Friday, 10 September 2021

The FFT3 Studies & Observation Group #1 - Chinese Farm

 John & I recently had a go at 'Fistful of TOWs 3'. (Well, John read the rules, and I brought enthusiasm...and pepsi).

This has been an aim for a while, as the system gets widely lauded (especially by the folks at 'Little Wars TV'), and it is complete, pick-up worthy, and offers a wide range across the C20th period. So we formed FFT3SOG, in order to explore this fine set.

To be fair, we weren't disappointed. Now, it's a little different, and subsumes a lot into simple die rolls, but for my money, it works really well.


  • It's fast - we completed 'Chinese Farm', with full Egyptian & Israeli complements in 3 hours - an evening no less.
  • We're used to seeing units disappear when destroyed etc.; then some pushbacks and disruptions and suppression in other games. In FFT3 - you fail your Quality Check, and you're gone - hence massed Egyptian armour can fail QCs and vanish, whilst Israeli stuff tends to be able to hang on; the QC being a method of denoting training/morale/staying power, but this all works, and it will be useful to see how validity is demonstrated in the Fulda Gap say, where Sov units can vary in quality.
  • There's a lot of d6, but it only reached 'bucket' status when an M60 fired at a nasty BMP / Sagger, due to armour differential. Otherwise - no buckets of d6.
  • A lot of online reviews think that it's not a parallel with Spearhead in terms of battle 'scope' / size. I disagree - I would say, speed of play would allow for larger battles quite easily (without those axes of advance arrows...which always seem like a great idea...but...).
  • The turn sequence takes some getting used to - but makes artillery, firing, hold fire and overwatch - all become fairly seamless. In a sense - 'hold fire' and 'overwatch' allow you to interrupt turn sequence, but at a cost - you have to 'know when to hold em'
  • I can see how this is perfect for 1/300 - it all fits nicely with the unit cohesion rules.

Very nice set - and deserves a lot more exploration. 

Battle was 'Chinese Farm 1973'

Israeli M60s and Paras in 1/2 tracks advancing from the south, toward Egyptian infantry lines in Chinese Farm

While to the east, Armoured Battalions in M48s

Though of poor quality, the Egyptian infantry (1) has Saggers and (2) will be hard to dig out as the Israelis have only a single battalion of Paras, reinforced with a lot of armour

Egyptian armour is numerous, but can be stopped with a good warning shot!!!  ...their QCs would be their undoing...

Typically, the Israeli armour units here, would take high ground, engage and disperse at long range, then move in with a covered assault...though as stated, lacked infantry

'Where the hell did the amour go guys?'

Egyptian reinforcements

...a lot of reinforcements

Some M60 action from the ridgeline, and forming a blocking force against the oncoming reinforcing armour, is fairly effective

...although not without some casualties to Saggers

Ultimately, with some covering fire, the Israeli paras go toe to toe with the well ensconced Egyptian infantry, but by the end of the first combat, they're fatigued such that it would be impossible to take all of the positions.

So, all in all, and interesting result, whereby the armour battle became one-sided, while there were too few paras to take the positions on day one.

A great set of rules - we'll do some more. I'll also try to draw some comparisons with the GDW First Battle rulesets when I get time.

Sunday, 8 August 2021

Long Island: Shoemaker's Bridge, 1776 ...dice rolled 'round the world...

 Jonathan from the excellent Palouse Wargaming Journal organised a virtual Zoom AWI game for Steve at the excellent Sound Officers' Call and myself, knowing that we were both AWI 'nuts'.  Steve and I have faced each other across the virtual battle field before (at Norm's Germantown game last year at which Jon played Washington), but on this occasion, we could see the whites of each other's eyes (well, as much as 'Zoom' will permit). 

The format, setup and great camera work and refereeing from Jon made this game seamless and highly enjoyable. This really works, and we must do it again. (Oh, and my dice were excellent - have I mentioned this?)

