Monday 21 February 2022

Cotswold Wargaming Day 2022

I am pleased to announce that the Cotswold Wargaming Day is back:

08.30 - 17.00

Last years 'Best Game' winner.

Not much to say that's new - the format this year will be the same as last year. An email has gone out to all on the mailing list. If you are new to this event and are interested, you can just turn up on the day to chat and join in, or contact me via the comments section if you want to put on a game. 

Last year was a great success despite Covid and a fuel 'crisis'. I reckon this year could be even more special. Hope to see you there!

Friday 18 February 2022

Solo Rules Testing - 2

The second of my solo playtest series features the adaption of the WRG 1973 WW2 rules which I am currently working on. Once again this test game used a 4' x 4' table, but the scenario has the option to expand to 6' x 4', and would probably play better with this larger table size. The scenario sketch map is shown below with the full 6' x 4' terrain - the 4' x 4' table leaves out the western two feet containing the village of Strobin.

1' x 1' grid squares.

Scenario - The Action at Jarocin
3rd September 1939

German Forces – from 2nd Panzer Division (determined, attacking from the western baseline)

Force HQ - command base
Heavy Panzer Platoon: 2 x PzIV, 3 x PzII 
Light Panzer Platoon: 2 x PzII, 3 x PzI
Infantry platoon x 2: standard, 1 lorried
Recce section: Sdkfz231 (6-rad), Sdkfz 221
Recce section: Sdkfz222, motorcycle recce section
Weapons section: 2 x 37mm ATG and tows, command group
Mortars: 6 x 8cm, direct support, MFO (car, radio)
Artillery: 4 x 10.5cm, general support, AFO (car, radio)

Polish Forces – from 10th Mechanised Brigade (determined, defending Jarocin and the bridges)

Force HQ - command base
Tank Platoon: 3 x Vickers (single turret), 2 x Vickers (twin turret)
Infantry platoon: standard, + 37mm ATG and tow
Recce section: 1 x TKS (MG), 1 x TKS (20mm)
Weapons section: 37mm ATG and tow, MMG group, command group
Mortars: 2 x 8cm, direct support, MFO (telephone)

Any Polish infantry, infantry support or heavy weapons elements may be dug-in if required.

Scenario Conditions
The Germans must capture the 2 bridges and Jarocin by the end of turn 8 for a total victory. If both bridges are captured but not Jarocin, the game is drawn. Otherwise, the Poles win.
4' x 4' table – the Poles can deploy up to 3' from the eastern baseline. The Germans deploy from their table edge on turn 1.
6' x 4' table – the Poles deploy up to 4' from the eastern baseline. Germans may deploy recce units and up to 2 platoons (infantry or tank) up to 8" from their baseline. Other German units deploy from their base edge on turn 1.
Hills are gentle. Woods east of the river are open: to the west of the river they are dense.

Some Photos of the Game

German light tanks were quickly across the southern bridge.

Recce elements lead the way across the northern bridge.
The heavy tank platoon kept the advanced Polish positions occupied.

The Polish tanks engage the advancing German light tanks, but come off worse.
A Polish anti-tank gun covering the south bridge proves ineffective.

The leading German elements press on into Jarocin.
German infantry engage the Poles west of the river.

Overview - the German advance is going well.

The other Polish 37mm in Jarocin also had little luck.
The leading German armoured car knocked it out with close range 20mm cannon fire.

The Polish platoon in Jarocin had suffered steady casualties,
and was eventually forced to retreat following a morale test.
Jarocin could now be occupied by follow-up forces. The Germans had won with light casualties.

The Project
The 1973 rules have been out of print for decades now, and I'm guessing that few of you reading this are familiar with them. They were ahead of their time when published, and I remain convinced they could form the basis of a good, straightforward and compact set of rules for the whole of WW2. The core rules function very well - for an introduction to the project check out my first post on the subject here.

The basic infantry move is now up to a sensible 150mm (6"), whilst the vehicle moves remain mostly the same as in the original. I have tried to simplify the indirect fire rules and modernise the rules for air attacks. The morale rules are very old school with a long list of factors - I have overhauled these but kept the basic system as I found I had a soft spot for the old fashioned feel of them. I have added in some basic rules for troop quality (which were absent in the original), and I am trying to develop some simple rules that allow for hidden deployment and the odd surprise.

Also needed was a good deal of overall re-writing and re-arrangement to make the rules easier to understand. As I have said, they are basically a simple set but a typical 1970s lack of attention to clarity and exposition left them harder to fathom than needed. Overall, the possibility exists for a rule set covering the whole of WW2, suitable for 20mm down to 6mm size models, that could fit into an Osprey 'blue book'. But anything like publication is way in the future. And how Phil and Sue Barker might feel about publication is an unknown quantity.

