Sunday, 19 March 2017

Game 53: C&C Napoleonics - Rolica

We've played other versions of Command & Colours, though hadn't yet tried the (early) Napoleonics versions. Interest in this really stemmed from thoughts of a potential large scale game with non-wargamer types, with figures and my larger hexes - and thus a suitable 'gateway' set of rules, and some of the rules that we've heard about the epic scale version of C&CN (C in C hands out card to flank commander, who acts upon it - but with his own smaller unit decisions etc.) sound excellent for a great day's gaming.

So ultimately then, the game will be used with my 20mm plastic collection, though best to try out the rules with the little blocks first.

Only sticking points were (1) there's a little more complexity, though you quickly get used to it and (2) the rules for squares, where cards are withdrawn from the hand, so as to reduce flexibility - seem fine, but were a little clunky on the day.

That said, it's probably something that becomes second nature during a game. The blocks are great, and very tactile, and the sticker detail is a positive replacement for miniatures. That said, I began to think that life was too short to stick all of those bloody stickers on at the weekend; I don't think I'll be getting too many of the expansions :( . I might be downloading the scenarios and going with miniatures.

So, we tried the first scenario from the main game (Rolica, 1708). As usual, and in line with what we've already seen, some great and tense moments, and all finished quite quickly. A unique system for modelling fog of war, and some of the strategy cards come just at the right moment (or wrong moment, depending on your point of view).

 The setup.

I prefer laying the tiles down, as opposed to the popular...'setting them on edge'. (Makes for better pics too...).

Thrusts on the French and British lefts respectively, would see the development of some flanking actions during the day.

Powerful British presence on the French right.

 French moves on their left.

  A cavalry charge by the British in a frantic attempt to wear down the flank.

The British launched a frontal attack on the French defences, and it almost looked like working...for a time.
By game end, the French have done enough damage in blunting the British attack, such that they have captured enough flags to win. Certainly, a close game, with clear victory conditions, and much room for hacking with miniatures.

I can see the 'epic' version of this working well with non-wargamers (although suspect there might be beer involved too...)

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Game 52 - Crossfire (at last)

So, I bought Crossfire in 1995, and we played it I guess there has been some delay between buying rules and playing them in the past, but this one probably takes the record.

In the intervening years, I've read and understood/misunderstood what they're about, heard great things and heard confusing things, and yet always had that gnawing thought at the back of my head that these rules might just the 'the' WWII and modern rules set that combines (1) ease of understanding with added difficulty to master, (2) that hard to find 'real world tactics work'  ideal and (3) absence of a turn sequence that can be manipulated and turned against the 'spirit' of the game.

So I think we've found it?

' So ...he's going to use his finger to show his opponent where we move to? No measuring tape? It'll never catch on...'

 'The bloody fool isn't even using a rigid turn sequence, PAH!'

I did get quite a jolt when during this game; the Germans had a prospective flanking maneuver across the fields, which could really have given the US Paras some trouble in their rear as they had moved too far forward - and I thought 'that's going to take him a few turns to move those troops around' until it struck me - this is Crossfire, and you CAN'T think in terms of 'bounds' or 'measured movement'. That in itself was enough to convince us that there was greatness at work here. You can't think in 'gamey' terms and time is completely elastic. If that isn't a credit to the rules, then I don't know what is.

There have been hundreds of rulesets produced since. I'm not sure I've seen many which are so far removed from the game-ist norm, and yet so close to the ebb and flow of C20th/21st battle - at least on the tabletop and in our heads. More research into Crossfire required I think...

 US Paras on the start line. One thing which stuck in my head here was the patrolling rules and jump off points from Chain of Command. Would they work here? Perhaps another game worth trying.

 German units move up the road to get a shot at the exposed US flank.

 ...while simultaneously moving to the factory. We had to take the roof off!

The Paras had a hard time getting in, and were pinned for several initiatives in turn.

Taking some chances, they moved into the field, but were pinned down.

The MG gets a lucky shot at some Germans moving through the town in the open.

The US made gains in the centre, gaining access to the factory...eventually.

While a bloody firefight was developing on the US left. This could easily have become a flanking action.

