Saturday, 28 March 2020

Lock-down with What a Tanker

Well within a week we've gone from 'social distancing' to compulsory lock-down but I'm still determined to keep the spirits up by persevering with the Thursday night gaming.
This week I decided that, rather than a solo game, I would umpire a remote game for some of the lads. The game would be coordinated via social media; which is ironic as I'm the least social media inclined of our group. The game would be What a Tanker and be run using WhatsApp.

I chose an historical setting and set the game near Ste Mere Eglise during the Normandy invasion. I used an approximation of the terrain around Neuville au Plain on the 7th June 1944. I say an approximation as I didn't look it up but just set it up from memory, using the information in my IABSM scenario book 'All American'.

The backround is the advance towards Ste Mere Eglise by the 1058th Grenadier Regiment supported by the 709th PanzerJager Battalion. Here they were counterattacked by the US 82nd Airborne Division supported by B Coy. 746th Tank Battalion.

This being What a Tanker, we would only be concerned with the armour. Hence two players (we'll call them Hans and Fritz) would run two Stugs; the opposing players would run Shermans. As an aside. the allies had chosen to go by the call signs Arse and Drink!

The game was very simple in concept. We had a WhatsApp group that allowed communication between all players plus umpire. A second (Team Axis) consisted of the German players plus the umpire; with a similar (Allied Tankers) group set up for the Allies.
Players were free to communicate between themselves on their respective groups representing the radio net. Orders were given and received by the umpire by the individuals personal WhatsApp account; i.e. this bit was only seen by the umpire and the relevant player. This way I could include a photo of the view from their own tank. Both sides had an overview at the start (aerial reconnaissance) but after that were restricted to the view from their own tank.

I, as umpire, rolled all the dice and reported the result. The main difference from standard What a Tanker was that, in the interest of game flow, players were required to assign all their command dice all at once at the start of their turn.

From the off it was an amazing experience, I as umpire had the normal wargamer's helicopter view but the players didn't and, judging by the chatter on their respective radio nets, the Fog of War was very apparent. It was also hard work as the umpire was required to monitor 7 different WhatsApp channels and as the players were all talking to each other the background 'chatter' was quite intense. We played for 4 hours encompassing 9 player turns; which is the equivalent of 36 command rolls. . Not too shabby really. Like I say hard work but would I do it again? Absolutely. I'm still buzzing several days later. The use of photographs to create the Fog of War worked brilliantly and turned a rather simple game into a pretty good simulation. I only hope the players had as good a time as me. Judging by the banter and the drinking they seemed to be having a good time. A definite tonic for current times!
Below I will post 3 different versions of the same battle from different viewpoints; I know the players at least will find this interesting.

The Helicopter View

View looking north from allied lines

View looking south from Axis lines
Both sides deployed opposite each other, with the Stugs taking up position behind a bocage hedgerow. From here they had fleeting glimpses of the advancing Shermans but were themselves completely hidden.

Stugs observe allied advance

The Allies were having trouble finding the enemy so switched their advance to their right flank covered by the farm buildings.

Arse and Drink look for enemy

Arse switches advance
Hans had observed this change in direction and maneuvered his Stug to a position where he could see the flank of Arse as he moved to the T junction.

Hanz lines up on Arse's flank

From here Hans put in a good shot which hit the Sherman in the flank causing temporary damage. Meanwhile, Drink had crept up to the edge of the farmhouse and had turned his turret to observe the farmyard.

Drink catches Fritz nosing past building

Shortly afterwards, Fritz nosed out from behind the barn to be greeted by a shot from Drink which flew over his front glacis. Taking fright he reversed back between the buildings.

After being hit in the flank, Arse turned left down the road and attempted to flank the German position. Hans tracked his movement and pumped in more shells; Arse only being saved by his sandbags. Unfortunately, he was also in sight of Fritz who, due to a good command roll, got in 2 shots against the Sherman; both missed.

Umpires view of farmyard battle

Arse's view

Fritz's view

While Arse was attracting enemy fire, Drink used his Hell Driving ability to reverse back down the road to begin a movement around the rear of the barn. Meanwhile, Arse was fighting back putting in a couple of good shots against Hans who took permanent damage and was forced to reverse away.
Then in what would be the last turn of the game Drink came screaming around the barn and pumped a shell into the rear of Fritz who promptly brewed.

