Mourir Pour L’Indochine

Ready for action

Wargaming French Indochina has always been a bit of a goal of mine ever since reading Bernard Fall’s ‘Hell In A Very Small Place’ back in the 80’s. Fast forward to more recent times and the release of the Red Star Miniatures period specific range, which soon became the Empress Miniatures range, and messing about with conversions of US marines became a thing of the past. A pretty sizeable force of several platoons was assembled over time and we have happily gamed the period using amendments to our WWII rules ‘Where The Streets Have No Name’ but the idea that someone might publish a period specific set was always tantalizing. So having got hold of a pdf of Shawn Taylor’s ‘Mourir Pour L’Indochine’ courtesy of our good friend Gareth Lane and had it printed we thought we’d give it a go.

All’s quiet

Rather than go through each and every section of the 120 pages – yes you read that right ๐Ÿ˜ฎ we’ve opted to discuss the rules based on our play through of the first introductory scenario. Now, before we go any further, we need to be clear that our experience is based on playing the ISK level game, which covers forces from the single squad level up to a couple of platoons where one individually based figure represents one man; the rules also cover company level games, SK+, where the single figure represents a fire team of 3 men. So, our scenario featured a Viet Minh Local Force team tasked with blowing a bridge near a hamlet on the south end of the board before the approaching Foreign Legion patrol spotted and stopped them; the team comprised a command element, a 3 man demolition team, a sniper and a 4 man rifle team, the demo team could deploy in the hamlet near the bridge or some (far away) hills – why? the rest, anywhere they liked. The Foreign Legion force was a weak platoon comprising, a HQ element of Lieutenant & Sergeant and two rifle squads of, a sergeant, two 3 man rifle teams and an Automatic Rifle team of 2 men led by a Corporal; the French entered from the north of the board on the road that led to the bridge with the HQ & 1 squad on the road and the other squad in the grass on one side of the road or other. All the separate elements are referred to as Fire Teams (FT) in the rules.

Foreign Legion

The sequence of play is, I Go, You Go, and the first to go is usually decided by the scenario with the aggressor going first, although the Viet Minh player has the option of passing on going first – there is a confusion of words here regarding who goes first, on page 26 it says “Often it will be the player on the Offensive” but on page 28 it says “The Viet Minh, unless ……….., will always have the choice of going first or passing the first side sequence to the French” We went with the French going first as they were moving forward. Whoever’s go it is then chooses a unit to activate – a unit is a squad and that squad will contain it’s various sub elements, and there is the familiar choice of things that can be done, move, shoot, rally, ambush, assault, etc, most of which can only be done once. The opposing player then chooses a squad, and so on until all units have been activated – it is important to note here that a unit can also be the HQ element of 2 men, or the lone sniper or the squad sergeant, which did feel a bit odd.

More Legion

Before we get to movement it is worth saying there is a whole command & control facet to the rules that the author makes a great play about, wherein different levels of command have a specific span of control of units and that this is critical to fire control and rallying – in our experience it made absolutely no difference and wasn’t even anything as simple as ‘troops out of span cannot move or fire’, it was literally four pages of nothing.

Welcome to the jungle

There are 3 types of movement, Route March (the fastest), Tactical March and Fire & Movement (most battle effective) and each type has a specific way of deploying the figures, so in Route March “the members of a FT must be in base to base contact and each FT can be no more than 2″ from the next closest FT”, in Tactical March “the members of a FT must be 1/2″ to 1″apart and each FT can be no closer than 2″ from the next closest FT”, in Fire & Movement “the members of a FT must be in base to base contact and each FT can be no more than 2″ from the next closest FT”, Hold on! Isn’t Route and Fire & Move the same? We presumed this was a typo and so played with the figures spread out a bit. The key element to this is that the March variants carry penalties for shooting but you can whizz along the table with bonuses if Veteran, although Elites don’t get a bonus ๐Ÿค” Nice idea but a bit long winded, there are also several caveats about whether a march is forced or whether a unit is unreliable or rolling for a random +/- on the movement rate which don’t add much of value really. The key distraction as players was ‘why have I got all these nice individually based figures (as required by the rules and what you would expect in a skirmish/small action game) when they spend most of their time bunched up and where there is separation it’s really something of nothing?’ Much easier to plonk the fire teams in movement trays, plenty of them about – I hate movement trays for skirmishing.

Viet Minh demo team head for the bridge

Shooting is always a fun part of any wargame and we managed to get a reasonable amount of this in, the VM sniper had a pot, one of the Legion squads sent him scampering for cover, the VM fire team and the other Legion squad mixed it up and we even had an Assault, but more of that later ๐Ÿ˜ฒ The basic concept of the shooting revolves around the FT which is arbitrarily set at 3 figures armed the same – I would dispute the historical evidence for this but as a mechanic it’s fine, but once again, ‘why am I deploying individual figures when all I need is a multi base of 3?’ So, a FT is worth 1 x D10, it ‘sights’ the target – basically visibility is pretty much the whole table unless something big is in the way or you are in the various versions of grass/jungle where sightlines are reduced – I liked this but it took us ages to find, shooting is on page 32 and the terrain modifiers on page 55 ๐Ÿ˜ค Anyway, the D10 is rolled and modified according to what the shooter is doing and what the target is doing plus any terrain modifications and basically a 7+ is needed to get some kind of result although a natural 10 is a kill.

Shooting

The effect of a hit is to give ‘Resilience Points’ to the squad, to find the meaning of these RP’s you have to chase down page 48 but once you have RP’s then, depending on experience level, you halt, find cover, go to ground, become pinned, flee, surrender. Based on this you can see that fire teams aren’t that effective especially given the random spread of a D10 and that roll takes no account of the shooters experience, so a Veteran FT shoots the same as a Green one it’s just that a Green squad like RP’s less than a Veteran. When it comes to the AR team they roll 4 x D10 and an LMG team rolls 6 x D10, which in both cases is a massive disparity – I genuinely don’t believe a BAR is 4 times as effective as a 3 man rifle team armed with SLR’s, but anyway the random nature of the roll means the BAR can miss completely – we did!