1st Platoon by now, were taking building after building, even firing on the flank attackers up the road.

Leaving only the elements at the farm to deal with.

There was such an ebb and flow in this short battle. I think we saw how flexible and powerful the system really is.

It pays to be careful, and watch for opportunities to exploit - that is the key; and you are always engaged. The sign of a sound and well designed ruleset perhaps.

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Game 51 - Pikeman's Lament & McCarty's Tavern

So, I finally got Pikeman's Lament (based on the Lion Rampant, Dragon Rampant series etc. by Dan Mersey - with Michael Leck of Dalauppror giving aid on this occasion). The big attraction here was of course a way of fighting small unit actions in the late C17th, which appealed to the 1680/90s history buff in me.

In addition, there was also the chance to fight small/quick battles which would contribute to the fiction of the 'Three Kings in Albion' idea that I had mentioned many posts ago - with obvious parallels to the 'War of the Three Kings' and the Monmouth Rebellion in the actual 1680s and 90s.

'You're not going out there with those shoes on mate!'

Highlights from these rules.
  • Activation is based on unit type and 2d6. You might want to activate the best units first as they have an easier roll, though that intent becomes more difficult when you have to protect that flank or get a shot in, and command decision takes over. There is real drama here. Although the system seems akin to Black Powder, it works much more smoothly. Rather than brigade activation kicking you in the ass, individual units and initiative switchover seems to be smoother and makes more sense in the narrative of the fight.
  • Units are closely based on period types - pikes, shot, gallopers etc (some more akin to ECW and 30YW than others, but no great problem).
  • There is real urgency to initiative changeover. When your opponent takes it and holds it, it can really hurt.
  • With 2d6 activation, there is also 12d6/6d6 rolls for attacks and shooting. You get used to this after a while, and the 'stamina' value which dictates hits is quite inspired. I normally hate rolling buckets of d6, but this was ok.
  • I love the morale system. It becomes intuitive quite quickly when a roll is required - hits etc., and as hits take a toll on the unit's chance of rolling enough to sustain the fight, it can get quite nailbiting. In essence, you can expect a unit to make 2 or 3 rolls before things start to go wrong - although there is always a chance it might rout earlier than you thought. This really has some great period flavour, especially with pike.
  • Movement is simple. If I were to make changes, I might consider firing arcs/flanking, and maybe some movable leader influence for larger battles, but these are minor points. 
  • These would really work well for multi-player games - especially so where you have a mini campaign. Leaders grow with experience and gain more useful traits, just like a role playing game (but without the b.s.).
All in all, the rules are very representative of the period, with leaders that grow and develop just like the colourful characters from the period. What else could you ask for?

All in all a great set of rules...and you know, it makes the modern interpretation that Old Trousers has done over at 'Numbers, Wargaming & Arsing About' all the more plausible - where unit types and traits can use almost exactly the same system for a great game.

  'He's gone down to the pub again, hasn't he? *sigh* '

 McCarty's B'stards move from the pub.

 Cavalry charges on McGelliot's left flank go in early...

They're repulsed, but at significant cost to McCarty's shot units.

Long range shooting from McGelliot is uncannily accurate...with no definite response.

'There's just, too much, cotton wool *cough*.'

 But McCarty's seasoned pike turns on the horse... deadly effect, as the cavalry disperses. As stated - two or three morale rolls, and you really get the impression of units melting away due to casualties. This works at a larger scale, and there's no reason why pike/shot units integrated as single battalions couldn't be represented for larger battles - perhaps with better defence vs cavalry if pike get a chance to form etc.

Buoyed up by their success however, they charge to their doom at the hands of McGelliot's forlorn hope, but it's a disastrous last gasp, as the pike get shot away.

With one unit remaining, the Eryn general has no choice but to flee.

'Run McCarty, run you fool! I'll find you...(just as soon as I get some eye liner on)!'

 'Ha...he's defeated me this time, but I'll have the last laugh. He'll buy me a pint or DIE at my hands, damn his eyes!!! This isn't over, not by a long shot...d'ye hear?'