One up the arse for Fritz

A cracking game then and a good hard fight. Looked to go all the Germans way until the last moment fight back by the allies.

The Allied View (edited for brevity)

Drink: up the road is ballsy but probably inadvisable.
Arse: I was thinking 2 an 4. Agree road just silly.
Drink: should we concentrate on the left hand side?
Arse: 1 and 2 then.
Drink: OK we'll go alphabetically Arse 1, Drink 2. If he deploys on our left he will probably try to take cover behind the buildings. If not he will take a while to get there.
Arse: They'll avoid the right hand side of the road, too open. They come through the buildings to the left.
I've reached the gap in the hedge, straight ahead. No sign of enemy.
Drink: I'm moving forwardsto hedge from position 2. I see no enemy from here.
Arse: I've reached the next hedge. Turret aiming at buildings. No sign of enemy. Will head for  the  gap next.
Drink: I'll cross hedge and make for right hand hedge to cover you.
Arse: I'll turn and head for  the  gap.
I've nearly reached the T junction. Still no sign of enemy.
Drink: I will follow you. We need to look into some fields. I will turn my turret and look behind the buildings.
Arse: I'll go straight ahead and look into field.
Been hit from the farm to my left
Drink: behind you, not quite past farm have buttoned. Better be no infantry AT coming from the farm, I'm gonna be really miffed.
Arse: Stug in the farm!
I've been shot at again but missed.
Returned fire but missed.
Can head round other side of farm?
Drink: Is the Stug behind the main farmhouse?
Drink: Can see the buggers now, there's two of 'em'. One behind the farmhouse, one behind the barn.
Arse: Lay some fire. I'll try and work round other side of farm. Past the haystacks and left.
If I can still see one of em I'll keep lay down rounds but will move off If I can't

[this section was intercepted by the enemy (sent to wrong WhatsApp group!).
Drink: Have used Hell Driving to reverse back along road to come at em from the rear.]
(the axis still got themselves flanked even with this intelligence - Fog of War!!)

Arse: Been hit. Can see both Stugs. Fire from one behind barn. Damaged.
Hit again saved by Sandbags.
Been shot again both missed. From between the farm buildings.
Both the swine are pointing at me. Get around the farm and you will see their rear.
Drink: Will do
Arse: Theyre both after me. Have you been able to get round farm?
They've come forward towards the road at me.
Drink: just been able to cross hedge.
Arse: Hit Stug.
Hit again Stug has reversed.
Drink: AHA, I have the bugger's backside in my sights. Acquired and loaded.
Got him!

The Axis View (edited for brevity)
Fritz: 4 and 5 looks like a better position
Hans: 3 looks like suicide agree 4 and 5
Move up to hedge perhaps you could go towaards hedge between road and house.
Fritz: Yeah we'll have the first hedge as checkpoint then
Hans: engine trouble, haven't moved
I can see one of the schweinhund
Fritz:  Ja so can I. We shall bunker down and have at em.
Hans: Just have to watch they don't flank us on road.
Hans: A hit!
Fritz: Hurrah. I appear to have lost sight of the enemy, can you see them?
Hans: have seen one Sherman moving across our front to our left and managed to hit it not sure how badly.
Fritz: shall we advance then, I'll take point?
There are some logs piled up I can advance for cover.
Hans: have crossed the hedge am to left of the farm already the logpile will give you some cover and a possible flank attack
Fritz: advanced in between the two buidings
Can't see any sign of the other tank
Hans: am on left of house behind piles of hay. Not moved since I fired. Need to reload
Fritz: not fired yet they got out of my line of sight
Hans: Sherman heading down road has moved out of my arc but am tracking
Fritz: I'll try and head up to the intersection and head them off.
Hans: there is one on the road almost up to farmhouse
I have missed it
Fritz: I hit the Sherman heading down the road but he's still in action.
Have been shot at glanced off glacis
Hans: just been shot at but they missed.
Have scored another hit
Fritz: fired two shots both missed
Hans: got another hit. So frustrating not knowing if it did any damage.
Fritz: one is driving down the road, am in pursuit.
Hans: I'm shooting at it.
I think!
I have been hit
Been hit again, moving backwards.
Hans: Fritz? Fritz?

