Saturday, 30 May 2020

Da Diddly Qua Qua

I recently swapped my copy of Slack Chowder (TM) for this glorious 20mm vehicle. I think I got the better deal…

 It is however pertinent also (in a most non-linear way) to my favourite part of Slack Chowder; the glorious mechanic that is …activation, and thereby determining  who is in command.

Now, historical accounts seem to have a single underlying theme – that of ‘command focus’. There are examples (Aughrim 1691, Boyne 1690, Brandywine 1777 etc.) i.e. that the commander must focus on certain elements of the battle, and ignore others.

'Please move us guv but seriously!'

Be ready to obey my orders...(if you roll low enough).
So in the pic above, moving a unit (brigade or singular) is pivotal to what I want to do …but I can’t do everything in most modern games.

How activation works in Slack Chowder:


  •  Play an older style game where I can move anything. This rapidly becomes chess.

  • The Maurice Method – I have cards that allow me to either focus on their content which allow me to ‘do special stuff’ or I use their point values to activate things. The further away, the more points, and I have limited resource of cards. I can do stuff at the far end of the battlefield if I really, really need to, but it’s easier to do something near my command focus. I have to manage where I need to be (what? Like a real commander?) This is genius design. I HAVE CHOICES.
  •  The Field of Battle method. Fate is dictated by card draws – move, shoot, rally, morale, one unit move etc. My command level dictates the content of my deck. If I pull a move card – an opposed odd/even roll dictates whether I get a short bad move or a long, good 'maneuver' – with all variations in between. It reflects me issuing the command but troops are reticent to do ‘exactly’ what I say (St Ruth at Aughrim, Gates at Saratoga). As my morale takes hits, my army starts to whither. It gives the feel of a big battle, and a classic historical story. Again, I may have a unit that doesn’t want to move at all – but that tends to be rare. I HAVE CHOICES.

  • The Volley and Bayonet method. More traditional, but as my division takes hits, its ability to stay in command withers until the division is exhausted. Works very well. So my units don’t like to move as people die, but I can force them to do it until they break. I HAVE CHOICES.
  •  A method I like from Ivan Sorenson’s ‘Hammer’ rules. A dice roll (can be adjusted depending on circumstances/command) dictates how many units you can move – but you choose those units – this makes the decision as to where the fire might be hottest – yours. I appreciate this ain’t Horse and Musket – but nice and simple idea. I HAVE CHOICES.

  • The Slack Chowder method (and something similar kinda appears in a few blue books too).
Ok, so I really need to move unit A, and I need to hold B and C, with an option to move D.

My commander is near D – with Maurice, FoB, V&B and Hammer – I can always do something with the critical elements in the line.

Here’s what happens in the Slack (or could happen):
 Commander is an ‘8’.
  • A Brigade rolls an 11 – just shy of a ‘stupid table’ roll.
  • A does nothing this turn worth a damn. (Does he fire?…can’t remember…can’t care).
  • I roll a 2 for B and he can do lots of movement. I don’t want to move B.
  • I roll a 7 for C – I could do a little…but don’t want to.
  • I need to move D then – good – still a chance. I roll a 9 and plead with the referee that the second dice was cocked and can I get re-roll. He hits me with the hardback book.
  • Just who the heck is in command here? – says the C in C, who finally arrives with an eventually activated escort unit (as opposed to a unit of escorts – which is an entirely different thing)???
  • Ah yes, the Rules and the 2D6 with the nice bell curve; they’re in charge.
  • I still have choices, but ebay charges commission…

An ‘8’ commander in Slack has a 28% chance of doing nothing (2d6 bell)  …the worst d8 commander in FoB has a 13% chance of doing nothing. in terms of movement at least – but this is mitigated by how the card draw mechanic works.

'Why aren't they moving ffs?'
Aha! you say.
Just make all the commanders '10's. But then they only have a 8-9% chance of failing, which makes the system relatively invalid anyway. I hope this doesn't make the design some sort of fudge...

Tell me my army's mobility is not based on the probability of a 2d6 bell curve. But, I want to flatten the curve!!!
...and the source of Da Diddly Qua Qua

Monday, 25 May 2020

'Wargaming Resolves Social Distancing Concerns'

Very happy to report today, that traditional style hex'n'chit games are very much alive, their precepts in fact, being used successfully during the pandemic to encourage 2 metre / 6 ft social distancing via hex management...  I caught this pic on a news website (accidentally).

Example of Play
In the picture above, Student 2 has Student 1 and 3 in his Zone of Control - thereby putting him out of supply, before they make a 2:1 attack with column shift in their attack phase.

He nervously awaits a flank attack from Student 4 in the advancing fire phase.

Of course, 'over-stacking' is only permitted with members of the same household.

You'll note the absence of Attack / Defend / Move ratings. This issue will be resolved in the second edition reprint.

And here's that example of play again...

Sunday, 24 May 2020

Steve ...and the American Revolution

So, Steve over at Sound Officers' Call, has been tinkering with Neil Thomas's Napoleonic Rules, in order to develop an AWI variant.
'Hold the line boys!'
 His changes sounded really interesting for the Revolution, so I set up a quick game.
Steve's changes:
  • British Drill: no first stand loss morale check (this becomes VERY important and is very representative of what we read).
  • No free turns or pivots for Continentals (again, makes sense)
  • Morale Checks for chargers/chargees - this is very akin to what we read about in AWI battles, the effects are so realistic - and with simple, yet accurate, mechanics.
  • Rally & Commanders - can rally off hits (I didn't use this enough in the game - though it is both accurate and critical to gameplay).