Just a couple of more things on shooting. The ranges are whopping – 60″ for a rifle team, so given this is a skirmish game on something like 4’x4′ or 5’x5′ it’s kind of pointless, just regulate things like smg’s and similar. When a unit is fired at it can immediately return fire if the shots were from a previously unknown target which is kind of fun and it seemed to us that if they hadn’t been activated yet then they could fire again in their turn (we think?). The accumulated RP’s give an enforced result, like seek cover, but it wasn’t clear whether that was immediate, after it had done any return fire or in it’s next activation; we opted for immediately after any return fire and that seemed to work given that not every fire fight elicited return fire.

The only two things left to discuss that we experienced are, Rallying and Assault. The Assault action is meant to replicate those desperate charges you read about from Dien Binh Phu where a small group of legionnaires clear a trench with smg’s & grenades or VM cadres hurl themselves against the wire. As a mechanism it works quite well; you have to be fairly close to start with then move up to throw grenades (if you have them), take fire from the defenders and then get stuck in – the RP’s from grenades and defenders fire are rolled up in the final result and hoorah each figure rolls a dice, highest counts. The overall effect is quite bloody and someone loses, this was innovative and a good representation of the historical evidence. An interesting result of the VM losing an Assault was that they could fade back into the jungle and rally at some pre determined point after x turns, another good representation. There doesn’t seem to be a use for grenades anywhere else in the rules which seems a bit remiss but maybe we missed that.

Bridge blown in a win for the Viet Minh

The rallying aspect of the rules is the getting rid of the RP’s which can be done by in two ways. The unit can ‘self rally’ where it simply discards x number of RP’s depending on it’s experience providing it hasn’t taken anymore that turn and didn’t move and it can also Rally as an action which is where the command span comes into affect and a D6 rolled worth of RP’s is removed. All very simple and nothing to complain about.

Demo team congratulates itself

So what of the scenario? Well, there was no way the French were going to stop the bridge getting blown, the demo team start pretty close to the bridge and once the charge was planted all they had to do was move away and bang! there was no mechanism for dicing to see if it exploded and nothing in the various sections on mines and booby traps in the main rules, but it served its purpose.

The rules do come with a QRS but it runs to 5 sheets so not very user friendly and suffers from trying to pack too much in, there is nothing wrong with saying “for napalm accuracy see page….” also a couple of tables were at variance with the main rules.

But what of the rules themselves? Now I really, really wanted to like these but when I asked Dave what he thought, his response was “I was so bored”, which is not good. We have play tested a fair number of rules over the years, including my own, and I don’t think I’ve ever had that response before. For me, the kinetic energy you expect from a set of skirmish/small unit action rules was sadly missing, even allowing for the unfamiliarity of a new set. They are certainly exhaustive and maybe that is part of the problem, there is just too much going on, too many things to look up and too may things to do for no appreciable gain, I certainly couldn’t envisage a game of a more than a platoon a side and certainly wouldn’t want to run a multi player game with them. Yes there are definitely some innovative ideas in there and probably some we missed because we didn’t call up air support or artillery

As is de rigor these days the rules contain TO&E’s for the various combatants but I did think these were a bit selective, so yes we have French Infantry Platoon organisation who let’s face it weren’t in too many actions but no Foreign Legion, no Foreign Legion Paratroopers, No Vietnamese Paratroopers, No Colonial Paratroopers, no Moroccans, no Algerians, no Senegalese, I can only assume you are meant to use the standard infantry platoon organisation or paratrooper organisation and assign a morale level you think appropriate. The scenarios are pretty much a standard requirement these days as well and yes they are there, personally I’d rather do an historical set up or my own version based on the general nature of events.

Overall, a bit of a disappointment, which is a shame, Shawn Taylor has clearly put a lot of work in and I know from my own experience what a ball ache that can be but the rules just didn’t do it for us so for now we will continue as we are with maybe a couple of ‘borrowed’ ideas ๐Ÿ˜

April 2022 Roundup

Tamerlane.

A bit of a disappointing month gaming wise and in terms of projects done – I blame the distraction of helping decorate my sons new flat and Dave being a bit shook up after a car accident (all good now).

Our first game was the continuation and wrap up of our epic Carlist game; the scenario worked, the rules played well, and we got two afternoons out of it so less frequent packing away ๐Ÿ˜€. It also whetted our appetite for Partizan in May where we’ll be doing a Carlist refight.
Hoochville

Next up was an away game of Vietnam using the BOHICA rules; dear oh dear what a disappointment ๐Ÿ˜’, the rules were really rather bad, confused incoherent and definitely nothing to do with Vietnam. The day was fine, seeing guys we haven’t seen for a month, beer, food and a laugh, so not a complete write off.

“hey you in the jail”

Next home game was another gunfight game where we had another episode from our Dardenell County campaign and made a final decision on the rules we’ll use. After years away from the ‘western gunfight’ genre it’s been really nice to back into it and fun has been had painting figures and collecting buildings. What we need now is general clutter, wagons, civilians, horses, all the accoutrements of your average film set ๐Ÿ˜ƒ.

spear won land

Final game of the month was one from our, oh so slow, Successors project ๐Ÿคจ. Still bereft of pikes we put together an Achaean League v Middle Imperial Seleucid (pretty sure the Seleucids didn’t refer to themselves as that ๐Ÿคฃ), mainly because the hoplites we do have could make up the bulk of the League while the many Xystophoroi cavalry we have plus the freshly painted Galatians could justifiably bulk out a Seleucid army.

who doesn’t love an elephant?

The game played well and the rules seem to be giving us what we want in terms of a reasonable representation of warfare of the period and understandable mechanisms. No major ‘oh my god!’ moments but a bit of tidying round the edges still needs to be done; the acid test will be when we have sufficient numbers of pikes done and can go classical pike v pike.

In terms of getting things done it’s all been a bit miserable; there are some more Timurids in progress but the only things that got done were a stage coach and building for the gunfight game – need to give myself a good talking to!

the irony of building a half finished building

That’s it I’m afraid, enjoy your gaming.

