Monday, 27 July 2020

The Sacrifice of 155 Battery, Sidi Nsir 1943 - Lindybeige

Now I don't normally re-post youtube videos, but I have been a fan of 'Lindybeige' (he wears a lot of beige) for a while now.

He has a large history / wargame based youtube channel, but this one echoed a lot of my thoughts surrounding the arc of 'forgetful-remembrance' that we seem to be using to redefine WW2 and its aftermath in recent years for a young, impressionable future generation (now sadly placed in some economic strife - which makes understanding history even more important, lest they veer down the wrong path once more).

Watch right to the end, and listen to his views regarding those who say 'oh the war was so long ago, not worth remembering eh?' and the arrogance of the 'what's the point of remembrance' crowd.

These are the reasons that we should still be teaching World War Two as a defining moment, in history class; whatever your thoughts on poppies, marches, medals and remembrance, or even modern crises, there's always a bigger fish...

Monday, 20 July 2020

More Altar of Freedom - 'Seven Pines 1862'

More 'Altar of Freedom', and proof, if any were needed, that these rules are not only innovative, but fairly open to new gamers.

On this occasion, my wife - Madame de Gobin - La Duchesse Herself, no less, opted to play (and correct me on the rules throughout).

Madame's relationship with the American Civil War starts in the 1980s, with a long distance 'admiration' of Patrick Swayze in North & South. (Truth be told, I'm always up for a bit of his co-star Lesley Anne in a tight dress myself...)

...and terminates here with an interest in the less politicized, and thereby less discussed elements of Irish history which have disappeared into the ether, whilst leaving terms still used, yet rarely appreciated.

And so to war:
Being an accomplished board game player, who also never loses at poker... Madame on more than one occasion, reminded me that the 'core' of the game was the bidding system and control of the turn clock, i.e. :

  • Taking control of the turn by bidding too high, only enables one or two divisions to act decisively.
  • If your opponent has bid low, but wins control, they can effectively outdo all the good work thereby enacted via trying to act first.
  • There is a balance therefore between (1) gambling for control when you most need it and (2) balancing enough such that even if you don't get control, you still have done enough in terms of bidding to react to attacks. ...Madame appeared to get to grips with this very quickly...
  • The first day of the battle, despite Confederate thrusts on the flanks, would end without a decision. Union reinforcements and counter-thrusts against Reb attacks in the centre would create the real crux of the struggle on the second day.
  • Actually I fought part of this battle with the chaps last year, with Regimental Fire & Fury and Casey's Redoubt (a game of seven four...Pines).Though obviously, scales are very different, as are rules and game-play.

 Initial setup: taking up more space than I thought; that's a lot of brigades.

 Confederate positions to the west of Seven Pines, with Longstreet and Johnstone.

 Union HQ to the east. Looks unsuspecting, and much of the Union defences would be abandoned, when Madame smelt blood on day 2...

 Early on day one, and a Reb flanking attack at Seven Pines.

 Union troops actually pushed from their redoubts early on.

 ...with Smith appearing much earlier than he would have historically...

 ...indeed, the Union left would also be under threat with the early appearance of Huger's Division.

 A fight for the centre ground, with the Rebs getting the better of the action on day one.

 Yankee camp in the centre is captured. The Yanks, bend...but will they break?

 Yank artillery in action.

 By the evening however, it is clear that though pushed well back from Seven Pines, the Union have held without incurring significant losses.

 As night falls, divisions retreat and recover, forming new lines of potential advance for the morning.
 Day 2: the Rebs make ready for a definitive assault in the centre.


 It's all to play for, but the Rebel assault stalls, when both Longstreet and Smith (both considered 'Unreliable' here) roll ones against their traits - their Unreliable trait means that they do not activate in the 10am turn.
...predictably, the Union counter-attacks with everything they have - using all their divisions, and having control of the turn clock. It's a bloodbath.

 The Reb's nose is bloodied in the centre.

 While they are severely pushed on the flanks.

 ...and it had all been going so well...

 By this stage, the Rebs have taken significant losses, and the break point approaches...


 The Reb's right flank collapses...