(Ok, I promise not to take the p*ss out of the17th century next time...)

It is said that the war in Albion started with a tavern brawl in mainland Europe. Of course, we consider such trivial reasons for war as somewhat circumspect these days, though it is worth considering the lore surrounding the skirmish at the Siege of Lennes in 1672.

Apparently bored with the action (or lack of it) concerned with the digging of the lines of circumvallation during the investment of the European city, two factions, fighting under the Frankish flag in capacity as both Eryn mercenary and at the English King’s pleasure, broke down into fighting. It is said to this day that Roger McGelliot’s refusal to buy Justyn McCarty a pint of beer started the fracas, which developed into a brawl, which in turn developed into a rapid drawing of battle lines in the fields north of the city. By the time their superiors had determined just what was going on, it was too late, and the first shots of what would degenerate into a new English civil war (albeit started upon the fields of Frankreich), had been fired…

Today we call the eventual campaign that took place on the Albion mainland a religious war, though it is tempting to think that the whole thing may in fact have started, over a pint…

Geoffrey Pebbledash – The History of Albion

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Game 50 - Lingevres, Normandy, 1944 - Reliving the Past...!

Waaay back on June 24th, 2012, we posted details of our first game with Rapid Fire. So, for Game 50, what better way to celebrate than to re-fight it and see just what we've learned - straight from the mouths of a jaded Grognard, and an enthusiastic recruit into the chaos enjoyment that is wargaming...

In the intervening years, we've celebrated new rules, cheered at the nostalgia of old rules, set the world to rights in terms of how wargaming rules should work and laughed at the pretence of artificial complexity that is 'those games that were considered so bad as to not feature on the blog'...whose societal members shall of course remain nameless.

So, here we are. Unlike the first time around, this was very much a beer & pretzels (or tea and biscuits) style affair. We've both become less jaded, and learned a lot; all of these games occurring amidst the external influences between us of career change, the joys of publication, the lesser joys of legislation, teaching a new generation of management and chasing money in somewhat nefarious industries - and of course - being p*ssed off with Rogue One when no one else seems to realise how bad it was...*sigh*  On with the game...

The terrain has changed, but the song remains the same. Two battalions of British with armoured assets try to seize the village and crossroads from elite German units.

British units on the start line, hoping to spot German armour early on. They succeed, and the first Panther is taken out early with a shot from the Firefly...(with audible cries of dismay heard at the bottom of the street)...

 German units consolidate, with Panzerfaust ambushes finding their mark.

 British units get out of the open ground as quickly as they can - where German mortar fire was uncannily accurate.

 German units hug the cover, making a general nuisance of themselves, splitting the British attack into flank maneuvering, whilst the British infantry get bogged down.

 German units eventually moving back as the flanks become the axis of advance - allowing infantry free reign to rotate back to the town in significant numbers. This was a mistake on the part of the British...

By turn 8, there was a strong British armoured presence on either flank, but the second German Panther had arrived to ruin everyone's day.

 German infantry by now had become well ensconced in the town.

 As British ATGs get into position, looking for that lucky flank shot...
 ...the Firefly is looking for a more advantageous shot...right up the Panther's...

 ...As successive waves of British armour drift closer to their doom.

 By the game end, the Firefly flanked and killed the Panther, but it was too late. There wasn't enough British infantry capable of moving in to take the town, and time had run out.

'Can't you bloody well see that we're pinned down here man!'

As usual Rapid Fire is just that - rapid and easy on the mind. That's no bad thing, as we had a lot of catching up to do, and could chat freely as we played.

The Good
Rapid fire is quick and decisive. DON'T get caught in the open.
The charts are quick and easy - tank combat, infantry combat, morale, spotting HE and Arty - all very easy.

The Bad
It's still squads acting like companies in a convivial bathtub format.

The Ugly
It leaves out command, suppressive fire, unit ratings - but we didn't want that today anyway...

Rapid Fire still has its place, and we will come back to it. Next up, there might be some operational WWII or a shot at the new 'Combat HQ' which is a similar level at least to RF and Command Decision, and is crying out for a playtest...

...and hopefully we won't leave it so long this time :)