Social Distancing with Blood and Plunder

It was week one of 'social distancing' / working from home and I felt like I could really do with a break. So, determined to keep the weekly Thursday gaming night going, I set up  a solo game.
The game was to be Blood and Plunder and I really wanted to try out a proper ship to ship action. My 28mm forces are still in the process of being painted up but I do have two nice 15mm, scratch-built, ships gifted to me by my good friend Uriah the Boat-builder.

The models don't exactly  fit the rule-book profiles so I had to do a bit of tweaking here. Essentially I had a single masted sloop of two decks and a brigantine of two masts and two decks. Decks here refer to deck 'areas' and not the classical definition of one deck on top of another.
The Brigantine is armed with 6 light guns and I gave this to Happy Dan Le Pew and his French Flibustiers. I played 100 points, which meant I had enough a unit of marins to crew the guns and a unit of flibustiers.

The sloop, I crewed with an English militia force under Lucky Jack Quilp. The sloop carried no guns making the basic ship cheaper in points. In addition, the cheaper militia units meant I had enough points for 2 units of militia and 2 units of freebooters. Here I wanted to test the viability of a solely musket armed force against one sporting cannon (even if they wee only light guns).

It wasn't until I put the figures on the table that I had assigned the bigger force to the smaller ship - not the brightest idea!

End of move one and first blood to the English. Note the small sloop packed to the gunnels with musket men.
The English sweep the opposing gun deck with musketry
Very soon the English had swept the gun deck clean. In response Happy Dan led his flibustiers forward to man the guns. Unfortunately, with no crew on the rear deck, the brigantine would now turn slower. This allowed the English to circle around staying out of arc of the French guns.

The more nimble English circle the French

More musketry from the English and the flibustiers were forced to go prone to seek cover.

The English close for the kill.
The next move was obvious; the English successfully grappled and Lucky Jack Quilp led his freebooters onto the enemy ship.

Boarders away!
That was the end really. End of turn four and Happy Dan struck his colours; as the only survivor of his crew he had little choice.

To the victor the spoils!

So what did I learn? Mainly I discovered how difficult it is to crew a ship effectively. Small units are fragile and to make matters worse the English had four units to the French two. A consequence of this was that the French were working with two initiative cards per turn against the English four - ouch!

All in all a good game, a splendid evenings entertainment and a welcome break from reality.

A Rampant Fistful

Well it seems I haven't blogged in awhile but with the unexpected and enforced time at home I thought I'd catch up with what we have been doing; this was meant to be a sort of wargames diary after all.
The big discovery of the year has undoubtedly been the introduction of the Fistful of Lead rules to the club repertoire (thanks Nellkyn).

A big problem we have at the club is that although there are many fine rule sets out there, for all sorts of eras and / or genres, not many cater for a large number of players. Many rules can be tweaked and house ruled enough to make them work for multiple players but not many are designed this way from the ground up. FFoL does exactly that; it will easily handle up to 8 players each with their own force. Now this is a skirmish game with each player controlling about five figures but this is perfect for a club environment where the entry level for each player is very low. It also allows us to try out all sorts of genres with minimum expenditure.
Our first game was over the Christmas period where one of our members introduced us to the rules with his rather nice collection of Border Reivers.

Clan Quilp go a-reiving

After one game I immediately took to the rules and bought a copy at once. With a bit of experimentation I also discovered that they work quite well solo as well. Looking around for suitable figures I grabbed a bunch of pirates from my son's old toy box and set to and had a blast.

After that, I thought I'd go to the opposite extreme and try something a bit more serious. I laid down a couple of my WW1 western front terrain boards and in no time at all I was carrying out a trench raid with 28mm figures.

A  Fistful of Mud
Once again the rules worked fine and I had a great time. So having tried the extremes of eight players and one player, I next went for a standard two player game; digging out a handful of figures from my 20mm VBCW collection.

