Saturday, 24 June 2017

Battle of Kolin, 1757 - at Sgt. Steiner's

Another great group game with Brent Oman's Field of Battle rules at Steinahh's today. Great company, and these rules never disappoint.
 

An epic Seven Years War clash (the Battle of Kolin), with a couple of beautiful 15mm armies. These rules are a real hit for larger battles and bigger groups. It's worth repeating the benefits:

  •  Card driven, but not random, with cards directing the moves/firing/events, narrative and epic feel - your force can suffer morale checks, grand maneuver, bad luck on coordinating your vollies, brigades which don't quite do what you want them too, but with heroic commanders who pull off more than you could ever have hoped for! What's not to love.
  • Players are always engaged - with opposed rolling for coordinating movement and firing/defence against fire. It's not IGO/UGO, it's using the hand you are dealt to maximum effect.
  • Twists and turns aplenty. There is never a dull moment, yet the rules are quite intuitive (with a bit of guidance from our referee of course :)  )
  • This is not Piquet, but a variant thereof, which retains all of the good things and none of the gaps between high and low impetus/initiative rolls in the original.

To Battle!:

Strong Austrian force on the Prussian left, on the heights, though a weaker centre and right.

...something which the Austrians hastily seek to rectify.

In 1757, assaulting the heights cost Frederick dearly, ...we might've learned from his bitter experience.

 Troops and a cavalry reserve to dice with in the centre, as the initial assault goes in..

 
 On the right - a steady advance. There would be success here, while the Prussians struggled valiantly on the other flank.

 Looks peaceful...wait for it.


The Prussian left and centre engage in vicious musketry and melee


The right flank sees some advances, but the key to the battle will be holding back what has become an Austrian assault... on the left

 ...straight off the hill in an attempt to break the Prussians.
Richard goes for the throat on the Prussian left!!!


 
A valiant struggle on the right, as the Austrians fight on - despite routs and 'flukey' die rolls for those muskets.

Prussian cavalry reserve committed to the right. It's all or nothing. 



Slowly, the right weakens, the left and centre hold.
The Prussians reached army exhaustion, but passed a morale roll. They were able to keep fighting until the Austrians reached their own exhaustion - but the Prussians recovered. It was too late for the Austrian army now...


Great game - and the narrative saw:

  • Desperate holding actions
  • Gambles and attacks which only just worked
  • Heroic defences
  • Routing in the face of the enemy when least expected
  • Death of commanders - and several risky moments for them
  • A system which helps the narrative, not hinders it
  • Every player is engaged - it's exhausting.


You don't see that in a game of Black Powder when you curse at the arbitrary randomness of the command roll, which has stopped your brigade moving for the last 3 turns...right?




Wednesday, 21 June 2017

I am 5



I actually nearly missed the date, but ‘Warfare in the Age of Cynics and Amateurs’ is five years old tomorrow. I started the blog to give me a focus, after an enforced hiatus from wargaming. It gave me targets for games and painting, rather than flitting from one period to the next (granted, this still happens, but at least there are games sometimes), and the opportunity to introduce Fitz, who had never played before, to the hobby.

Has it felt like five years? Well, I appreciate that I probably don’t post nearly as much as other blogs, I don’t have the hundreds of followers I guess, but I’m just glad that I’ve been able to record the games that Fitz and I have had – together with some of Sgt. Steiner’s excellent games, plus some extra pieces of information on rules and interesting concepts.

That said however, the most important thing in the last five years has been the contacts made. I’ve talked with new friends online in the US and Europe, and some face to face (not even realising the groups of gamers that existed half an hour’s drive away – Steiner! I’m looking at you J). There have been great & inspirational chats, some experimental rules, and most of all (and as recently alluded to in Steve’s blog) none of the concerns that we seem to find in argumentative forums. I’ve read some blogs that have really made me think in that time, and had my faith in the gaming/blogging community re-affirmed.

I’ve mostly stayed away from the new ‘boutique’ style rules, more popular WW2 rules, GW’s spikey bits (never really got into that, even in the 80s), and flavours of the month – and homed in on the lesser known books and rules, the home produced stuff - the experimental rules and discussion being produced on blogs from people just like us. It’s refreshing and entertaining, and I only wish that I had more time to game, and post the results.

Do I worry that the younger generation aren’t getting involved, and that the hobby is dying? Not really.
Do we argue about things like ‘points values’ rather than finding a set of rules that is reasonably historically relevant, while offering a good game at the same time? Let the forums take that on.
Do I care if the facings are the wrong colour? Probably…*sigh*…but I’m hoping to go to button counter-rehab soon.

Wargamers are an eclectic bunch at best. I may not have many followers, but the ones that I have, for me, represent what the ‘hobby’ (pastime?) is all about; friendship and good games. What else does there need to be?

…oh yeah, and I really like Sam Mustafa’s Maurice rules…have I mentioned this before?

