Friday 23 March 2012

My Seven Years War Rules - download the latest version.

Following some recent games my rules have, of course, evolved again. However, I think for the moment they have reached a point where I am reasonably satisfied with them, so I thought I would give readers another chance to download the latest iteration.

The only thing I would mention is that the 'Hit Tables' are meant to take into account morale as well as pure firing factors, so that there is no morale section in the rules anymore. Reaction to fire is automatic.

Anyway, find them here. Hope they may be of some use.

Sunday 18 March 2012

Polish Armoured Train - BKC2 Rules

This post is dedicated to 'Johnboy' from the Specialist Military Publishing forum (the 'BKC forum' as far as I'm concerned). He had acquired the FoW/Battlefront Miniatures Polish armoured train and was looking for rules to use it in Blitzkrieg Commander games. I had some ideas for him as I have been using such a train in my 1939 games for a while now, although I had bought the Peter Pig Russian Civil War train a while back and painted it up for 1939. Anyway, prompted by johnboy's post I have improved my armoured train rules and thought I would offer them up here.

My own armoured train. Available from Peter Pig in resin and metal. Loco plus tender £12, artillery cars  £6 each. Strictly speaking a Russian Civil War model, but a good quality model which represents a bargain at £24 the lot. No assault car though. In the end I considered that an advantage as the whole model is still 16" in length.

Battlefront artillery car. Photos from the Fort Buyaki blog

Battlefront assault car

Battlefront loco with tender. The complete armoured train apparently works out to  25" in length!
A magnificent model, but the cost is about £80. Hard to locate this piece of kit on the FoW site for some reason.

The main problem is that the armoured train fits in better with FoW than BKC. FoW is set at company level and a model train can represent just that - one actual train. In BKC the default playing scale is set at a vehicle or infantry base representing a platoon of vehicles or infantry. But that model train can't represent a 'platoon' of 3 actual trains. So these rules represent my compromise to get a workable set of rules in place. If anyone has other ideas, or criticisms of my approach, I'm all ears.

Anyway, here are my rules as they stand at the moment. Remember they are for the Peter Pig train so the tender stands in for the assault car:

Armoured Train
Type, armour. The train consists of 2 Artillery Cars and 1 locomotive/tender with command compartment. Speed 20cm. The train forms a single formation with the HQ (CV8) in the tender. The HQ is never targeted. Train may dismount 2 infantry units (measure infantry deployment from command cupola). Number of units for breakpoint calculations is 5 – locomotive/tender counts as 1, each artillery car counts as 1, plus the 2 infantry units. Total cost 400 points (HQ+tender costs 60+40, artillery cars 110 each, infantry units 40 each).

Artillery cars: Each car has 1 x 75mm gun and 1 x 100mm gun which fire under the overall rules for artillery support units.
Direct Fire: 75mm guns - one attack per gun (1/40 AT, 1/80 AP). 100mm guns – 2 attacks per gun (2/40 AT, 2/100 AP). They may fire within a 270ยบ arc. Each gun gets the +1 within 20cm against unarmoured targets as co-axial mgs were carried.
Indirect Fire: Fire whole train as one 75mm artillery support unit and one 100mm artillery support unit, standard stats.
Side mgs were also fitted so 1 mg (3/60) may fire from the side of each artillery car. Each car has an AA mg in a top turret. These have no separate attacks but contribute to the standard 2 attacks for the HQ against aircraft. Close Assault 4
4 hits per car, save 6. A KO’d car will only be considered derailed if wholly or partly KO’d by indirect fire or aircraft bombs. Derailed cars may be detached but block the line. A car KO’d only by direct fire or only suppressed may move with the rest of the train. (These rules partly simulate possible damage to the tracks as well as the actual cars).

Locomotive/Tender: Count tender and loco as one unit. One mg may fire from each side (3/60).  Standard 2/30 for AA fire only. Measure all fire from command cupola. Two infantry units are carried. Close Assault 4. 4 hits, save 6. HQ may dismount. Train will be unable to move if loco is KO’d, in which case the train HQ must dismount. May move if suppressed, but infantry cannot dismount.

