Sunday, 28 December 2014

Game 24 - Lightning War

Like most wargamers, I cut my teeth on the table of modifers, the roll of the d6 with variable plusses and minuses and the complicated artillery rules. This has been a mainstay of wargaming since the heyday of the 70s and 80s.

 I’m talking about Firefly, Command Decision and even Rapid Fire here and I suspect (from what I’ve seen) that the latest version of ‘Fires of Conflict’ and its ilk, uses similar systems in a decidedly ‘non’ unique way.
So that said, I was surprised about eight years ago (and have recently been 're'surprised when I re-discovered them) with a completely free set which I found on the internet. Now, there appears to be a bit of a chequered history here, so bear with…

The rules are called ‘Lightning War’ by David St.Clair and Andrew O’Gorman. These later became ‘Lightning War II’ with added orders and objective rules. A later version, with VERY similar systems by 'David Childs Dennis' also appeared under the ‘Lightning War’ title, though these were both modern and WWII versions of rules at a much lower and ‘close in’ scale (covering areas such as Russian conflicts and more recently world war II).

So the game that follows is very much using the original rules – with minimal fuss and bother – dating from the 2002 pdf. (I can email these to anyone who wants them, as the original rules seem to have disappeared from the internet, and been replaced by the reduced scale versions).

Here are some examples of the beautiful design:

  • Game turn sequence revolves around initiative (nothing strange there) though you can grant it to the opposing player if you want to force him to move (or miss a move).
  • Units that don’t move (on both sides) fire before units that do – granting a ‘reserve fire’ rule without the messiness of stopping units mid move.
  • There are 3 movement lengths and ranges – 6”, 12” and 24”. The Grognards among you will be gasping with shock, but this doesn’t half speed things up.
  • Gun effectiveness vs armour governs the number of dice fired, with ‘6’s predominat. That’s it. No modifers or mess.
  • Artillery at the company scale is assumed to range across the table, hence no ranging, with the ‘to hit’ roll built into the number of d6 rolled. Get caught in the open by the side that has initiative, and your units are badly mauled.
  • Armour caught in the open without infantry support, is automatically removed if close assaulted by infantry, if they survive first fire. You're forced to support your armour without having to write complex rules around it.

The second version of the rules introduces objectives and orders, but again in a seamless way. We’ll try this next time.
Here’s the kicker though. This game proceeded in exactly the same manner as a more complex game, with better appreciation of the tactics required and more careful use of forces available in half the time. Take that hardback rules!!!

  Russian armour and infantry begin to mass. (Those cheap 1960s moulded polythene T34/85s eventually came in handy.)

Russian armour makes an attack on the right as the remnants strike deep on the left flank.

Armour in action, taking out one panther at some cost, as the JS2 lurks.

German defences take a battering on the left and right as Soviet armour starts to break through.

Some sterling efforts (with lucky sixes ;) ) in defence and the German re-establish the line in the town with one anti tank gun and a panther.

The 75mm ATG holds the line, reducing the last of the Soviet armour, so much so that German infantry (which has been spotting for artillery) can be released to press home a counterattack...

All in all a lovely and fast set of rules that pull no punches, get a more readily achievable result and hone tactical use of troops rather than book flipping. I love it.
The big benefit here is that the same mechanisms can be used for
  • Moderns and 1980s Cold War
  • Other scales. Currently, 3-4 infanty units represent a company, but smaller scale squad or platoon level, rather than company, are readily achievable by adjusting ranges and clarifying command issues. Even breaking bases down to fireteam level offers ultra modern opportunities.
  • Upscaling to operational level for ‘Market Garden’ or Bulge also makes sense, and retains a playable ruleset where logistical concerns are key.

More next time…and Happy New Year to all.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Game 23 - Walcourt, 1689

This scenario is straight out of the 'Pike and Shotte' adaptation of 'Black Powder'. The main reason behind doing this game was to gain some familiarity with these popular rules (there aren't that many differences between the two sets, bar obvious period concerns). The scenario itself makes a few changes re. the actual battle/history - which suits the figures I had anyway (Irish as allied troops in 1689 etc.).