March 2022 Roundup

Well March didn’t start off too well as we were forced to cancel our attendance at Hammerhead due to my date for investigative surgery being scheduled for the Friday before the show and Dave wasn’t up to running a participation game on his lonesome. A shame but given the pressure the NHS is under currently I didn’t feel like messing them about just because of toy soldiers ๐Ÿ™‚

From a gaming perspective, we managed to get quite a few in, starting the month of with an Italian theatre War of the Austrian Succession game featuring a GalloSpan army taking on Austro Piedmontese. A hard fought game resulted in an Austro Piedmontese victory due in part to an outstanding performance by the Austrian cavalry.

Next up was a dark age game using our Arthurian rules tweaked ever so slightly to accommodate a Late Roman v Goths encounter. It was the first outing for the Goths and was quite a bloody affair resulting in the death of two of the Goth leaders and a narrow victory for the Romans.

We played two separate western gunfight games during the month as part of our rejuvenated interest in the period, trialling two more sets of rules and kicking off a loose campaign to knit games together.

Probably our best game was a refight of St Denys, the second in our project to refight all the battles of the French Wars of Religion. This is historically a very lop sided battle which the Huguenots simply should not win but did and so it was in our refight even down to killing the right commander!

Our final game was a Carlist War battle done in the style of a ‘table top teaser’ scenario whereby a retreating government column has to get from one end of the table to the other while random Carlist brigades are generated to either side of them. At the time of going to press the government has seen off three Carlist brigades but another two bar their way – to be finished in April ๐Ÿ˜€

Projects wise a couple of small gunfight buildings were completed, some modern vehicles for our Cartel and Syrian games were finished, a couple of Timurid bodyguard cavalry units were finished after lingering around for over a year, some random desert terrain items completed and a unit of Galatians was added to the Successors project.

In other news the 10mm Franco Prussian armies were sold off to a new (and probably more appreciative) owner and some of the money from that sale went toward the purchase of a 4Ground western town from a gaming acquaintance who was done with the period – now we really have got to get into it!

Till next time, happy gaming ๐Ÿ˜„

Montmorency Is Dead

Just a little while ago we refought the Battle of Dreux, 19th December 1562, (reported on LAF) and so feeling very pleased with ourselves thought we’d gently progress our way through all the well documented battle of the French Wars of Religion ๐Ÿ™‚

Next up, by sequence, is the Battle of Saint Denys, 10th November 1567, generally seen as a pointless battle to fight due to the disparity in numbers. Historically, the Huguenots, under the Prince of Conde, had thrown a loose cordon around Paris within which was the numerically superior Royalist forces under the Constable, Anne, Duc de Montmorency. Rather inconveniently for the Huguenots Montmorency decided to give battle and so marched out of Paris to confront Conde near the town of Saint Denys. All military reason said that Conde should have fallen back on other nearby forces but arrogantly decided to stay and fight, pitting around 3.000 men, evenly split between cavalry and infantry, against some 16,000 men of which about 3,000 were cavalry.

The Huguenots formed up inside a vee comprised of Saint Denys at the base and the villages of Saint Ouen and Aubervilliers at the end of the vee on either side. A body of pikemen and shot guarded Saint Denys to act as a secure rear-guard, two bodies of shot were dug in around the villages and the Huguenot cavalry formed into three bodies under their senior leaders, Conde, the Admiral Coligny & the Seigneur de Genlis, once battle commenced no one was acting as overall commander. Facing them, the Royalists formed a double line across the mouth of the vee with eight bodies of gendarmes interspersed by several bodies of foot – a sizeable body of Swiss with artillery deployed in front of them, an unruly body of Parisian militia and two bodies regular foot (legions). Montmorency himself, like his Huguenot counterparts, gave up his role of commander and led the centre body of gendarmes while his son led an adjacent body. With these kind of numbers you can see why the battle is not seen as worth the effort of a re-fight ๐Ÿ˜€

The battle was fairly short and sharp and went contrary to what you might expect. The battle commenced with some long range artillery fire on Genlis which caused some upset and then the flanking gendarmes advanced in an attempt to turn the Huguenot position, unaware of the entrenched arquebusiers whose fire stunned and disorganised the gendarmes who were then charged by Coligny & Genlis and sent flying back into the main line. The Paris militia immediately gave way and Conde launched his cavalry against Montmorency who was killed in the fighting and the Royalist line was wavering but was stabilised by Francois Montmorency (the son) charging his cavalry in and rescuing the body of his father. In the general melee that followed Conde was unhorsed and briefly captured but was freed and rallied his cavalry back on Saint Denys soon to be joined by Coligny and Genlis who had been unable to make any impression on the Royalist infantry. And that was basically it, the leaderless Royalists declined to continue the battle and drifted back into Paris and the Huguenots got a dose of common sense and gave up the blockade.

How then could we recreate it? The terrain is pretty simple, so we set out the three bodies of Huguenot horse on a plain table with a village unit behind them and then created the vee around them with two village units and the entrenched shot. The Royalist forces were then forced to conform to the table, we had six units of gendarmes, a unit of foot masquerading as the militia, two more units of foot, a Swiss unit and a battery of guns. The table was pre set to conform to the actual dispositions (as best we could) prior to the players arriving and the ends of the villages were sealed off with woods to prevent any unhistorical flank marches. The Huguenots had two commanders present, Conde & Coligny, who historically exercised joint control in this early phase of the wars and the Royalists had Montmorency. Our rules use the military skill of the commanders (arbitrarily chosen based on historical performance) to move bodies of troops, so 2 skill points = 2 units etc, and in this re-fight Coligny & Conde had enough points between them to activate each unit, Montmorency however had nowhere near enough points, which we though would represent the piecemeal attack of the Royalists. Each player commander was given the option to assign their commanders to units as per the historical prototype and pleasingly both sides did so, knowing full well the risks ๐Ÿ™„

How did it go? Well the Royalist commander played a cagey game using his points to move bits of the army at a time to try and get a more co-ordinated attack in while the artillery pounded away at Genlis (very historical ๐Ÿ™‚); on the flanks he used his infantry to advance on the villages (we didn’t hide the arquebusiers) which took quite some time but of course the cavalry did have to move if any progress was going to be made. The Huguenots stood still so quite a few turns were just the Royalists moving and the artillery firing.

