Thursday, 31 December 2015

Game 37 - 'Megablitz'

Now this is a nice set of rules.

If you’re not aware of this one, the concept is operational (The Soviet ‘Operational Art’, as quoted - actually, I’ve had Tim Gow’s rulebook since the 90s and only getting around to playing it now! Maybe I’m the one that’s not aware…doh!). The rules may be pretty hard to find now, but the concepts are lovely.

In essence we’re dealing with stands of infantry which represent entire battalions, where 4cm=1km (or half that in 1/300). (…as Bolt Action fans run away screaming…). Tank bases can represent multiples of companies.

So, we’re looking at the sort of level we normally see in Hex’n’Chit wargames. The beauty of this is that I’ve always wanted to do Market Garden on an 8’x5’ table, with 20mm miniatures. Pull up the distance between Eindhoven and Arnhem on google and you’ll see how it fits.

Highlights include:
  •         The SMART orders system (Static, Mobile, Attack, Retreat, Transit). This is the focus of the game and dictates movement, readiness for combat etc. Outguess your opponent and manage your resources. This is what WW2 gaming should really be about.
  •         Relative strengths dictate all differentiation between units, and degrading strengths are kept hidden from opponents – with them rolling to see how many hits they take from the dice you hand them.
  •         To this end, Recon elements are used properly, to assess actual strengths, actual orders etc. A lovely fog of war concept, (though the counters I used for strength and orders were too big, and strewn across the table like so much confetti at one stage).
  •         Logistics (in terms of both supplies and fuel) is critical to protracted battles. If you can’t trace your supply route, and use up the lorries’ supplies appropriately (yes, trucks are really important), you degrade your capability fast (like ZOCs and supply in the old SPI games).
  •         Combat at the sharp end is close up and personal and protracted – there are no ranges for infantry and vehicles at this level and artillery is on the table (yay). It’s what happening behind the lines that can make a big difference. Don’t get hung up on the fight at the crossroads – support it, withdraw, or look at supply issues that are coming.
  •         Bombing and air support and the concepts used in blitzkrieg start to work, and key – you understand ‘why’ they worked.
  •         Here’s a pretentious point. You aren’t managing the battlefield here, you’re managing the ‘battlespace’ (to coin an oft used more modern term). You’re concerned about the front, supporting that front, potential breakthroughs which hit your flank or rear, and supply…oh, like things a real general would worry about you say? Yep.

All that said, we probably didn’t give the rules the outing they require, with no real urban combat (which sucks up supplies likes nobody’s business), and I know we made some mistakes in terms of logistics. That’s no bad thing, as the rules are eminently hackable (in fact the format positively encourages house ‘rulings’).

There are of course some very pertinent links
Tim Gow’s (the author) blog:

Bob Cordery’s blog – which has some relevant rules hacks (HexBlitz), and has some great development rules concepts. My reason for citing this one is that I have hexes on the gamespace in the pics below, which will of course lend themselves to dictating movement and range etc.for future runs.

The Megablitz website:

Steve’s Balagan blog, with some nice quick reference sheets and rules clarifications and scenarios. Actually it was his Eastern Front version of ‘Dot sur la Mappe’ that we used for the game.

The long road east. Minimum terrain, but at this scale, it's unimportant as range issues are handled very differently.

  On board elements, awaiting 16th Panzer, make first moves toward the farm complex.. 16th Panzer division make drive toward east.

 Dive bombing fire discipline required.

  Still some way to go, but 'most' of the division is on the road now.

Recon elements, supported by armour, makes for the left flank, where Soviet units are thought to be.

In the same turn as Soviet reinforcements arrive, in the form of heavy armour, they elect to use the 'Red Air' option and bomb the crossroads - effectively stopping forward progress, and forcing German armour to engage the threat.

 A 109 on a counter air mission...German air support making a big difference... the form of a second JU88 mission.


Armour closes to contact.

 As the fight at the road junctions becomes desperate.

In the final assault, enough damage is done such that German units are able to advance while carrying out a holding action at the junctions...and there are still air options available to support.

All in all, this was pretty exciting as a concept, and there are some good hacks of the ideas lurking about the net. A large battle can be fought in a matter of hours, with the important issues of the day being stressed.


Market Garden, Bastogne etc – all eminently do-able with nice 20mm models and good game resource management – just what we like. A modern version, along the lines of Avalon Hill’s ‘Tac Air’ springs to mind, and some larger Vietnam scenarios from ‘Seven Firefights in Vietnam’ are applicable depending on how you adapt the SMART concept for company level etc.

Having had the hexes in place, it also made me think about how I can use them to hack the existing rules, or use a little of the 'Hexblitz' system too, and even parts of Memoir '44.

With hexes, we can see the combat unfold as above - like a Hex'n'Chit game with toys.