A few things I threw in:
  • Light infantry can get cover saves in the open - although this does give them a little too much staying power potentially. An alternative might be to reduce their number of bases.
  • Militia find it harder to both hit and stand - a simple change like this can be readily instituted via making a 4-6 success of the D6 a 5-6 instead. It does make the militia a bit poor unless they are behind a fence (with cover saves) - but that seems fine.

  • The turn sequence - charge, move, shoot etc. remains relatively unchanged, but for an IGOUGO system, it flows smoothly with a lot of action. Again, so good for a very large game, or as a battle mechanic for a campaign.
  • With a system based around stands/degrading hit points, it's also very reminiscent of the 'Pike and Shot' computer game, with attritional style warfare, if you resort to musketry, but still retaining the ability to move and surprise the opponent for a canny general.

Now, it was a short game, but to me, that exhibits the excellent potential for something larger like Germantown (Steve working on) or Monmouth, or as way of fighting the multiple battles of a larger undertaking; testament to both the NT rules, and their ability to be easily 'hacked' to make them what you want.

Also of course, is the fact that saving throws are only used practically (i.e. in cover, or in my instance for light infantry). We see this in sensible rules like Volley and Bayonet too, as well as NT. In the Slack Chowder for instance, they are out of control and used like Warhammer...  (y'all knew I had to get a BP crack in, right?)

 There were 7 units a side - the Americans had the edge in terms of defences, while the British had some advantages in light infantry and staying power.

 The fence would grant a saving throw due to cover, unlike  BP, where a saving throw means something very different.

(The publishers of Slack Chowder defend their Saving Throw mechanic...)

 On the American left, the continentals were deployed in force.

 On the right, a cavalry clash would move back and forth, with varying degrees of morale roll success dictating the play.

 Big advantages using Generals for rallying here - but next time.

 I didn't give any bonus to British firepower, but perhaps something worth thinking about...though the morale benefits they receive are quite influential.

 The Continentals did get some luck in terms of morale.

 German Jaegers move on the flank of the cavalry clash.

 British guards will also charge the rail-fence. That is not going to end well...

 A small engagement, with a flank ready to crumble...

 The British horse breaks the American cavalry, allowing a flanking action.

 ...a developing crisis in the centre.

 With hand  to hand threatening to completely derail the fragile militia, the end is not in doubt...

 'Wait 'til you see the whites of their eyes...'

 Morale is not something which the militia can be relied upon to hold onto...

A great game, and a lot of takeaways which have me thinking re. rapid setup and large battles, and/or campaign battle rules.


Saturday, 9 May 2020

Arnhem - Oosterbeek : Days 3 & 4

The game continued today, with all to play for.

The situation after day 2, was that 2 Para's tenuous hold on Arnhem bridge was being reinforced by 10 Para, and other units which had broken through to Arnhem, though German armour was vey much in evidence.

In the day 2 night turn, both sides consolidated their positions.

One worrying concern for the Germans however, was that their Army Morale had taken a more significant hit than that of the Paras, due to repeated close attacks in Arnhem itself. This would prove to be pivotal.

  • The Germans were, despite their advantage in day 2, on the 'back foot' during day 3, with the 'Red Devils' continually winning initiative, creating blocking positions (which is what the Germans should have been doing), and generally creating good bases of fire within the built up areas of Arnhem.
  • By day 4, a decision was forced upon the Germans by virtue of the amount of hits they had taken, and its requisite effect upon army morale. 
  • Day 2, despite its relative success, had in fact been hard on the German forces, while day 3 allowed the Paras to outmaneuver, and essentially outfight, their tough opponent.

Just before dawn on September 19th, 1 Para tries to establish some modicum of defence against the  Panzers.

...while 11 Para have made good progress and re-established their positions at the outskirts of Arnhem. Already, this is a dangerous concern for the German forces.

German units still have a chance to threaten 2 Para's positions at the bridge, however the British troops have been reinforced.

German reinforcements threaten troops at Wolfheze and the landing zones too.

...while reinforcements north of Arnhem create ever growing concern for the British.

It looks bleak ...German Armour now threaten Arnhem, while infantry create a blocking to line to try and prevent British reinforcement.

...even 9th SS have still some units left intact.

But ...a large degree of Paratroopers remain in good order. they close to the bridge, with several good initiative rolls.

...even fighting off some German armour, at least for a time.

They are however, being heavily reinforced.

...and making renewed attacks on the bridge itself, thereby supporting 2 and 10 Para.

An attack north of Arnhem helps to upset German plans.

...and the Paras see renewed success at the bridge.

KOSB at the Gasworks.

Limited AT sees some action.

The Paras expand their perimeter, taking advantage of excellent movement rolls, and good morale.

...even as German snipers take out 1 Para's commander.

Fighting continues at the bridge, but the Germans are stymied again and again.

...counterattacking with reinforcements north of  Arnhem.

Poles arrive at the landing zones, which remain uncontested.

Early on day 4, the Paratroopers are in a position to consolidate, while the Germans have taken severe losses.

Wren their third morale check (almost in a row) comes up, it's a foregone conclusion. The German units, beaten and battered, opt to pull back from the river in the hopes of maintaining a defence of sorts north of Arnhem.

Able therefore to maintain a defence through the day, the arrival of XXX Corps at the bridge is heralded with cheers!

A superb game as ever with a dynamic, narrative, mechanically superior and highly fluid ruleset.

For the battle and campaign, I have seen few better than this one from TIK history; recommended.
It might actually change a few perspectives...