Peaky Durham Blinders
Another hit and another great game.

After the Christmas break it was back to the club and a test game for this years summer campaign - the Crusades. Having put on a multi-player medieval campaign before I suggested that we use Lion Rampant as our base rule set. In a complete coincidence, it also appears that a crusading supplement for Lion Rampant was in the works and was said to be due out for Salute.

Everything seemed perfect then for the choice of Lion Rampant as our campaign rule set and we set to giving it a run out. We hit one snag though; not everyone liked it! Those players that had played before had a great time but the new players ranged from lukewarm to hating it.

Spot the veterans
The main problem was the activation system, which is probably the most contentious part of the Lion Rampant rules. With this system if you fail a unit activation then its also the end of your turn. For a multiplayer environment that can mean you can wait along time for your turn only to fail it on the first dice roll. Our veterans were fine with this but it was clear that this wasn't going to cut it with everyone. Then came the Eureka moment. A Lion Rampant retinue is in the region of 5 units per player and we have eight players. A Fistful of Lead handles up to eight players with about five figures each. If we consider each figure, in FFoL, to be a separate unit then the two games are identical in scope. Why not then use the FFoL activation system with the Lion Rampant game mechanics? After a quick solo test I believed I was on to something.

Half scale Lion Rampant play test

The system I came up with was to use the FFoL card system to determine when a unit is activated. Once activated then the Lion Rampant play sequence is followed for that unit. The unit still has to roll to move, shoot or charge but a fail only ends the turn for that unit not the whole retinue.

With some trepidation, I introduced the idea to our veteran Lion Rampant players and it was an immediate hit and , in our opinion, actually improves upon the base game to  some extent.

Having shown proof of principle, we then offered it to our would be crusaders. Once again, it was a great hit and it appeared that we had our crusades rule set.

Crusades play test
So it was game on and most of us have been frantically buying and painting figures for the Great Crusade. Although it has to be said not everyone is taking it seriously......

So everything was fine and dandy..........until the zombie apocalypse hit and the world changed. We're still forging ahead with preparations for the crusade though, it just might be postponed a bit. At least we all have painting time now.

Thursday, 20 February 2020

Ideas for a Crusading Campaign

Since I am building a Byzantine army for the summer, and have become a little obsessed, again, I put down some rough ideas for a multi player campaign game.  Based on the Sudan Colonial campaign we did it has pretty simple mechanics.  Hope this helps...

A proposed Map-less campaign system for 6-8 players
Alternate playing Islamic forces and the Crusaders if there are not enough Arabs out there?
Players must supply a retinue of 24 points of Lion Rampant forces.
Factions are limited to historical forces.

Choose your faction from:

The Leprous King of Jerusalem
Prince of Antioch
Count of Tripoli
Count of Edessa
The Templars
The Hospitalers
English Crusaders
French Crusaders
Armenian Prince
Byzantine Emperor

The Islamic Forces will be:

The Sultan of Egypt
The Emir of Damascus
Emir of Mosul
The McTurks

Guidelines for Force Composition

Forces will be 24 points
And these LR lists are only Guidelines.   

My Byzantine list for instance will rely on Norman mercenaries and Variangian axemen to make up for the lack of Greek troops.  Nubian Spear or bowmen would rate as higher quality foot for the Fatamids,  and historically the Turks could field heavier tribal cavalry.  

Victory points for factions based on boasts and missions.
8 table sectors. 

8 Terrain features placed randomly before sides are chosen.  

The deployment/mission cards may reveal more terrain.

The VP total will decide who the current overall commander is, with a typical Crusades free for all scramble if no leader can be identified.
A pin graph will map VP week to week.

Up to 3 VP can be earned from Boasts during a game and 5 VP from successfully completing on table missions from cards dealt randomly each game.

These insults will not be bourne.  The player will betray his own side. Options: Hang back and raid the army baggage 1 VP.  Attack an ally during the battle 2 VP.   Kill an allied Commander or two of his units 3 VP.

Castle Keep
Within your deployment sector is a castle keep.  Place your garrison and hold the keep 1 VP.   Kill an enemy unit that assaults the keep 2 VP.   Kill two enemy units assaulting the keep 3 VP.