This has been an absorbing and useful project so far. If anyone wants a copy of my present ideas, I have word documents of a set for 1939, one for 1944-45 Germans vs. Americans, and one for Germans vs. Russians 1943. These contain details of unit organisation as well as the rules. You would have to leave an email address in the comments, which I could delete once I've made a note of it (unless of course I have your email already). Feedback would be welcome.

In other WW2 news, I have recently bought a copy of the 'O' Group rules and I am working through the online videos made by the Too Fat Lardies. They seem like an original set with a number of quite challenging ideas and mechanics. Not sure how I feel about them at the moment.

Anyway, ancients next in this series. 'Til next time!

Friday 11 February 2022

Solo Rules Testing - 1

This is the first in a series of three posts dealing with short and fairly simple play-tests of rule sets which I am presently interested in. All will use a 4' x 4' board and will be solo, in preparation (I hope) for some face-to-face gaming later in 2022.

First off is a test of the new Live Free or Die rules from Little Wars TV. Readers will know that I am a firm admirer of LWTV - besides being very watchable and well produced, their content is of the highest quality. It is solidly rooted in 'proper' historical wargaming, with plenty of historical background and a very creative approach. The Live Free or Die project exemplifies this. 

Looking for a set of simple rules for the AWI, Tom and Greg from LWTV used the old 1980s Loose Files and American Scramble rules from Andy Callan as inspiration. They then turned the development process into a 6-part podcast covering most aspects of rules design and publication, before producing a video of the culminating wargame of the Battle of Brandywine. As if that wasn't enough, they then made the rules available online as a full-colour PDF or print edition, with half the money going to the American Battlefields Trust. And then they produced a 'how to play' video, and then continued the theme with a refight of the Battle of Trenton, filmed on location at a museum in Trenton pretty much on the site of the original battle. Phew! If you can find me anyone else doing this kind of thing anywhere else in the wargaming world at the moment, I'd love to know about it. Oh, and did I mention the basic rules are just 4 pages long?

So, I bought the PDF (only $13) and set about making a few changes to suit the rules for the SYW and take into account one or two personal preferences. These included having brigade commanders for each brigade rather than just one or two subsidiary commanders, the inclusion of evade moves (offered as an optional rule in the PDF), some use of average dice rather than D6 where I thought it might help, and a minor tweak allowing for the possibility of double moves. The rules also use the concept of removing bases to represent casualties, which I don't personally like as I prefer to keep my figures on the table. Some markers to indicate lost bases work just as well.

Of particular interest was that the rules use a command points system, something I've never really liked as such rules seem to add an additional level of artificiality to wargames rules, which tend to be quite artificial enough in most cases. But I went with it. The scenario was quickly developed from a battle created by the Cirencester Wargames club which featured recently on the Shadow of the Eagles blog. I reduced the table size and trimmed down the number of units slightly - as you can see from the photos the Austrians are defending some high ground and are being attacked from two sides by superior Prussian forces. Figures are 28mm.

The Prussians struggle across the stream in the foreground and try to get to grips with the
Austrian position. Their cavalry is changing flanks to support their right.

A bit of a traffic jam results.
The cavalry of both sides get stuck in on the right of the picture.

Well, the cavalry are a bit thinned out, but the infantry firefight is well underway.

Close up as the Prussians try to break into the Austrian line.

Overall, the game was most interesting, and the rules turned out to be pretty well written, easy to understand, and easy to use. Despite the simplicity, there are a number of mechanics which seem quite original and add interest to the game - for example, units may use 'hasty fire' and use their full movement, or use 'volley fire' and remain stationary, with the latter using double the dice. The Andy Callan concept of deciding the result of a melee which then decides how many casualties are incurred to each side is another interesting mechanic. The charge process also seems quite original and produces some fun issues when charges fail to make contact.

The army and subsidiary commanders are very involved in the game, as they can help substantially with firing (which I have doubts about), and melee and morale (which is entirely appropriate). The commanders are also the source of the command points, with better commanders having more of them. This is a good way to represent commander quality. I found that my idea of creating brigade commanders, and thus increasing the number of subsidiary commanders, meant that too many command points were available. This led in particular to units being able to be shored up by attached commanders and becoming rather too resilient. So perhaps this is a change to abandon.

Another point to mention is that the rules are targeted at historical play, and require proper victory conditions for both sides. Actually destroying units seemed quite difficult to do - they tend to retire to the rear, ready to be rallied by their own officers or attached commanders. So rules dependent on losing a proportion of your forces to decide the result don't really work.

If you're a Horse & Musket wargamer, I would strongly suggest you look into these rules. They are not expensive to acquire, and make for an interesting and fresh gaming experience. And any rules you can fit onto 4 pages must be worth a look! Conversion to other periods would seem to be possible and could be a fascinating little project.

News Just In
Not satisfied with what they have already achieved, those LWTV boys now have the rules, along with various scenarios and supporting material, published in a wire-bound soft-back edition. Available from Caliver Books in the UK for £29.95. Honestly darlings, keeping up with these £30 rule books from Caliver is becoming quite a chore!