As the Royalists eased their way forward Francois Montmorency’s cavalry took the first lots of harquebus fire but morale held (naturally ๐Ÿ˜‰) and the colonel wasn’t hit – each unit has a nominated colonel with a skill rating that helps in any testing but can be a casualty based on the number of casualties received. The Royalist artillery fire was particularly accurate on this day and after a few turns of casualties Genlis moved his cavalry into the shadow of Aubervilliers to avoid further losses which caused the Huguenots to advance their rear-guard pike into the space who also fell back due to the artillery – it was temporary, they soon resumed their spirit.

With the Royalists now getting closer Coligny & Conde manoeuvred to try and get into a good position to take on the most forward gendarmes of Montmorency (junior) and Cosse – turns are alternate where players dice for initiative, so there is a certain amount of risk in gambling you will get the next initiative for things like charging home. The Huguenot arquebusiers were now starting to rack up some losses on Montmorency & Cosse which favoured Coligny & Conde going in and when the arquebusiers in Ouen were distracted by an attack by the Paris militia – performing far better than their historical counterparts even with reduced stats, Coligny decided now was his time.

The charge went in on Montmorency who received in good order and a fierce melee ensued….

However, today it was a Protestant god that was deciding the fate of men and Montmorency was killed ๐Ÿ˜ฅ which left his unit stunned and the exultant protestants broke through and by a quirk of fate hurtled through and into the unit of Montmorency senior…..

Boy where these protestants on a roll, in a single round of combat the stood gendarmes were smashed and Montmorency killed, pleasingly reflecting history although no son to recover the body because he was dead!

And in a moment that was it. Montmorency was the commander with the points so the Royalist army was completely paralysed and we had a pretty damm near repeat of history. Both sides gambled with their senior commanders being with units and for the Huguenots it paid off but for the Royalists not so.

It’s rare that a game ends so abruptly and as the organiser I was a bit concerned for the Royalist players reaction but he was completely fine with it, he’d tried for the tactical approach, which was slowly paying dividends, but in this period, whatever rules you use, it’s the cavalry that count and the men that lead them.

A good game, Jarnac next.

A Cowboy Conundrum

Many, many years ago I had the pleasure of getting to know the Skirmish Wargames Group and playing in their 54mm western gunfight and later mountain men games and they remain some of my fondest wargaming memories. In subsequent years the club I belonged to at that time got into the period and a campaign set around the fictional Dardenell County flourished for many years.

Like all good things, it came to an end and I sold off all my collection and haven’t really gamed the period for many years. Then, on a whim, I picked up some nicely painted gunfighters at Hammerhead (BC – Before Covid) and then acquired some buildings through my good friend Gareth Lane and the germ of a ‘side period’ was born.

Of course time has moved on and with it wargames rules styles, hence the title of this piece, should I dig out the old rules and try and remember how to play or embrace the ‘new world’?

Just a casual browse at a show or via Google and one can see there are a number of alternatives out there. Dead Man’s hand by Great Escape Games, Gunfighters Ball by Knuckleduster Miniatures, Fistful of Lead by Wiley Games, The Rules With No Name by Wargames Foundry, and Dracula’s America by Osprey to name but a few.

Through the agency of some local wargamers I’ve been able to play a number of games of Fistful of Lead and even done a re-write version for our own multi player cartel games. My kids bought me a copy of Dead Man’s Hand one birthday because I was waxing lyrical about what fun western gunfight games were and so Dave and I have been able to play several games of that.

In keeping with the modern trend, both sets utilise a deck of cards to activate figures which by default becomes quite a random affair; the deck in FoL is a standard deck, so easy and cheap to obtain, the deck in DMH is a custom deck available only from Great Escape Games, so not so cheap but it does have some cool special events on the cards. FoL uses D10 die, DMH uses D10 & D20 die.

The upside to both sets is that they are simple and easy to learn, which results in a fast play style of game – the first time Dave and I trialled DMH we got two games done and dusted in an evening. The mechanisms are straight forward so don’t require much thinking about and the random nature of drawing cards is very appealing to those who like the conceit of ‘friction’ in their games or to those who just want to ‘have a laugh’.

The downside is, that despite the very best of intentions, they don’t have any real western gunfight feel, not even a Hollywood one and as a game both are completely luck driven.

The lack of feel, for me at least, is the decision to just have generic weapons – pistol, rifle, shotgun, which means that the nuances of the period are lost; the difference between cap & ball revolvers and metal cartridge, the speed of reloading a Colt compared to a Smith & Wesson, why certain gunfighters preferred double action revolvers, the different ranges of carbines and rifles (repeaters and single shot). Also the wide variety of characters in the period, and, in fairness, in film, are reduced to a small selection of stereotypes all behaving in the same way which doesn’t do justice to some of the fantastic modern sculpts there are out there, you just end up with Team Blue v Team Red ๐Ÿ˜’.

The luck or random element is obviously apparent in any game, that’s why it’s a game, but when the random is the driving force and luck is the sole arbitrator the end result can tend to reduce the player to a spectator in his own game and negate any planning or playing skills he/she might have. In the several games I’ve played with both sets I’ve seen a guy with a shotgun miss the target at point blank range with both barrels (yes I’ve seen ‘Unforgiven’ but remember the first barrel hit), two gunfighters at close range both miss (remember, gunfighters, not random cowhands), characters move into and around buildings like they are ‘The Flash’ and so on.

Now I completely get why rule sets have developed in this way, players can get to grips with the mechanisms quickly, no period knowledge is required, the game cracks along, players have a laugh; and don’t get me wrong, I’ve had quite a laugh playing both sets (in a good way ๐Ÿ˜ƒ). But……..

Having acquired more figures and more buildings Dave and I recently asked ourselves the question, “is this it?” Not a good question for a wargamer to be asking himself ๐Ÿค”.