I have assumed that gamers will want to fire each gun modelled on an artillery car separately in a gaming situation. The other approach might be to take each artillery car as a single 'tank' and give it combined stats of 3/40 AT and 3/100 AP. Another alternative would be give a 5 or 6 save against hits. Some trains had artillery cars with armour as thick as 25mm, though around 12mm seems to have been more common for the train as a whole. I have also read that armour-piercing rounds could sometimes pass through the cars without causing much damage, the room within the cars being of benefit in these circumstances. So perhaps a higher save is justified. 

As johnboy and I have found, these rules don't make the armoured train the all-conquering behemoth represented  on the FoW website, and also in the articles in Wargames Illustrated 281 (which nevertheless gives an excellent account of the real action at Mokra which remains the most famous armoured train action). I think my rating is more realistic, but others may disagree. The model can actually be a bit of a white elephant, and is probably best used firing from behind the lines (though on table of course) as a couple of artillery support units. Push it forward into combat with tanks and it will get KO'd quite quickly. But if there are no tanks around and anti-tank guns aren't too numerous, the high firepower can be very effective against infantry and softer vehicles.

Anyway, like I say, that's my take on it. I welcome comments from the more informed or those with better brains for developing rules.

Saturday 17 March 2012

Order Cancelled

"In wargaming, as in life, consumerism will not lead to satisfaction."

Ah, wise words indeed. Who am I quoting? Well... Alright, I apologise. I'm quoting myself, from the one and only article I ever had published in a wargames glossy (Battlegames 24). In pursuit of this philosophy, I have been making a virtue of necessity over the last couple of years by not spending a great deal on the hobby, for the simple reason that I don't have a great deal to spend - or perhaps one might say I simply can't justify spending much on wargaming when more practical items need purchasing and bills need paying. But this month I had a rare experience - a bonus in my monthly salary. So I thought I might treat myself to a bit of lead, just to raise the spirits a little, and grant myself a small reward amidst life's pressures. 

But what to choose? In the end I decided to add some 'speciality' figures to my SYW collection, which I could use to decorate my battlefields in order to add to the visual spectacle. I'm talking about some musicians, a civilian vignette or two, a senior officer in a striking pose, and some artillerymen or pioneers to scatter about the place. Such figures have an interest in themselves, being fun to collect and paint, but also have the advantage that you can use them in just about all your games, as their only function is to fill up the gaps on the field of battle and give one's set-ups a more satisfying and interesting appearance.

I settled on Eureka Miniatures, being initially attracted by a nice pair of artillerymen carrying a small powder chest between them, and a nice looking vignette of George Washington dismounted with his horse and a pair of his dogs (which could stand in for any aristocratic gentleman from the tricorne era). Browsing the site, I added in a few musicians and mounted trumpeters, some dismounted hussars, and came up with a figure which was... well, frankly much too much. Well over £70 in fact. Eureka foot figures are £2 each, mounted £4. So I scaled down the order and got it down to about £35. Then I began my checkout. And then I found that postage from Australia would be £17. That's half the cost of my order! UK stockists? I could find only one, and the stock was limited, not to mention the fact that the figures themselves were more expensive anyway to compensate for being imported. So I returned to my checkout page, and looked at it for a few minutes, pondering. Following which, I muttered the immortal words 'Ah, fuck it' and closed the page down. I had saved myself 50 quid. 

The purpose of this post is not to berate the wargames industry in general, or Eureka in particular, for their high prices. I'm sure Eureka would sell their stuff cheaper if they could, and I am willing to believe (albeit reluctantly) that the postage from Oz really is that much. It seems I have lost track of how prices for unpainted lead in the larger scales have increased. I'm used to good old RSM95 prices, where a foot figure can still be obtained for around 70p, or a bit less. Furthermore, for someone who has been known to bemoan the price of contemporary rulesets, this does rather put things into perspective. Creating a new army in 28mm must be a very expensive process indeed, in the light of which a set of rules for £25 must be small change. None of which, however, makes me feel much better about the hobby.