Friday, 2 June 2017

Le Duc on the Road Part VI - Berlin



There’s nothing like a business trip, and its location, to get the creative juices flowing with regard to a blog post. That said, the Berlin trip was a few days, but I was able to get a (horrifically) early flight which pretty much gave me an afternoon of sightseeing on the first day. (I had to attend conferences – yawn – after that…and if you want to hear how tedious they were, it would take more than a blog post).


 Now there are things about Berlin that you need to know. It’s unlikely that you’ll get run over by a car, and in stark contrast to roads at home and their attitude to cyclists, anyone on a bike or Segway is mostly safe. It’s the bikes you have to look out for though. They are everywhere. For the first time I got ‘honked’ at by a bike whose thoroughfare I had apparently trespassed. This is probably a good thing in some sort of perverse, progressive, big-societal, green style. Now there was also a rainstorm while I was walking – but it should be noted that the day started out with intense heat and sunshine, so please don’t let the pics of rain put you off visiting…

Berlin is a beautiful place. Everyone’s sense of history will remind them that the city was devastated in 1945. It was rebuilt, and of course the influence of Cold War architecture is still there, and this blends nicely with the (precious few) buildings which have roots in pre-war Germany. Of course most of these will have a coffee shop franchise on the ground floor now.

 Checkpoint Charlie  is a bit surreal. You’ll see a Kentucky Fried Chicken sign beside the former border post (which is somewhat stylised and not altogether authentic - the sign, not the chicken - no wait...) and the area is surrounded by gift shops selling ‘you are now entering the American sector’ t-shirts and ‘real’ (ahem) pieces of the Berlin wall.

People of a certain age (that’d be me then) will remember the height of the cold war, and the fact that my hotel was in the former Soviet sector was not lost on me at least. Yes, I appreciate that the cold war ended a long time ago – I’m just catching up, give me a chance. Having said that of course, there are smatterings of the era's architecture and interiors everywhere (Schonefeld airport, I’m lookin’ at you).

Checkpoint Charlie in all its glory – Checkpoint Alpha was passed through first, upon entering Germany, then along a controlled highway to Checkpoint Bravo,  upon entering Berlin, then Checkpoint Charlie,  as you proceeded from the American into the Soviet sector.

Now I joined the back of this tour – the guy pictured was a fantastic guide, and added a wry sense of humour to proceedings. I’m not entirely sure if the tour was free or not, so I asked the chap beside me. He was an American and stated, ‘I’ve no idea man, I’ve been following them myself for a couple of hours now, and haven’t paid a dime.’ Good enough then.


 A 100%, historically authentic...wooden frame.

As explained via the tour.
THESE BITS ARE NOT ORIGINAL / AUTHENTIC
The sign,
The hut,
The Russian soldier pictured, was not a Russian soldier
 
But …THESE BITS ARE ORIGINAL / AUTHENTIC
The crappy frame around the sign!
Oh yeah, the American soldier pictured apparently served at the checkpoint.
The KFC sign!

The place is surrounded by gift shops and bits of the Berlin wall in little postcard sized chunks for 3 euros. I'm sure there will always be enough of the wall to go around...right? Apart from the KFC, the coffee shops, the museums, the gift shops, the t-shirts, the ‘authentic’ bits of wall, the kids milling around waiting to see Justin Bieber, and the crowds...if it wasn't for all of that...I’m sure there’d be a real sense of East German cold war  about the place.

Oh yes, and WWIII almost started here in 1961, heralding the building of the wall, thanks to a misunderstanding related to a a theatre date. T55s faced M48s across the stretch of road where I was left wondering just what the hell was going on, and whether I should buy a ‘checkpoint curry’ as advertised in the nearby Indian Restaurant.

 
Wait – a genuine DDR sign. It’s outside a gift shop though…but I’m sure it’s genuine.
 
On the way to the Brandenburg Gate, I stopped at the Holocaust Memorial. This is vast and covers a massive area of ground. There is a reverence here despite the long queues and crowds, and it’s eerily quiet. Everyone seems to ‘get’ what this is about, and why it's there.

So, on to the Brandenburg Gate (Tor). Now, there was a heavy police presence here. I think some Canadian bloke called Justin was playing later.

Aside from that though, I asked a bloke for directions in my best German, just to confirm where I was going. Now most locals immediately realised that my German was crap and spoke to me in English (usually with a sympathetic look of …'awww, he’s trying to speak German, blesss…’), though this chap pointed the directions out (very nicely though). I wondered why, and noted  when I looked back, that he was standing outside the British embassy having a smoke. Clearly, he was British, and might have been the only person in Berlin who thought I might actually be German...or something?

Now here’s a little more historical reference from Soviet cameras in 1945.
 If I have my bearings right...the street that I was standing in for the next photo, is the one to the bottom right in this famous pic. On a more serious note, the Berlin battle was of course horrific for all involved, including (or especially for) civilians. I’d recommend Anthony Beevor’s book for more information. As with most well written accounts of any facet of the Second World War, it brings reality and mankind’s darker nature home with a bang.


 
On the way back – a second pic of the Gate. Can you sense that there is a storm coming? That isn’t a metaphor. There actually was a storm coming.
 