To try and move us forward I suggested to Dave we give the original Skirmish Wargames set a go, knowing full well a bit more effort would be required to play the game. The rules are late 70’s and reflect wargames rules thinking of the time; play is simultaneous based on each character having a written order for the next phase (by order I mean a couple of words – Draw, Walk, Turn & Draw), each character has a set of numeric abilities for pistol, rifle & hand to hand plus an overall experience (Professional, Average, Novice), shooting is based on a % roll against a calculated chance of success which gives a level of damage and everything else out of the ordinary has a % chance of success.

Given the extra effort required the game went remarkably well, we rattled through a lot of turns, a couple of characters were shot down, there was a panic when Dave ran out of ammo (shots are counted) and was messing about swapping guns, a character knocked himself out vaulting a fence and opening a window and crossing a room actually took time. It wasn’t perfect though, the movement was slow and the nuances of the shooting process meant that a lot of bullets were wasted but we still enjoyed the game.

So, we are still in a bit of a quandary. Do we go quick and dirty and to hell with the perceived ‘realism’ or do we go with a bit more detail and the ‘effort’ of doing stat cards so we know what each character is armed with and how good he is? With regards to detail, isn’t that what the hobby is all about? and I don’t have a problem with stat cards, I think it lends a level of player involvement to any game. I’m pretty sure the guys at Skirmish Wargames did an addendum that negated the orders aspect and streamlined the process a bit but dammed if I can find it ๐Ÿ˜’ keep looking I guess.

So that’s it. We’re going to give the Skirmish Wargames set another go and take a bit more care over the character stats – we randomly generated for the first game and it gave some very strange results which we thought skewed the game. Look out for our next attempt soon ๐Ÿ˜€

February 2022 Roundup

Well, we’ve managed to keep to a fairly regular schedule, managing to get 5 games in and complete some terrain items.

The month started with a multi player WWII skirmish set amongst our four foot square city scape, built for us quite a few years back by Dave Marshall of TM Terrain. Designed as a generic eastern Prussia/western Russia look, this game was set in the Caucasus a favourite theatre of operations for us.

The sides were a full platoon each of Soviets and Germans plus limited support, each side approached from the east and west of the town with different deployment options and variables on heavy support/transport.

The game split into the two halves of the board; on the main boulevard a bloody gunfight saw heavy casualties on both sides (mainly from deployed mmg’s & lmg’s) but by nightfall more real estate was in Soviet hands than Germans, in the suburbs both sides proceeded cautiously inflicting low level casualties and by nightfall neither had made significant progress.

Next up was another skirmish but this time just two of us trialling the Dead Mans Hand western gunfight rules. This was a project that had notionally started way back in 2020 when we got the buildings and a few figures but then sat dormant for the first year of Covid. A few more figures were added in 2021 and I got bought the rules as a birthday present so finally we got round to it!

Anyone who has gamed with me knows I’m not a huge fan of card driven games and excessive randomness which is exactly what the rules serve up but they are well produced and Dave and I recognised that for the occasional game we were going to need something fairly short, sharp and effective.

The plus side of being simple and effective was that we got through two games in the evening so that was a plus.

Next up was a ‘proper battle’ featuring Florentines and Venetians from our Italian wars collection and using our home grown rules.

It wasn’t our greatest outing, both sides were overly cautious and where they did get bold it was in isolated efforts. The challenge when using Italian states is the generally low morale of the troops and poor command ability of the generals and so the effort for the players is more demanding than commanding French or Spanish.

Ultimately it was a score draw but both sets of players enjoyed the game and swore to be a bit more aggressive next time!

The last game on home turf was another western gunfight, same rules, different terrain, less figures.

As a game this played better, maybe due to us knowing a bit more about the flow of the rules, maybe because we limited ourselves in terms of numbers, don’t know really.

Again we got through two games and for a knock about kind of game (what some would call “fun”) it was perfectly fine but the random element gives some really ridiculous results which did start to grate by the end of play. The upshot was that Dave and I are going to have a go with the rules we grew up on, the ‘Old West Skirmish Rules’, far more complex but certainly more realistic and have a another go with ‘Fistful of Lead’ which we gamed with a while back. Stay tuned ๐Ÿ˜

Final game of the month was an ‘away game’ with some long standing wargames buddies, near to us but not of us ๐Ÿ™‚.

The game was one of those glorious British colonial expeditions in the face of unruly Afghan depredations using a new set of rules ‘Beyond the Empire’ another set in the draw a card, roll a random dice to see if you do what you wanted to and then roll some more random dice to see if you are any good at shooting/fighting this turn.

Now we had great fun; the sun was out, the beer was flowing and much hilarity was had at each players expense but colonial warfare it most definitely wasn’t.

If the very luck driven, completely random course of events and frankly unbelievable combat outcomes are for you (and I know that for many players this is indeed what it’s all about) then these are as good a set as the many other of it’s type out there. For me, no thanks.

Earlier in the year I’d got myself a couple of the Grand manner buildings in their sale – couldn’t afford them full price ๐Ÿ˜‚ and so got them painted up. Although they are ‘Spanish’ I painted them in a more generic northern European style so we could use them for WWII skirmish.

Also got hold of a Blotz minaret to add to our individual middle east buildings.

That’s about it really. The Successors project trundles along, pikemen are being painted as we speak and Dave’s decision to do some Galatians has a unit nearly done – hopefully some photo’s in the March roundup, some vehicles to add to the modern middle east games are about to get started and more Carlists are underway.

So, until next time, be safe and get in as many games as you can ๐Ÿ˜

January 2022 Roundup

With the start of 2022 and our emergence from 2 years of grabbing a game when we could I thought I’d record each month’s activities for what looks like (fingers crossed) is going to be a more stable gaming year.

Gathering the group up to start gaming again at the beginning of the month was an emotional time and gave us cause to pause and reflect. We have been very fortunate, given our senior age span, not to have lost anyone permanently from this life as so many across the country have; that said we have slimmed down a bit, of the hard core group one of our number is still not comfortable about socialising so we have left it with him to choose his time, of the occasional players, none of them are coming back having essentially given the hobby up. That all said we did manage to get 4 games in and make some progress on some of the projects.

Our first game was a French Wars of Religion game, refighting the battle of Dreux.