I guess really I'm saying that I continue to feel that the sentiments I expressed in that article hold true. I can do without those extra figures. My artillery batteries can be attended by some individually based musketeers which I already have lying around; I can paint up some spare officers to scatter about the place; and I can complete some mounted civilians that are still in my small 'lead mountain'. And that will be fine. In addition, I can see that to someone contemplating buying a new good quality golf club, or, (to choose a subject closer to home) a parent considering buying a new dressage saddle for their daughter, £40-50 isn't much. I guess wargaming still counts as a cheap hobby. But sometimes it really doesn't feel that way. It would seem a hundred unpainted foot figures can still easily cost you £200 pounds. And unfortunately I find that I have no desire at all to wargame in any scale below 15mm. In fact, I have a hankering to wargame with 40-42mm figures in the horse and musket era. Fat chance!

Ah well. So, order cancelled. To add a splash of colour to this sorry story, I conclude with a photo of some purely decorative figures purchased a while back, which I never presented in their painted form, then a photo of a recent small artillery project. TTFN!

L to R: (All Willie Figures unless mentioned) French engineer officer painted as Austrian engineer; British officer as Prussian officer of miners with RSM guard; Hovels farmer w/sheep; French engineer again as Austrian officer of pioneers with RSM guard; British sutleress; Farm girl and Farm boy; British officer as Wurtemburg artillery officer.

This is an attempt at creating one of the 1 pounder Grenz light guns that were used to support the Grenz infantry early in the SYW. The gun is from Parkfield Miniatures, RSM gunner with paint conversion, RSM grenzer with rammer instead of rifle. 

Monday 12 March 2012

Operation Warboard: Panzers At Brodno, 1939

Well now, the theme for recent posts on this blog seems to be well established - getting inspiration and ideas from the work of wargamers of the past. I think it might be best to change that soon - it's time I tried to come up with some ideas of my own. Then rather than expecting others to inspire me, perhaps I could provide some inspiration to others; although perhaps inspiring others is rather too grand an ambition. I should probably settle for something original that might at least interest other wargamers, rather than repeatedly recycling old stuff. But before then, one more blast from the past...

Gavin Lyall's Operation Warboard dates from 1976 and concentrates on WW2 wargaming. I borrowed it from the library at the time and read it with great interest - the author seemed to be struggling with the same problems I was having in writing my own set of WW2 rules, and coming up with the same kind of answers as I was. Not only that, but here was a gamer whose terrain and figures were not some unattainable marvel but who wargamed on the same kind of unsophisticated, hastily set up terrain that I used, and didn't worry too much about how his figures were painted. 

I bought the book a couple of years ago for old times' sake, and get it out now and then for the usual nostalgia. The rules are not much use to me these days. With hindsight I reckon they turned out like mine - a bit clunky and over complicated. They were written in a period when we were waiting (although we didn't know it) for new rule concepts like DBA and Warmaster to appear, which would make things both simpler and more satisfying. Unfortunately, before that happened, many rulesets much more clunky and much more complex than Mr Lyall's would have to be suffered by wargamers. Oh, those endless f*cking modifiers...

Anyway, a recent re-read found me studying the photo below and being struck by what an interesting set-up it was. The photo was given as an illustration of what a 'bigger' game might look like, with no real indication of what the scenario was, but once again I was away. This time you will have to suffer a hand drawn map made by myself rather than one made by a talented and inspiring wargames pioneer. Below the photo is the map I developed from it: you will see I added a railway to enable me to use my armoured train. Brodno is just a name picked off a map: this encounter is entirely fictitious.

Below again is the terrain I ended up with, the photo being taken from about the same direction as the photo from the book. The original table was 8' x 5' so things were a little more cramped on my 6' x 4' effort, but then I was gaming in 15mm rather than 20mm so there was no real problem.