Ali the Merchant and his caravan are bedded down in a camp, 3 tents, directly between the lines.  Loot 1 tent 1 VP.  Loot 2 tents for 2 VP Loot 3 tents for 3 VP.

A wadi snakes along the front between your forces and the enemy.  It would be dishonourable to allow the enemy to cross.  Be first to get troops over the wadi 1VP  Kill an enemy unit beyond the wadi 2 VP.   Kill two enemy units beyond the wadi 3 VP.

Defend the Village
A village is somewhere within your area of the battlefield, directly to your front.  Secure and garrison and hold 1 VP.   Kill an enemy unit that assaults the village 2 VP.   Kill two enemy units assaulting the village 3 VP.  Each house in the village is worth a loot point 1 VP to your enemy!

The Bishop's/Imam's mission
Your Religious leaders have declared a death sentence on the evil heretic commanding the forces directly opposite you.  Your task is no less than taking the head of the enemy commander!  All or nothing.  5 VP are awarded if you succeed. 

The Glorious leader
You have the Crusader King/ Young Prince with your forces today.   He will deploy in front of your forces and move towards the nearest enemy each time his unit passes activation.  Keep him alive for 5 VP.  It's all about him!

Fair and open battle
Today you shall act as a nobleman, and conduct a fair and courteous battle.  Kill an enemy unit 1 VP.   Kill two enemy units 2 VP.  Kill three enemy units 3 VP
You are required to act in an obviously over courteous manner for this mission.

Open and fair battle
Today you shall act as a nobleman, and conduct a fair and courteous battle.  Kill an enemy unit 1 VP.   Kill two enemy units 2 VP.  Kill three enemy units 3VP
You are required to act in an obviously over courteous manner for this mission.

Water Water
An oasis or well is located in the table sector directly opposite, directly in front of the enemies deployment zone.  Your men are mad with thirst.  They need water and you need to get them to it within 6 turns.  If you capture the water your forces will recover.  Each turn after turn 6 there is a chance they will surrender.  Use Edna 1 on turn 7, 1-2 on turn 8...
1VP if you capture the eater on turn 6, 2 VP if you capture the water on turn 5  3VP if you capture the water in turn 4.

The Assassin.
You are required to act in an obviously over courteous manner for this mission as if giving fair and open battle.  This is a front however, since you have sent an Assassin to kill the enemy commander. Keep this mission hidden until turn 3, when you may roll d6.  6 is a dagger in the back, killed, 5 is poison, 4-3 roll gain next turn,  1-2 failed.  The enemy commander withdraws from battle with his guard unit if the attempt is successful.  The enemy must promote a new leader/unit.  Otherwise it's still a battle. Kill an enemy unit 1 VP.   Kill two enemy units 2 VP.  Kill three enemy units 3VP


I will supply a unit of Hospitalers Knights and the forces of the Byzantine Emperor, as well as a Norman looking Crusader army.   I will also create Ali the Merchant and his caravan and tents, and a figure for Hassan  the assassin.  The Crusader Keep may take a while longer since I can't very well build it in Cyprus and import it.  Flat pack perhaps!

Saturday, 4 January 2020

Rampant Crusading

Table E at DWG try out Lion Rampant for Crusaders.  On the side of Murderous Christendom, Lord Quilp of Belmont, Earl Quincy of Prebends, the Laird Shraner o'the Glens and Odious de Phallus, Baby eating Bishop of Bath and Wells.
The Forces of Sultan Salad-McTurk, Emir of Sacriston, included the Amir Al Alanus, and the desert widsom of Jihadi Jim.
Christendom used their own armies 4 x 18 points, The Saracen used Al Alanus' Andalusians (and very nice they are)

My apologies for the focus on the right flank.  My Norman's against Al Alanus' Moors was a great sub game and took all of my focus...

The Bishop advances waving his club aloft

The Saracen watch my advance unimpressed

Off to a running start for the Norman's.  It wouldn't last.

Beside  the Normans the Lord Quilps rough fellows advance in support.
Could Lord Quilp actually see his troops or dice?