Historically a Catholic victory we managed a reversal of history with a stunning Protestant victory that saw most of the Catholic army either dead or running away. It was good to start with a historical refight and we agreed we should try and do more, although that has not been the case so far ๐Ÿ˜.

Our next effort was a classic Prussian v Austrian Seven Years War bash with a considerable number of figures on the table – always good to see. Looking back we could easily have done one of the earlier historical battles but I got carried away with creating a challenging scenario for the game ๐Ÿ˜€.

The game was a points for objectives game, so high ground, bridges, villages. Some of the terrain units were already in Prussian/Austrian hands, a couple of which could be easily lost if players didn’t concentrate, the rest were there for the taking but most would involve fighting for them.

This was a hard fought game with several brigades being fought to exhaustion. The battle will be remembered however not for any great tactical insight but for the hilarity of the poor old Austrian cavalry commander receiving three sets of orders during the game that saw him canter from one part of the battlefield to another and not fight anyone ๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿ˜‚. In the end the Prussians just edged it on points.

Our third game was an eastern renaissance game featuring Ottomans invading southern Muscovy.

This was great fun, as both armies were principally cavalry, we had units attacking, retreating, returning and the air thick with arrows. Ultimately it was a narrow Ottoman victory and at the end of it we were knackered, lots of cavalry is fun but it can get to be a bit of a slog when trying to work out the stats for numerous units all shooting and fighting at the same time.

Last up was an inaugural game of our Successors project.

The project is still ongoing but I reckoned we had enough done to be able to put together a passable semblance of a Eumenid and an Antigonid army which indeed was the case.

The game played well and we were pleased with where we’ve got to with the rules; some tweaks still need to be made but overall a good run out of the figures and the rules.

As well as the games we’ve been slowly working through additions to the armies; some more Streltsy have been completed for the Muscovites – too late for the game though ๐Ÿ™, the Carlists have been expanded in preparation for Partizan, a whole load of gunfighters have been finished for the Wild West games we still haven’t played yet ๐Ÿ™„ and the Successor cavalry were finished in time for the game.

In terms of frequency of games we are well down on pre pandemic times, prior to the pandemic we were usually gaming twice a week, every week and occasionally squeezing in a third. Chatting the other day we recognised we’re never going to get back to that, the Covid years sapped our energy and drive and we are all two years older which for a couple of the guys is quite significant. So going forward we’re thinking once a week would be good, maybe the occasional second game, and seriously look at the joint collection and see if it can be slimmed down – but that’s probably a bit of a pipe dream ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿคฃ

Stay safe everyone and enjoy your gaming.

The Successors Project: Part Four

So, we finally got to game the rules with real figures and a live opponent; just me and Dave to start, a group game will need us two to know what we’re talking about and to have fully fleshed armies.

At the moment we don’t have sufficient pike formations for a traditional battle, in fact we only have one, but we do have sufficient figures for something close enough to see what it looks and feels like.

Using the army lists I was able to create a Eumenid and Antigonid force at about 70% of my proposed typical army points value, so if the pikes and some more generals were available it looks like it might work.

Both armies had two blocks of mercenary hoplites each, four units of cavalry each, one of which was Xystophoroi and the others satrap units; the Antigonids had the one unit of pike, three elephants and sundry skirmishers, the Eumenids had only two elephants, three units of peltasts and also sundry skirmishers. Both sides had an Army General and two Commanders.

The Eumenids deployed with all their cavalry on the right wing under one of the commanders, satrap cavalry to the front and Xystophoroi behind, the hoplites were in the centre under the General covered by the skirmishers with the elephants on their left linking with the peltasts under the other commander.

The Antigonids deployed with the pikes in the centre, flanked either side by the hoplites and covered by the skirmishers, all commanded by the General, two elephants protected the right flank of the infantry block and one the left. On either flank were the cavalry, two units per command under a commander each, with the right wing being the stronger, quality wise, as it contained the Xystophoroi.

As it was our first game we were a bit slow; I thought I knew my own rules and I didn’t ๐Ÿคฃ, Dave obviously hadn’t played at all and despite me going through the concepts at the beginning and having QRef sheets to hand we still managed to lapse into the techniques of other sets we play which was a bit of a distraction to say the least ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿคฃ

The arc of the action isn’t as important as is what we learnt but here it is.

On the Eumenid right the weight of horse didn’t prove as decisive as was hoped for. One unit of Cappadocian cavalry got stuck into the opposing Median horse and eventually routed it and pursued toward the Antigonid camp. The other failed to charge (although so did it’s opponent) which rather created a road block to the other two units which wasn’t resolved until late into the battle. Deployment issues apart, one problem that did surface was that because ‘attack cavalry’ have to go their full distance you get the problem of them getting so close to each other that the eventual ‘charge’ isn’t really a charge but more of a trot and so no visual ‘crash of horse’. I think I know how to fix this, just need to have a bit of a play on my own. The actual melee’s (yes the other unit did finally get stuck in ๐Ÿ˜„) worked fairly well, low casualty rates and results more to do with morale failure than dead men; both sides threw in their commanders on this flank which led to some tense moments of die rolling for risks to the leaders and in fact the Antigonid commander bit the dust and that was the end of that wing.

On the Antigonid right wing their cavalry did a lot better (and so they should have!) against the peltasts, pretty soon one of the peltasts was in rout and the other in retreat, which turned into a rout when the pursuing cavalry caught up with them. The peltasts did manage to hang on for a bit and even used the reinforcement rule to make one melee last just a little bit longer, but finally that flank was on it’s way to the camp. From a rules perspective this worked well and the problem of cavalry not getting their charge bonus didn’t come up as the infantry couldn’t close the distance down before the cavalry charged.

The infantry took some time to get at each other finally meeting as their respective left flanks were collapsing although the slow speed of their advance did mean that the skirmishers could have some effect, shooting at each other and the respective elephants. This was all good, typically in ancient battles the flank cavalry are over and done prior to the decisive blow in the centre and in our encounter the cavalry were either busy pursuing or vainly trying to rally.