It's all over as the Confederate forces break.
Great action, and a tough opponent who thinks about game mechanics in devious ways ...just not fair :(

Although again - there is such such scope for using these systems across different periods.
Steve has already mentioned using the 'First Battle' combat system with the turn mechanic - bidding and turn clock system here... perfect for WWII and WWIII at both platoon and company level.

Again, Napoleonics would also work here, as would Marlburian.

Monday, 13 July 2020

1st Manassas with 'Altar of Freedom'

I'd had 'Altar of Freedom' for a while on pdf, together with some of the scenario packs, and of course seen it used by author Greg, and the chaps at Little Wars TV.

Though when I saw some of the commentary on Steve's recent post surrounding the game, I knew it was one that was crying out to be tried.

 I had been recently re-basing my 20mm plastic ACW troops for Volley and Bayonet. The 3"x3" bases seemed to work well, though some changes to conceptual understanding of how road movement and recoils worked, was required.

  • I can see some of the Chipco style design mechanisms (that the LWTV guys favour) re. combat in the rules, but it's the command and control structure that really stands out as being fluid and original, and...very period-centric.
  • The 'turn clock' allows me, if I have control of it, to control the pace of the turn - to some extent. Where I am canny, I can get 'more out of the turn' by hanging on to the initiative, if my opponent has not been careful.
  • A secret bidding system, by division, allows each player to put their impetus where they need to in terms of command points. Sometimes it's obvious ...but not always, and that's the core of the system.
  • The turn clock might just squeeze a division or two out of the action if well played however, enabling a canny general to hold on to the initiative.
  • This can create focus on certain parts of the battlefield, like Maurice, although there are a lot more surprises when a subtle player outsmarts you here.
  • By manipulating the turn clock (insofar as you can - you don't always get the luck you might need), and playing to each general's strengths via his traits - it really feels like a civil war battle.
  • There are also commander traits for the Generals. This is really evocative of the period.
  • Beauregard had the 'micromanager' trait for instance, which forced him to hold back points for end of turn activity. Although this hampered grabbing the initiative, it enabled the odd brigade to carry out 'end of turn' maneuvers which made good ground in the centre - Union units watching helplessly while his 'genius' allowed a brigade to slip into an open space. 
  • Little touches like this give each commander his own in game 'personality', and actually forces your opponent to try and recognise this, and thereby attempt to foil its effects.  (It 'is' as if you knew this guy at West Point and he chose the wrong side in the war...and how many times have we read that in civil war sources).
  • In terms of hacks, and with a few changes to the straightforward combat system, this sort of turn clock / command trait system could easily be used in other large battles in other horse and musket periods - Age of Marlborough for instance (this was on my mind throughout the game, where Marlborough, Tallard, Eugene would have unique traits which would influence play). (Don't even start me on my thoughts re. using some of the mechanics for corps level WW2...Market Garden, the Ardennes, D-Day for instance).

'Enough prattle ...git to the battle boah!   (and why is mah yooonit at -3 in this here fight ???).'
 Rebs at Bull Run

  'I intend to use this large dice to form the centre of my defensive position Zeke!'

 An early cavalry clash, though it will come to naught, with neither side gaining an advantage on the Union left throughout the battle ...much to the shame of the Union General !!!

 Confederate moves on the Union left...becoming stymied, and more of a delaying action on the considerable Union numbers.

 Most Reb activity took place in the Union centre, with dramatic attacks across the river.

 Union troops failed to stop Johnston's forces making considerable inroads.


 Union Brigade back at camp (rally point for broken units - this is a very nice mechanic, and works perfectly bearing in mind the scale of the battles).

 Rebel Yell!

 Go Billy Yank!


 With the centre under considerable pressure, and undeniably clever gameplay from the Confederate General, the lynch-pin of the Union line threatened to break.

 Now, in the final game turn, with the Union camp about to be attacked, the game was effectively over.

A truly inspiring set of rules, with a lot of future potential.
(...and I still like that Marlburian idea...though I do need to try 'Twilight of the Sun King' which threatens to have a similar dynamic, if not C&C system).

And finally:

Musketry of the period ...who knew?

And the obligatory DM3 toon...