Also? Well, I took a leaf out of the Megablitz veteran’s book and put some of the vehicles and infantry on thick bases with a black edge – more reminiscent of large unit markers than pieces in a diorama…oh, they look nice now.

 Love those black lines...

More to follow…

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Game 36 - Sword & Spear

Belated Christmas greetings to all, and best wishes for a good New Year.

As usual, it's been a busy time, though we have so far managed to squeeze in a game of Sword & Spear (the first set of rules, where having actually bought the first edition from Lulu, I didn't actually play the game until buying the second edition from Great Escape Games.

That said, the game concepts haven't changed much. Now, Ancients isn't really my thing, but I always loved the sound of the mechanisms at work here.

There are nice turn mechanisms employed, where:

  • You draw seven dice from the 'bag' in a turn segment, and each player assigns these by colour (reminiscent of 'Fire Team' a little). There are enough dice there to represent each unit - though the draw dictates the sequence of action.
  • This allows emphasis on unit activation, sequence of activation, and 'fog of war' in one neat mechanic.
  • You can't always rely on being able to move everything you'd like therefore; (in the game below, the 'undrilled' Gauls sat and debated chaos theory rather than actually getting their collective asses in gear).
  • Combat is simple and decisive (and bloody), which doesn't actually matter that much as the key is managing your resources and allocating your best dice result for activation to those areas where 'the fire is hottest'.

A nice elegant game design. Must play more of this. I wasn't always a big ancients fan, though these rules could quite easily turn the tide.

 Romans on the left, outnumbered by Carthaginians on the right (these are all 20mm plastics).

 Celts on the Carthaginian right would not move at all.

A cavalry action on the Roman right, saw some exceedingly brave Numidian lights do considerable damage.

Roman lights took the brunt of the damage and helped contribute to early Roman morale/discipline checks. (Yes, yes, I should have pulled them out of there, I know).

The Roman centre appeared at least, to be well held, though was slowly being flanked.

...and there was the small matter of Carthaginian heavy infantry to deal with.

Oh yeah...and the Celts...well they looked dangerous at least, even if they did nothing :)

Another major decision here was to use single large bases and simply mark off hits for each base. I really like the sizes chosen and the number of figures per base. 3"x1.5" is the way to go. It also allows quick and relatively small games, and covers a pretty wide period (including the odd R.E.Howard inspired Conan style mash up).

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Muster Tuck

The pic below is from another quick X-Wing game with the Friday group...and can be viewed as being a nice metaphorical indicator regarding my current fixation with multiple rulesets and wargaming methodology; i.e. imminent collision, confusion, too much squeezed into a tight space in terms of time and resources and a general fascination with the 'new and shiny'.

 (ok so, the x-wings are Volley and Bayonet, the Tie fighters on the right are 'Sabre Squadron'...ok so it doesn't work if I explain it, does it?...but Steve and Mike's asteroids do still look excellent...of course these actually, I'll stop now.)

It's all very well trying to say: 'Right, these are now my rules of choice for this period...that's it, nothing changes, no more - we just play games with these rules from NOW ON, uhhh if we happen to be doing this period!'

Any reader of this (and any) wargaming blog will understand of course, that such high hopes, born of an eagerness to streamline the amount of 'stuff' and 'clock time' surrounding our unique hobby, will be dashed upon the rocks of our fixation with the 'new and shiny'.

Lists always help, right? Ok, let's do that...

Ancients - desperately trying to get enough 20mm plastic painted to play 'Sword & Spear'. The first set of rules ever, where I have just ordered the second edition, before ever playing the first!

Nine Years War / Late 17th Century - hoping to do a version of Aughrim with Volley and Bayonet, before I re-base everything for something order to provide skirmish figures for the period.

AWI and C18th - Volley and Bayonet in various scales and Field of Battle and the other 35 sets that Sgt. Steiner has in his collection...

Napoleonic - I went and bought Blucher - like I need another ruleset.

ACW - I went and bought Longstreet...refer to above.

The Great War - yeah, WW1 spearhead is lying around here somewhere...

WWII - ordered the new 'Iron Cross' for squad leader level, but also have Steve's stuff to try and his new 'Battle' turn sequence is calling - one base or two per squad with 1 vehicle = 1 vehicle is a dream scale. BUT ALSO...WWII Field of Battle is calling for operational level engagements - really calling in terms of doing Market Garden or Ardennes. (and refer to Steiner's other 35 sets again).

Modern - Similarly, bases equalling a fire team or squad allows a lot of flexibility too. So focus was on Sabre Squadron, but again Steve's play sequence is attractive, as is the possibility of turning Iron Cross into something 1980ish.

Sci-Fi - don't get me started, but I really like the 5 Core stuff for WWII to Sci Fi...

Too much stuff? This is a good sign for the hobby (but not my wallet)...And returning to the X-Wing parallel, there's a counter called target focus. I need some of that!


 ...oh yeah, and I guess I have to paint figures too dammit...