How well elephants would perform was a worry when I was writing and play testing the rules solo and so I was keen to see how we got on here. Overall I was pretty pleased; on the Antigonid left the single elephant acted as a disordering deterrent long enough for the left hoplites to turn and face and the javelin skirmishers to screen them; this elephant could in fact have charged and caused a bit of a mess but the afore mentioned distraction of lapsing into another rule set sequence briefly meant that the opportunity was lost ๐Ÿ˜ฅ. On the Antigonid right the fun I wanted from the elephants paid off in full; both sides had an elephant go into panic due to the loss of the mahout from shooting, the Eumenid one careered about randomly as per the rules but the Antigonid one ran straight into it’s own hoplites who then spent the rest of the game trying to kill it – just what I wanted ๐Ÿ˜€. The other two elephants ended up in a melee when the Eumenid one charged home and they were still fighting when we called time.

Once the main infantry got stuck in we were at the end of our time but we did manage to see how well (or not) and infantry fight would go. The Antigonid phalanx charged home on the opposing mercenary hoplites who stood to receive but in two phases of melee they were undone and broke for the camp. This illustrated the advantage of impetus and ranks and from a rules perspective showed, more so than the cavalry, the advantage of gaining the initiative in the turn. If the hoplites had the initiative they could have stymied the advance of the phalanx and although the odds would be against them in the long term it would have slowed the Antigonid advance.

So our first real fight was over. How well did it go? As a game, an enjoyable session, mistakes were made, glory was had, a commander fell, worth continuing with. From a rules perspective, a bit of a relief, the game didn’t fall apart immediately, a novice player had got a grip by about half way through and most of the things I wanted to happen did so. The cavalry needs some work but not an insurmountable problem and some of the wording needs tightening up but again not a major issue. I think we’ve crossed the first hurdle so next step is get the pikes painted and on the table for a proper clash of the titans ๐Ÿ˜

Keep safe everyone and enjoy your gaming wherever and whenever you can.

Science Fiction Rules?

The last time we touched on the sci fi project I was busy constructing buildings but after a few more I got a bit bored so we had a chat and thought “well we’ve got painted figures, enough buildings and clutter for a set up, let’s try some rules”

Now this hasn’t been our most well thought out project so several rule sets have been bought over time and have just sat on the shelf staring back defiantly. We knew we didn’t want light sabres and lasers so given our experience with squad level WWII and modern wars we’ve opted for a ‘near future wars’ kind of vibe; guys in fire teams with pulse rifles (or whatever) bailing out of APC’s and blazing away at each other with minimal ‘alien’ interaction.

Best fit for this vibe seemed to be the ‘Tomorrow’s War’ set written as part of the Osprey/Ambush Alley Games collaboration back in 2011/2012 and carrying a lot of the tropes from the Ambush Alley sets like the magic 4+ roll for success. On the face of it the book (a weighty hardback) is quite daunting, 200+ pages of detailed script printed on the worst colour combination ever – I think they were trying to be ‘edgy’ but it’s a huge fail. However after taking a deep breath and wading through, two things become apparent, (1) the rules you need for a trial game and most follow on games are in the first few pages, (2) a good deal of the book is taken up with back story and I love back story because unlike the ‘real world’ where you know the setting of your game and can build a narrative around it a sci fi game lacks all of that and without some kind of grounding it can become like some of the more silly episodes of early Star Trek. So without further ado we jumped in.

Our game, such as it was, featured an attack by a rifle squad of the Democratic Peoples Army of Glory (Chinese deep space colony) on a Republic of Arden (France) position. As a game it went surprisingly well, a lot of time was spent flicking through the book to make sure we were doing things right (generally we were) and the downloadable quick ref’s aren’t the most intuitive of aids but we got through a game, got a result and the rules seemed to have a logical flow. We didn’t use any of the advanced rules and weren’t sure about the ‘fog of war’ cards – more reading required by me but came away pleased enough to get some more figures painted and maybe buy one of the expensive vehicles that are around ๐Ÿ™„. What did become apparent was the number of figures required, we were playing with essentially a rifle squad each, around a dozen figures, but the rules seem geared towards a platoon action which would mean multiplying by 3 or 4 and I’m not sure we want to do that.

Having finished the game in around 2 hours, Dave suggested we try ‘Black Ops’ the Osprey near future skirmish/secret agent game which we’d used once in a Syrian skirmish game as an experiment in a simple participation game mechanic idea we were contemplating. The game is based on the use of the court cards from a standard playing card deck divided into red and black with each card representing a certain troop type – Jacks are troopers, Kings are ‘heavies’ etc, so when their card turns up they get to do their thing.

We used basically the same scenario and the game played through quickly but because the rules are pretty generic the game felt generic and a little sterile although it was pretty bloody! At the end of it we felt a little ‘meh’ but if you want to just bang down some figures in either a modern or futuristic setting and blast away for an hour or so these will do the job.

We didn’t get to play Osprey’s ‘Rogue Stars’ but I’d already played this a couple of times with some other guys and my takeaway from the set is that for it to work it needs quite a detailed scenario and very few figures per side so that it is more like an RPG than the skirmish game it advertises itself as. That said we have a number of figures that have more of an RPG feel to them so Dave and I talked about the idea of having a ‘Tomorrow’s War’ set of ongoing actions between two of the factions on some contested planet and then maybe running alongside some more detailed personalised games that don’t progress the broader narrative; food for thought ๐Ÿ™‚.

Anyway, that was it. More buildings to construct in the new year and maybe some heavy weapons troops to get painted.

That’s it for the year I reckon so Happy Christmas!

Somewhere In Holland

Some time ago Dave made up and painted a squad of Polish paratroopers which have never seen the light of day so with the gang back together again we decided to do a multi player skirmish set in post Market Garden, Holland.

The basic scenario was, the para’s and a cell from the Dutch resistance have captured a fortified house guarding a crossroads on the route of XXX Corps, unfortunately the defending Germans managed to get a message out prior to being overpowered and a young resistance fighter has just cycled in to say German reinforcements are on their way!

