Sunday, 8 October 2017

Market Garden Sampler

I've had the Mercury/Market Garden hex'n'chit boardgame for a while, and it in fact was purchased with a view to getting something on the tabletop with miniatures.

Dispositions at the start - watch the 'club route'.

Uncannily, it does have the exact number of hexes, width vs length, that fit both the size of my table and the the number and size of large (120mm) hexes that I own.

That said, we wanted to at least try the game out, before we plunder it for unit counter markers for the miniatures game (Mercury/Crete is also featured and does look very interesting too).


Key things from a game of this size:
  • Abstraction...Abstraction...Abstraction: Artillery is subsumed; armour benefits control ZOCs rather than promote breakthroughs; supply becomes critical - as well as access to dropzones.
  • You begin to think about supporting large attacks, while holding off more maneuverable elements. By the same token, your opponent is utilising the advantages of built up real estate and blowing bridges in order to slow your advance with regard to reinforcements.
  • Airborne forces are fragile if unsupported.
  • Catered for are areas such as: armour moving around ZOCs unless impinged by other armour; timely reappearance of German Battlegroups; the ability to wear down defensive units in towns - though at cost, and over a period of days.
  • Nijmegan...it was Nijmegan...

These are obvious points, though this game, and of necessity any miniature version of same, will require the same results and strategic though brought about by the turn mechanism and mechanics, if it is to succeed.

I'm still very keen to look at Bob Cordery's Hexblitz and the Portable Wargame as solutions here - especially so with regard to difficulties in breaking prepared positions, the amount of troops thereby required and the fog of war built into the turn mechanisms.



The British airborne could not make it into Arnhem and sustained considerable losses even trying, then were caught in the open.

The 101st kept the road open. German attentions were focused on the crucible that Nijmegan was fast becoming.

The 82nd are hard pressed, as German Kampfgruppe and reinforcements focus on cutting the road here.


 Nijmegan and Arnhem become the focus for bolstering German defences...though XXX Corps is coming.


 In the end, Nijmegan became a siege of sorts, until eventually the German position, cracked and was flanked, though the airborne elements had been pounded by then.

A nice game, and gives a decent appreciation of the importance of certain segments and routes on the battlefield...and certainly gives us food for thought for a miniatures version at the same scale.



Sunday, 24 September 2017

Command and Colours; Tricorne, the American Revolution - Monmouth 1778

Most of our C&C experience is actually with Battlelore, and the first thing to say about the Tricorne version, is that there are multiple card decks, and a lot of variation between modifiers and units.

I had however backed the Tricorne game in Kickstarter.

Experience with the system and/or a decent Quick Reference Sheet would be a real boon here.

For instance:
  • There are multiple advantages in having a leader in the hex.
  • There are bonuses in having a full strength unit.
  • There are multiple bonuses through using the cards - in addition, there are Combat cards, which you can throw in in any amount, in addition to the standard command card. 
  • The right number of dice are critical in the rules, as flags and rallying can eliminate units much more quickly than hits. In fact, it's the first time in a C&C game, that I was looking for flags (both in terms of inflicting and rallying from) rather than straight hits.

  • This does add a separate level of complexity, and is made all the harder if for instance this was your first C&C experience.
  • The purity of C&C is a little diluted with a more complexity and adds, but it's probably just an experience thing.  I found myself thinking that the level of abstraction which the cards grant in Battlelore for instance, is lost a little here since there is a bit more book flipping and checking mods. I wondered half way through the battle, if this were affecting the narrative unduly, and whether in fact, Field of Battle would have given a better game. BUT that's probably just a lack of particular knowledge with the rules.
  • In addition, rolling flags not only pushes the unit back, but forces a morale check/rally. This can force the unit to leave the field, and is quite jarring if you're not ready for it.
  • There are also major advantages to keeping units in line, and/or adjacent in terms of manipulating card results and the amount of units that can fire across sectors. A nice change, and so applicable for the period.

Having  said that, matters are still very close and decisive (we had 9 victory points vs 8 in the end).

The initial setup - heavy British presence on their right, with some American threats on their left.


Movement on the American right, taking advantage of some early Combat cards.

 A move to the right, with leader activation off the Combat card, can lead to some devastating results.



American attacks on the British right, would prove ill founded.

 ...while the British left would see some success.

Pushbacks in the centre. Have I mentioned devastating 'flag' results from the dice?

Highlanders make a dash for the centre after weakening the American line.
   
 The Americans hold the centre...

 ...while their right crumbles, but at great cost to the British elite units.


 At game end, turns are summarised in terms the number of units traded. In the end, the Americans win by a single victory point. In essence, the Americans simply held their line in the face of British attacks.

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Zorndorf 1758, with Field of Battle...at Sgt Steiner's

Another great game of Field of Battle at Sgt Steiner's.