Overall, the rules give a decent game - so we were less concerned with the actual history on this occasion, hoping to find a set of rules that could ultimately be used for the American War of Independence (Black Powder).

Of course, with our positive experience with Maurice, there had to be comparisons - good and bad. Main points of discussion that came to light included:

  • The Pike & Shotte / Black Powder rules are straight forward and lend themselves to using multiple players, unlike Maurice, which is pure player vs player (despite its attempts to be otherwise).
  • Although a good read over the rules is required, they are eminently 'pickup-able' with some classic mechanisms - including those (sometimes) unfortunate 'characteristic' style additions which have found their way from warhammer style rules. This is no surprise considering the authors involved of course. I say unfortunate, as these little advantages seem to get forgotten mid game, unless you have multiple players to remember the respective benefits and bonuses of their individual units.
  • I missed the card mechanic of Maurice; although the Black Powder rules have a command mechanism which can (and ultimately did) considerably restrict the freedom of movement of brigades and battalia and tried to restrict movement and command, it seemed more random than with Maurice - where most of the time your turn was based on resource management and the restrictions that go with it; a player could spend barrels of cards just to make one thing happen if desperate enough, at the expense of everything else. With Pike & Shotte, you face the blind luck of a command dice roll, with some modifiers - although a better commander will get to do more of what he wants.
  • Although appearing basic, hand to hand combat and charging takes longer, and is less intuitive, than Maurice.
  • One issue with Maurice sometimes is that it is so fast that units disappear very quickly, leaving an almost empty battlefield (see the Boyne game last year for instance) - but that's purely a visual issue. That doesn't happen with P&S, as mauled units can still stay on the table if they pass a break test.

Having said all that, it's still a decent set of rules and will require more testing/playing- especially so where the projected AWI games are concerned. Warlord Games also do excellent scenario books - something which is lacking for the Maurice rules.

And so to battle:

A nice linear battlefield. A lot of cover and an epic cavalry battle promised on the French right.

View from the French right. Dragoons, cavalry and elite guard cavalry will meet head on.

On the Allied right, early command points enable a triple move from the Irish contingent against the prepared defences at Walcourt.

View from a pub in Walcourt.

 In the centre, Allied dragoons, positioned unwisely perhaps, face off against three battalions of French dismounted dragoons.

 ...while the Irish remain too weak to assault the English units, and trade musketry.

 The French centre is strengthened by the presence of the Gardes Francais, and delayed arrival of allied reinforcements means that they have to attack quickly.

French gunners cease fire as the latest copy of 'The Sun' L'Equipe arrives.

 View from the Allied command position in the centre.

The French assault comes on, as the elite Dutch guards watch its approach. The French attack was considerably hampered by poor activation rolls, and it took many turns for it to get under way. In Maurice, the problems would have been different - in that sections of the battlefield would have remained static (but still using musketry) as the focus was placed where it needed (or could be managed) to be. With these rules, there's more of a random element in terms of where the commander can focus his attention.

French dragoons capture the church in the centre.

...while a massive French cavalry attack gets underway.

On the Allied right, covered English regiments give accurate fire toward the bogged down Irish.

Cavalry charges go on for many turns on the right. The victor will be able to turn the flank - but so many units are involved.

(We actually ran out of markers for casualties - it was becoming a bloody stalemate.) on the French left - all that is left of a unit in the all too brief assault is a bunch of markers as it fails its break test.

The high water marks of the French attack are the ground taken in the centre...

...and the gloire of the Gardes Francais , (although they're about to be forced to take a break test due to withering fire from the Dutch).

We didn't get a proper resolution to the scenario (although it was definitely going the Allies' way), and the rules will need a little more testing before using again - but all in all, a nice set and not too restrictive - although the command activation could use a little development. Having said that, we've probably been swayed a lot by the battlefield management style play of Maurice.

...while American Revolution troops wait in the wings (yes - keen eyed viewers will note only one American unit painted so far. I'm considering using the 'dip' method for the rest in order to get things moving.) We'll most likely try the Freeman's Farm scenario in the Black Powder rulebook as the first game.

...until next time.