The para’s were allowed to position themselves anywhere around the house and the Dutch anywhere around the windmill and ruined barn, so essentially covering the north south and east west road approaches. The Germans had 4 squads and 10 potential entry points so each squad diced for where they would randomly come on and if it was a road they had the option of using a truck. As it turned out 1 squad came from the north down the road by truck, 1 from the south by truck and 2 squads from the south east, emerging from the wooded terrain. The allies were outnumbered 2:1 but did have the advantage of extensive cover and in the case of the paras better training.

Because the Germans entered at different points and were commanded by different players there wasn’t too much co-ordination (no radios = no player chit chat) so probably best to describe each squad’s ‘journey’ as a whole.

The squad on the northern road (3rd squad) drove as far as the wrecked lorry blocking the way and then de-bussed to head for the windmill (no Dutch were visible at this point) with the aim of using it as the fire base to pin down the defenders of the house. This plan deteriorated quite early on when the para sniper picked off the lmg gunner as the squad crossed the hedge ๐Ÿ˜•

The squad were then involved in a race for cover as the para Bren also opened up and by the time they reached the windmill area they had several men down. At the windmill the Dutch started to open fire but their poorer training meant they weren’t so deadly (by now the para’s had other Germans to worry about) so they were soon dispatched. Once at the windmill the Germans were able to outflank the resistance fighters who were outflanking the Germans advancing from the south and gunned them down. By game end this squad was settled in the windmill but nursing 50% losses. The Dutch had ceased to exist as an effective fighting force and the survivors slipped away.

The Germans on the southern road (1st squad) drove about half way to the crossroads then debussed and crossed the hedge to their left to advance on the house, reckoning that to drive any closer would invite a Piat shot (actually the paras didn’t have a Piat but the Germans didn’t know that ๐Ÿ˜€). The corporal and one other stayed by the truck to engage in long range distraction of the paras now visible on the bunker roof- they eventually downed one para who was bandaged up by his mates.

It was a long slog up to the crossroads and at the corner they took an unexpected casualty from the firing slit in the bunker door which covered the break in the hedge – this was a pure accident of the terrain placement and despite a bit of debate we agreed it was a legal shot. Alerted now, most of the the squad scrambled over the hedge and advanced on the house using the burning Hanomag as a screen, things were looking good as 2nd & 4th squads were converging on the house.

Now out of angle of the bunker door the squad prepared for an assault…….

Boom! Unfortunately one of the resistance team hiding out in the barn was positioned at the window, hidden by the other burning wreck, and let fly with a panzerfaust which exploded against the Hanomag taking out 3 of the squad in the blast ๐Ÿ˜ฎ – the funny bit was that the Dutch player thought that the guy he had placed there was armed with a rifle ๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿ˜‚

The result of this debacle was that the sergeant died of his wounds and the resultant morale test saw that group ‘pinned’ and then ‘gone to ground’ which meant they crawled away from the action until rallied – they didn’t.

The remainder of the squad, a couple of guys the other side of the burning vehicles and the corporal and his mate, belatedly advancing up the road, pulled themselves together enough to kill off the Dutch in the barn (I wonder if it was a ‘Dutch barn’?) but that was them essentially done. A noteworthy postscript was that in the dying light of the day the corporal managed to place a charge against the bunker door and blow it in – the figure was equipped with a bunch of grenades bundled together for tank busting so we agreed that was a feasible outcome.

The German 4th squad emerged from the eastern woods into the sunlight and started out across the open field toward the house only to take rifle fire from the upper windows that downed the corporal, but the sergeant urged the men on, leaving behind a man to dress the corporal’s wound. They flung themselves into cover at some shell holes and returned fire supported by the lmg of 2nd squad behind them, after a couple of turns of no firing from the house (the para had been hit and was being treated by another) they rushed to the hedge in front of them and vaulted over and into the street.

Once in the street there was a ‘lobbing grenades into the house competition’ which saw grenades get through the window but land nowhere near those inside (as the Germans couldn’t mark their target the impact point was randomised) but the concussion from grenades going off in a small room were deemed to have concussed those inside. The main plan however was to rush to the rear of the house, storm into the yard and up the stairs.

However, as soon as the first soldier entered the yard a shot rang out from the bunker (this bloody bunker!) and down he went. This completely stuffed the plan and the squad was now stuck exchanging useless shots at a bunker slit knowing full well only a lucky hit would be enough – they never got lucky. One bright spot was a single soldier who had been sent crawling into the under house garage space, but more of him later.

The German 2nd squad emerged from the south east slightly behind 4th squad so when the 4th took fire the lmg team quickly deployed and opened up on the house – it was actually their fire that inflicted the casualty. While the lmg team remained deployed, the rest of the squad advanced, using the eastern hedge line as cover, arriving at the hedge to the south of the house just as 4th got set to advance round the corner.

Vaulting the hedge like their predecessors, the 2nd also went for the grenade lobbing trick but what a disaster ๐Ÿ™„, the grenade hit the windowsill, bounced back and exploded amongst the squad, killing the sergeant and one other! Despite the shock the corporal rallied the squad and led them up the road away from dangerous grenade throwing and into the hell that was the crossroads fighting.

The corporal firing his smg at the bunker firing slit this provided enough of a distraction for the lone private from 4th squad who’d crawled through the garage space to get to the side of the slit and post a grenade – boom!

In the fading light the rest of 2nd squad got round the side of the bunker but there was still no way of launching an effective assault. In desperation surrender terms were offered but the paras said they hadn’t got room for so many prisoners ๐Ÿคฃ๐Ÿ˜‚ (if you’re going to steal, steal from the best), even the blowing in of the bunker door failed to convince them!

At that point we decided the Germans would fall back far enough to keep the paras bottled up and hope to starve them out before XXX Corps arrived, which was probably a vain hope.

Overall we had a great time, plenty of tactical decisions to be made; when do you run across open ground, how many men are you prepared to lose in a suicidal assault, remembering to fire and move, etc. We also got a sense of the frustration of close assault against prepared positions, especially when those positions are held by good quality troops, although the fortified house was a lot harder nut to crack than we envisaged,

Anyway, we played, we bantered, we had a good game, all you can ask for really.

Thanks for reading and enjoy your gaming.