Electing to play the British (I have a tricorne and lots of tea and a dodgy accent), Steve would take on the defence of the ridge/farm and the area to the east, in an attempt to prevent the British taking their positions and exiting the board to flank a large force.

Rules would be Jon's variant of 'Fields of Honor' - which are superb, both for this type of application and a real AWI/Horse & Musket feel. A few hacks, and the rules could be used (hex-based) across a variety of theatres and periods.

This all proved very tense. Watching myself on camera, I actually looked quite nervous during American attacks from the ridge. Ahhh, the pressures of command. 

This was one of the screens. I didn't get any shots of the river crossing, though you can see a frontal attack on the American left, with a hook around the hill on the right. 15mm miniatures on single bases, and this worked well - even with troops in column.

The British plan ...well, when I say 'plan'... I believe 'hastily fashioned series of actions created via necessity' might be more akin to what actually happened.  The circled American artillery battery gains the Medal of Honor in the AAR. It simply would not die. Three successive British assaults it took...

Some of Jon's pre game information. This was well presented and well prepared. We had very few questions pre-game.

The British flank action. Major Gen Piggot had been killed in action by this stage ...only his Tricorne survived...Lord Percy was forced to take over 'I will deal with these rebels..personally...'

You'd think such a remote game, with only the screen tool to communicate, there would have been an issue. Jon was able to understand our requirements and point to the requisite units seamlessly. Nothing was lost in translation. This all worked very well

What a specatcle, and many thanks to Jon for the prep and virtual hospitality ...I'm told the Americans are looking for a rematch soon :)

Now the rules. There was so much to like here. Some highlights:

  • There is no restriction on moving by brigade/battalion in terms of activation - but that's enough to get you into trouble anyway.
  • Firing/Melee is based on D10 availability - in turn based on 1-3 strength points. You want to beat 5 with a number of mods. There is a -2 smoothbore modifier for instance, with cover and/or national characteristic mods. I guess if you wanted to change this for a different period (say matchlocks) you could work off D8s and reduce max range to 1 hex instead of 2, but these are minor hacks.
  • Other mods include melee/firing 'ratings' , so this is where the British scored in terms of firing accuracy/methodology and cold steel. This helped them immensely, and gave a very nice flavour - forcing the Americans to use cover and defensive tactics to their advantage.
  • Movement of 1 or 2 hexes seems slow, but remember the small battlefield means that action happens quickly, and flanking can happen when you least expect it. 
  • Units can also be brittle, but only if you push them too hard. There are some real command decisions to be made for a straightforward rule set. Like most good designs, hard to master, but easy to understand. 
  • This seemed like a real battle, and we commanded on the same basis. There were no strange rules or tables to look up, no cards to sort through. I can see this working for larger affairs very easily.
  • The systems are fluid and can be easily hacked for specific battles/periods.

A great set, and based on an earlier C19th set. There is a ww2 variant which I saw, though the rules there are very different. 

A great game, and can't wait to do more of this. Thanks again for all the hard work Jon. And thanks to Steve for a sterling defence against my fumbling attacks.

Saturday, 31 July 2021

Storm Over Dien Bien Phu - Boardgame time...

 I recently played this boardgame with John, and a great game it was. Originally published by Multi-Man publishing (who also published the excellent 'Force Eagle's War') and I think based on the rules originally appearing in 'Storm Over Arnhem', there are some great mechanics at work here.

  • A great set of period rules and mechanics for the 1954 siege, with the French on the back foot initially, but able to plug the holes in the line if they act at the right time...while the Viet-Minh have limited resource, but the element of surprise
  • Actions are alternate
  • Card activities can help attacks and/or hinder the enemy
  • The Viet-Minh are trying to do as much damage in early turns, and prevent French holding ground (and thereby reducing their number of action cards), whilst enabling their taking more and more real estate.

A very nice game, and although the rules were very interesting, I am also becoming intrigued in the Indo-China / French period in the 1950s - John is an expert in this regard and knows the details of the siege inside out, together with reference to the more notable books (Street Without Joy) and a collection of the less well known references for the period.

