplies, storage boxes for figures I'm expecting soon from Kickstarter, and a stash of the old North Star Muskets & Tomahawks minis. Overall, not a bad show!

See you at Cold Wars!

Monday, November 27, 2017

Fall In! 2017 - Part I: Chain of Command Game

Earlier this month, I attended Fall In!, one of the Historical Miniature Gaming Society East's annual shows, held in nearby Lancaster, PA. While I always enjoy going to these shows, I was especially excited because one of the guys from my new gaming group (who is totally new to miniature gaming) was tagging along on Friday.

In addition to making several trips through the vendor area and flea market, Chris and I were able to play in two participation games on Friday. The first was a spirited round of Chain of Command that was part of the Two Fat Lardies Day(s) run throughout the weekend. I'm still waiting on my British Infantry and SS Panzergrendiers (my painter's had a lot going on outside of the hobby...but they're coming), so haven't gotten to play CoC at home yet, but I thought the convention would be great way to show Chris the ropes so he could help me teach the others in the club.

The field of battle
The scenario was set shortly after the D-Day landings as a group of British Commandos, having captured some German entrenchments outside a small village, now must hold onto their dearly-won real estate against a counterattack by a platoon of Heer grenadiers with some captured R-35 tanks and an infantry gun in support.

The first few phases were pretty uneventful as I got both my commando rifle sections, Vickers team, and sniper team deployed in cover and on overwatch by phase three, while Chris's Germans began trickling in and working their way to favorable positions from which to lay down some fire before their assault.

One of my sections deploys along a hedgerow...

...while the other, along with the platoon sergeant and a Vickers team occupy the captured trench.
The Germans opened up with some rifle fire on my section behind the hedgerow and inflicted some shock, but it wasn't until the German infantry gun deployed and started firing that the men started to worry. Two were killed in quick succession and the shock began to pile up.

The pesky German IG with a friendly tank rolling up in support
At this point in the game, the dice gods began to smile on Chris, as he got a couple of back-to-back phases which allowed him to bring up more units and lay down some heavy fire, while I kept rolling lots of 4s (which didn't do much to help the solitary senior leader I had on the table) and several waves of multiple 5s, which certainly help me earn some Chain of Command dice, did not allow me to do much retaliation. Thankfully, our GM had decided to include a random event deck to be used when phase rolls produced at least triple 5's or 6's. One of the cards returned one of my killed Commandos to the ranks, for which I was rather fortunate.

A German rifle squad trying to whittle down the enemy, while the R35 contributes some (ineffective) fire
Eventually the dice began to level out and my section's corporal/junior leader did a great job at whittling away the shock his section had accumulated. The section began returning fire against their tormentors across the hedges, but only got a few points of shock. Thankfully (for me), the German fire gradually grew less effective - especially from the R35, which couldn't hit the broadside of a barndoor.

It was about this time that Chris began making the boldest move of the game, as a German squad began advancing through an orchard on my left, gunning straight toward the entrenchments. Thankfully, I had deployed a sizable portion of my force in their wake by this time and quickly began overpowering them with fire from a rifle section, Vickers, sniper team, and a 2" mortar which shot its allotted 3 rounds of HE in quick succession, but caused considerable casualties. Though the Germans were able to lay day fire as they advanced through the cover, things began to look bad fast (admittedly, this was first due to a mis-measurement on my part). The squad's junior leader was wounded early on, which certainly did not help them keep their shock total low.

A German squad catching all kinds of lead during an advance

Hoping to stabilize the the assault, Chris rushed a flamethrower team forward to attack the trench on their own. While I sent a few rounds their way, but sensing the vulnerability of the rifle section, put most of my attention on them. Finally, the amount of shock doubled the remaining number of figures, causing the squad to break. I then used one of my CoC dice to end the turn, causing the squad to be removed from the field. The next phase, I piled more fire onto the fast-approaching flamethrower team and incapacitated them quickly.

The German flamethrower team beginning to attract a lot of enemy fire
By this point, Chris had not rolled so well on the "Bad Stuff Happens" table and his force morale had dropped to 4, while mine was a 10.  We had been playing for a few hours (there was a small break for a flea market visit) and Chris had gotten a good handle on the rules, so we decided to call it. A hard-won victory by my Commandos! Getting the upper hand on elite troops in heavy cover can be a real challenge!

More on the rest of the show later...