Clearly the red traffic light was directed at the 'marooned' in the shop.

Karma then clearly dictated, that having slagged off the gift shops, I would end up marooned in one. The thunderstorm here explains why. It was the worst rain I have ever seen, and I live in one of the wettest places on the bloody planet!

A group of us ‘storm stranded’ wet rats were stuck in a gift shop. I almost bought a Checkpoint Charlie t-shirt...Luckily the rain eased and I ran for it back toward Mohrenstrasse, before I could succumb to pressure from the owner and buy something.
 
Now, on the way back, I snapped some these lovely bronze statues celebrating Germany’s most loved 18th Century ‘Celebs’.


 Leopold von Dessau, distinguished himself in the WSS and commanded Prussians to victory at Kesseldorf in 1745.

 Von Zieten – Frederick the Great’s favourite cavalry General, who reorganised the horse in the 1740s, and found greatness in the Seven Years War.

 Karl von Winterfehldt, who fought in the War of the Austrian Succession and the Seven Years War.

And I’m pretty sure this was Frederick the Great, though I couldn’t get closer as the rain had decided to return with a vengeance.

 A great trip; I’m not usually a happy traveller (can you tell?) and the next two days were spent trying to find stimulating conversation that wasn’t centred on our glorious customer. I had more fun talking to taxi drivers in my ‘pidgen’ German about how long they had been in Deutschland, ordering room service (yum) and using the gym.
Having said that of course, I got a blog post out of it; clearly, the trip was a winner.




Monday, 15 May 2017

Game 55 - Glorious Morning



'Glorious morning' is a free set of AWI rules on Jay’s excellent blog ‘Numbers, Wargames & ArsingAbout’, in turn derived from the excellent rules on Peter's ‘Grid Based Wargaming…’ blog. Free does not mean bad, as there are wonderful nuances and twists in these rules which have the same flavour as OHW and games like Maurice, but they’re handled in very different ways, and these are excellent for multi player games too, I think.


Highlights include:

  • Hex based, but unlike Command and Colours style rules, there are fronts and flanks, which can make an enormous difference with linear warfare.
  • There is differentiation between troop types, and we found that American and British line were the same in our playtest, though it’s very easy to amend – i.e. for Hessians, British, early American line – just by varying hits.
  • The real crux is resource management. We played with a lot of units and two commanders on each side. Each rolls a D6 – spending 1 point to move or RALLY hits off (that’s important)  adjacent units or 2 points on those further away. This is a real killer in play as you really need to rally, keep momentum with your attack, while also moving up reserves.
  • Cover does not make it easier to hit – but it does give you extra hit points. The clincher here is that once the unit crosses its threshold…it can still hold on if it stays in cover. It’s sheer genius. Units hold cover or disappear.
  • Charging hurts the opponent a lot – that’s if you roll hits. If you don’t, it hurts you. So If I roll one success and one failure – the success gets two hits on my opponent, but one hit on me…really innovative.
  • Resolve points (commander gets 2, but more for grabbing strategic features) mean that (1) it’s important to rally and reinforce units – while being very hard to pull them out once engaged and (2) it’s important to be the first to grab that crossroads or that farm. This is inspired too!


I really liked these rules and they are full of subtleties. Now, we did expand the scope with two commanders per side, but that was really with a view to using the rules with a Saratoga game where we would have 3 British and 2 American Commanders (Maurice just wouldn’t suit the multiple players). I think they would work really well for this.

I’m also thinking it’s an easy conversion to late C17th – ‘pikes forward’ would earn extra hit points vs cavalry, and might convince a unit not to move. That’s quite genius for the period really – and it would take a leader to rally off hits and get them moving. Though it’s quite an old school system with hit points, it’s the actual difficulties in getting units moving again, once ‘stuck’, that is inspired. And hey, while we’re at it, wouldn’t the system of command radii and hits work for Operational WWII? Market Garden anyone?

And so to battle.



  A nice 'hexified' battlefield.

 The farm 'box' on the American left would become critical.

 British command rolls not so good throughout the game.

While the Americans had some early luck.

The farm box would have to be assaulted...again and again. That fence line had some real advantages.

On the British left, Americans were able to assemble good lines of fire, which offer sustained and devastating musketry vollies.

Early charge moves from Grenadiers.

A '3' just ain't going to be enough to do what needs done here.

Ahhh, that's more like it. I've never heard a game where each player said 'I really need a 6 here,' so often.

The Americans ensconced in the 'box' as we took to calling it.

Bloody murder as assaults and musketry take their toll on both sides.

Sustained American fire had stopped the British assault on their right.

While the box simply got hotter.

'Here we are again Zeke, in reserve as usual.'

No hits on the British assault, which means they take 2 hits for the Americans' none - the rules are unforgiving...as they should be.

Two sixes! - for American musketry though ...


 ...and the assault is shot away - resolve points...gone.

A great game. Yes, we can do some tinkering with the rules and 'dials'. It's a system that can be easily hacked and shaken to make it what you want. Love this...