We always consider the 1960s as the Vietnam Wargaming period - the '50s have a lot to offer in terms of gaming too.

Game map at start - with French units about to be surprised.

Cards are an intrinsic part of the game in terms of support/resources/and benefits

Early Viet Minh assaults on the flanks

Damage points are allocated in terms of either retreats, steps lost or units lost. The 'hit' player decides how to allocate - but this resource management type decision can be absolutely pivotal to holding ground or keeping units alive - a very nice mechanic, which should really be hacked for other games.

French reinforcements at 'Opera', which was probably the wrong place to put them :(

Cards can influence attack / defend options

'2' would be a bad roll... it wasn't going well for my French forces at all...

All in all, a great game - and had got me very interested in the period in general.

Sunday, 18 July 2021

'Hyboria Now' - Episode #3: 'Vampire Lake'

 Since her rescue from the hands of the 'Children of Doom' during Operation Valerius, Princess Zenobia has been a little under the weather. Of course, that didn't stop the Princess going out to her usual parties with her over-privaleged mates, especially those held at the Royal Estate at 'Vampire Lake' near the capital, Tarantia. Her doctors have of course advised against it, lest she suffers from a horrible virus, and might infect some of the young people ...   hmmm, I hope it's not a zombie infection :O

(Rules used are the sublime 'Squad Hammer: Peoples Edition' by Ivan Sorenson. Zeds get extra hits (head shots only), and no morale considerations, but only engage in close combat.)

The capital of Aquilonia isTarantia, an ancient city, lying on the Road of Kings, and the main east-west trade route of the Hyborian world. Ancient Aquilonia was well drained by the rivers Shirki, Khorotas, Ossar, Fury, and the Valkia. East of the Shirki and extending nearly to the foothills of the Border Range of Nemedia lay fertile plains interspersed with "tame" woodlands, and the grand houses of the Royal family. Built on the same lands as black structures of ancient Acheron, many modern scientists claim that the right assemblage of ancient curse and horrible magics, might create the seeds of the empire's own destruction.

Davide Dimblebus: Documentary Maker to the King

Those crazy kidz...

'BlackThorn 1, BlackThorn 1, We've received an emergency call from the Royal Country House...can you respond?'

'Roger ...on the way'


BlackThorne Response - Royal Aquilonian Police Force, drive past the Mitran Temple on the edge of the estate.

Handy that they have a sniper team on 'Barbarian Hill'

All is quiet ...

Detective Belit Crassus and Vera Ness are also on site ...of course, Vera just happens to be the ex-girfriend of Sgt Cal - the hero of Operation Valerius...

'it's too quiet - i can't even hear dance music...'


Vast groups of ...undead?!? (and these ones at the back of the house have clearly eaten all the pies).

'Engage! Engage! They aren't human anymore!'  'REMEMBER - SHORT CONTROLLED BURSTS ...oh and head-shots.'

'What the hell is going on BlackThorne ..BlackThorne!!!'

Police units have lost the initiative, and are isolated from their transport. (rules dictate that the Zeds attack nearest unit - which inevitably means that some police units are surrounded).

Ness & Crassus use cover to slow down the Zeds...also making a call to Sgt Cal, who is getting drunk with Nemedian Bob at a local airbase.

Other Police units are not so fortunate...

The Mitran Temple becomes a focus for ...lunch. does the bridge.

Ness & Crassus - and one (infected) Police Unit...move back toward the hill, and the sniper team...

...but the police unit won't last long.

...Cal & Bob, still pissed, arrive in a 'borrowed' chopper

'Hey's tricks! ...Bob brought an MG.'

It's a tight call - but the Detectives & Sniper team get away - uninfected...but the virus is spreading now...

...and was that an undead Princess Valeria directing operations from the temple...was her time with the 'Children of Doom' more dangerous than we thought...    
'Reaver, this is Maverick ...dropping package...over'