These rules are truly under-represented in the wargaming sphere. Every game is a large affair, a great narrative, and a logical conclusion in a reasonable time - with lots of figures and excitement, and multiple players. These are so much better than a lot of what's out there (I'm lookin' at you Slack Chowder). Buy them from Brent!



The rules are logical, reward historical thought and action, yet slap you in the face with battlefield chaos which you then have to manage - and it's the type of unpredictability you read in a battlefield account. Great game, with elegant dice mechanisms and wonderful card based turn sequence.

 Oh yes - the dice gods were VERY DEFINITELY with me today. Gawd bless Stephen..Gawd bless 'im. 

 The Russian lines - heavy in the centre and determined in defence, with deadly artillery.

 The Prussian force is small yet deadly in terms of musketry (C10,12) with advantages in movement (and ability to oblique, mimicking cadence step and Prussian drill etc).

Strengthened right flank...a taste of what was coming.

 
 The Prussian centre was weakened and started to take a battering, yet managed to hold the Russian centre in place.



A lot of action on the Prussian right, where a number of 'excellent' dice rolls were made (have I mentioned the dice gods?)

The reserve in the centre commits - also to the right. if this goes wrong...  :(


Plans for the Russians go awry on their left, as the flank is under threat.


Routed units being brought back into the fray.

 Fighting around the river and flank.



Vicious melee and musketry in the centre;

 ...the flank bends, bows and breaks - an army morale roll convinces the Russians that staying is not a good idea.

Great game, great hospitality as usual ...have I mentioned the dice gods?


Sunday, 3 September 2017

Ground Zero - Playtest

'Ground Zero' is a new set of Asymmetrical modern warfare rules from Jay's NWA blog  here.

I've been looking for a set of modern rules that hacks various small and 'cold' war periods for a while - everything from Vietnam - through Falklands - through WWIII - through modern insurgencies.

Now these rules use hexes, which suits me admirably, and a small table, though I can see ease of expansion here. The size is platoon(ish) vs platoon, though can be easily varied depending on quality of troops. The rules are directed toward modern small unit battle in mid-east - and the chaos that ensues.



In order to playtest mechanisms, we chose a Vietnam scenario.

  • Sequence of play is passed on card activation (with events to follow – we used Red Team release as an event here – with leader element acting as call-in) and then a number of dice (depending on quality) which dictates how many moves/fires/go to ground & overwatch can be catered for etc.
  • Firing and overwatch end the unit’s activation.
  • This sounds simple and intuitive and it is – but you don’t always see this level of intelligent rules fostering dramatic gameplay in modern systems. There are a lot of nuances here.  (see Grid Based Wargaming and some hex boardgames for influences).
  • High quality units, going on overwatch, with the edge in firepower, can make a big difference to the OPFOR’s day.
  • Although the system is (and will be) designed for small unit asymmetricals in modern conflict zones, there are so many hacks that would work well. I’ll explore some of these in coming posts.

For the units here, the Air Cav recon elements were ‘3 dice’ while the VC were ‘2 dice’. The US, ‘recon’ing the ville also had access to a Red Team on the ‘Ace’ event card (this really spoiled the day for the VC). The game was a bit one sided on the day, but gave us a nice eye-opener with regard to mechanisms and how they would work for future games.
We talked around ideas of using ‘pink’ teams and how OH6 Loach helicopters might work a la the ‘Low Level Hell’ book.


 The Aero Rifles platoon approach the villle.

VC units moving forward using available cover - trying to get an MG and mortar into position.

 View from the orbiting Cobra.


'Contact front!'

US troops move up the flanks to give support from M79s and '60s.

Cobra time (balanced precariously on a plastic champagne flute!)

The mortar opens up on troops remaining in the open.


 The command element has got LOS on the heavy weapon's position however...


 ...and the Cobra makes its attack run

 Some good positional warfare decisions, as we were getting to grips with the system. It's very intuitive.



So:

  • Nice activation mechanisms – we did have some discussion as to whether the cards were actually needed – if we could find some method of adjudicating shift of initiative on the basis of how good/bad the activation rolls for the fire team were (a bit like Crossfire). 
  • Having said that, the card turn generates some drama - and the turn of jokers can end the turn when you thought you had plenty of initiative left.
  • Choppers are fairly devastating :) 
  • We thought about extending small arms ranges for bigger battlefields – and this would bring in more flexibility for larger conflicts.
  • One major thing we noticed, in comparison with other activation systems, is that when you get the activation you ‘choose’ where it goes. A lot of modern systems use the cards to dictate the unit 'for you' – here, you focus on where the fire is hottest, while other units sit and wait. That's what we read in accounts.
  • It’s easy to get pinned, thus making it harder to activate. The focus shifts to fresher units then. This seems very realistic.

A great game – and just the level we’re looking for