I decided to play the game as an attack-defence with the Poles defending.  I also decided to use the game to see how the ultra-simple Morschauser rules from How To Play Wargames In Miniature might work. I had had some fun working them up into a set which took account of such modern wargaming foibles as the advantage of cover, and the existence of things like mortars, infantry guns and trucks. I had, however, taken care not to deviate from their essential simplicity. The scenario was as follows:

Polish Forces (defending):
Main Force
9 infantry units
3 MG units
1 mortar unit
2 ATG units
1 AA unit
2 tank units
2 off-table field guns
Armoured Train
3 cavalry units
1 MG unit (tazcanka)
1 on-table field gun unit with horse tow

The Polish main force could deploy anywhere south and west of the railway. The reinforcements would arrive on the road and railway from the north west subject to a die roll. The objective was to defend the bridges and town by seeing off the German attackers (who would withdraw on losing half or more of their on-table units)

German Forces:
Main Force
9 tank units
6 infantry units in trucks
2 MG units in trucks
1 mortar unit in truck
1 ATG unit in truck
1 SPAA unit
3 off-table field guns
1 dive bomber unit
Recce Force
2 armoured car units
2 motorcycle infantry units
1 MG unit in motorcycle combination

The German main force would arrive in column on the road from the east, with the objective of capturing the town and bridges and breaking the Polish defenders (who would withdraw under the same conditions as the Germans). Each bridge lost would count as 2 units lost, the town would count as 4 units lost if it fell. The recce units would arrive on the road from the north east subject to a die roll.

The Game
I'd like to tell you what a quick and exciting game the Morschauser rules gave. I'd like to tell you that, but it wouldn't be true. Simplicity is all very well, but it turned out these old rules took things rather too far for my taste. The game gave me an insight into what people mean when they talk about 'period feel', and also an insight into why some people like fairly complicated rules. Such things go a long way towards giving a game its interest.

The bottom line is that in the Morschauser rules you end up throwing 4, 5 or 6 to knock out just about anything with just about anything. There's also only one throw to make when firing - no throw to hit followed by an effect throw. And there's only one effect. It's KO or OK. The basic rules for off-table guns I actually added myself, along with those for aircraft and AA. But in my effort to be true to the original, these extras don't add much variety to the game. Movement? Well, just about everything moves 9" cross country in the original rules, with some variation on road. The melee rules introduce just a hint of sophistication, but are (correctly) written to make melee unattractive anyway unless you have an advantage of 2 or 3 to 1. Therefore things are mostly decided by firing. So you're back to 4, 5 or 6 to KO, regardless of range or situation or weapon, although there are simple rules saying (for example) that machine guns and rifles can't KO tanks.

So bland is very much the order of the day. I'm afraid enjoyment was not enhanced by a scenario that favoured the defenders and gave the Germans little chance of success. Just a few photos to give you a flavour:

The German column successfully crosses the nearest bridge but a Polish FT-17 and some infantry sally out.

This was about the high water mark of the German advance towards Brodno.

The Polish reinforcements arrive.

Polish tank, anti-tank and artillery soon took a toll of the leading German armour and a German defeat loomed. (See also the first colour photo above, below the map). A useful rule was borrowed from Blitzkrieg Commander - a knocked out tank or other vehicle is 'no longer there' and can be removed if you want. This means a KO'd tank doesn't block the bridge - hence the 2 vehicles you can see moved to either side of the bridge exit, left on the table for decorative purposes only.

I suppose I could tinker with the Morschauser rules but I doubt I will bother. I should however add that John Curry and Bob Cordery, who edited the Morschauser reprint, evidently found a good deal to enjoy in Morschauser's ideas as they developed their own version which features in the book. So don't necessarily take my word for the poor experience I judged them to provide. Anyway, I think it's time to go back to BKC, which are a great set of rules which give me all I want from a WW2 game.

Now, as I mentioned above, it's time to think up some ideas of my own for future presentations. Hmmm...

Sunday 4 March 2012

Another Great Map

Browsing the Vintage Wargaming blog, once again I came across an 'Old School' style hand-drawn map that seemed set to inspire a game. You can see the map below, which originally appeared in the Wargamer's Newsletter of January 1979. It is the work of a gamer called David Barnes, and I urge you to visit the Vintage Wargaming site and check out the 3 posts featuring his work. David was obviously a highly talented illustrator and his battle reports are a real treat to read.

.Image courtesy Vintage Wargaming
Copyright Donald Featherstone/Wargamer's Newsletter

I played through this game a couple of times solo, as a playtest for my own SYW rules. I added in a few extra units as shown in the map below to make a more testing battle. It seemed from the original battle report that the Prussians were the attacking side, so that was how I played it.

I am beginning to quite enjoy solo play. I can play at my own speed and just watch the battle unfold before me. I don't normally use any special solo gaming rules. Even when I have an opponent, my games are never particularly competitive, barring the odd bit of banter, so solo gaming seems a fairly natural development. I get some ribbing from my wife of course, who can't see the point of playing with toy soldiers in the first place, and to whom playing toy soldiers with oneself seems the definition of pointlessness. However, recently I have been fortunate enough to have some time to myself at home over the weekends and can set up and play more or less to my heart's content. This has been very relaxing. But don't get me wrong - I love it when my wife comes home as well!
Below are a few photos of the second game.

 I managed to create a reasonable representation of the map. Here we are looking west across the battlefield. Table size was 6' x 4' as in the original game.

 The Prussian centre forged ahead, using successful initiative rolls to cross the river before the Austrians could intervene.

 They began to get the upper hand in the ensuing firefight: Loudon's regiment was the first Austrian unit to break and leave the table.

 The centre again. Prussian musketeers take over the first line from the grenadiers. In the background you can see that the Prussian left flank infantry made slow progress as a result of command failures.

 The cavalry on the Prussian right flank hooked around to the south and east of Pampitz,
 to take on the light units guarding the Austrian left.

 View of the battle from behind Sullwitz.

 The Prussian Hussars easily drive off the Szluiner Grenz. The red uniformed Liccaner Grenz are reforming behind Hermsdorf after taking casualties from the Prussian right flank battery and jager. 
They are vulnerable and will be the Hussar's next victims. The light battery supporting the grenzers won't last long either: the Prussian dragoons have them in their sights!

 The intense exchange of musketry in the centre continues to favour the Prussians. Now only the Hungarian Grenadiers hold the line, supported by the Austrian artillery battery
 but opposed by 4 Prussian battalions.

 On the Prussian left the infantry are finally making progress. Artillery support from 2 batteries keeps the Austrians at bay. In the distance one Austrian battalion is starting a move to shore up the Austrian centre, but this will be too little, too late. Old Schoolers will recognise the Bellona 'River Bridge', which I recently found hiding at the back of one my drawers of wargames stuff. I was proud to use it on the table after a long absence!

 The Austrian centre collapses completely. The dragoons have moved into the left centre position to counter the Prussian flanking move but now their only job will be to cover the retreat. At bottom right reinforcements from the right flank are arriving but they have nothing to reinforce. The Austrians have lost 7 of their 11 units by the end of move 6 and have conclusively lost the battle.

 The Prussians only lost one of their 14 units, also on the last move. Before the whitecoats broke, Austrian musketry and artillery was concentrated on one of the leading Prussian battalions. 
This  was too much and here the unit flees across the Elbow.

Final positions. 6 moves and 2.5 hours gaming to complete the battle.

A very satisfying game with a conclusive end. I am quite pleased with the way my rules are shaping up. I have a poor track record when creating scenarios involving river crossings, as here . This game was helped by a rule stolen from Joseph Morschauser. If a river is deemed fordable, a unit crossing it simply ends their move in the middle of the river, then on their next move carry on as normal. Firing is at reduced effect whilst in the river. If they have to fight their way out against enemy units on the far bank, they count as charging/meleeing uphill.

Thanks to the Vintage Wargaming site for making so much old material available. Inspiring as well as nostalgic!