The Normans capture the oasis.  In the absence of a hill it was my best option.  Lessons learned from 5th Edition WRG Ancients rules, capture the real estate.

The Wisdom of the Desert points out "You can't do that," as the Sultan prepares to slap his own head in frustration.  A classic photo, but I was trying to take a picture of the figures on that side of the table not the players!

Lord Quilp fights well in the centre, his knights to the rear until they lost it!

The Bishop charges wildly, killing an enemy cavalry unit.

Fighting with a club?
As the game nears it's it's conclusion the Bishop is isolated and surrounded. 

In the centre Earl Quincy and Lord Quilp push the Saracen back.

The end of the Bishop?  Well probably.  When the game ended he was seen to be running amok with fewer and fewer men.  The wooden club was effective but alas his tactics not so much.

And my apologies to the far left flank where the battle raged on between the Sultan, who hadn't played these rules before, and the Laird o' the Glens.  I didn't get any pictures of the action over there, mainly because of my focus on the mad Bishop.  Really enjoyed my game, thanks guys...  Back to Cyprus for me though.

Monday, 30 December 2019

HMS Ariel vs the Brig Brie, Quiberon Bay

HMS Ariel patrols the Côte Savage, on the north western entrance to Quiberon Bay.  She sights the Brig Brie.  Captain Christmas Quilp RN commands the Ariel, Capitaine Figuin the Brie.

Ariel is a 20 gun 6th rate of 12pdr guns, with two guns moved forward as chasers.  Brie is a slower ship rigged Brig with 16 x 8 pdr guns and a smaller crew.  Both are regular crew and Captain.  Both are on passage and encounter each other head o  since I did not dice for positioning.  Brie has the Weather gauge but runs down to challenge Ariel.

They pass at 7 and 8knt respectively.  Ariel's bow chasers knock sone rigging down.

Brie's ship card as she loads to starboard with the port battery loaded.   She has taken more rigging damage.

Brie turns and delivers another broadside as Ariel wears ship around near the rocks!

Brie follows her round in a large turn.  No bow chasers on the Frenchman though!

Brie turns in on the Ariel, trying to force her onto the rocks, but risking a collision.  The Marine marksmen in Ariel kill Brie's marines and I lose a crew party.

Dr Bogenbroom and the French casualties on the Orlop. 

Brie has three crew parties remaining.  Two guns put out of action.

A point blank broadside from Ariel kills more crew and breaks the ships wheel on Brie.

It's Dr Boggenbroom's birthday!

The wheel marked off.   Brie is stuck on course for the rocks!

She runs into Ariel and a boarding action is fought.  More of Bries crew are killed.  Ariel's Captain cuts free, but Brie has had enough and strikes.

A Glorious day for Captain Quilp.  A sad end for Capitaine Figuin.  I can console myself that Brie probably went aground anyway and she had hull damage liable to sink her.
A good game, and yet more Post Captain Learning curve  Note to self, Gun repair boxes needed on the ship card!

Peaky Durham Blokes

Farmer Johnson and his boys have been thrown out of the Shoes Public House after last orders.  In a furious mood he has armed up his crew and gone to settle scores with his great enemy, Constable Clarence Wigamore, the Constabulary Kosher, the Beast of Belmont, the Syrup of Stanley.
Police Sergeant Finnigan, that weighty icon of law and order has armed his watch and brought them to the town: Whistles sound!  "'Ere, I wants a word with you my lad!"

Sergeant Finnigan appears and valiantly attempts to hide behind a signpost. PC Wigamore hides behind the big boss and readies his shiny truncheon.

The Police advance into the square and Farmer Johnson and his Peaky blokes come on.
PC Clarence Wigamore behind the statue plinth.

My first look at Fistful of Lead!

Clarence vaults the fence into the public toilet and truncheons Mr Weedy Cove, knocking him back into the toilet bowls...

A PC falls shot by Dodgy Geezer.  The Law is losing...

Sergeant F runs out of ammo.
PC McGrirk runs out of ammo, charges in and beats a villain to death with his fists.   Farmer Johnson fires both barrels at zero range and misses.   He hit nothing all game!   He is shot downby the police as he rages on about the price of stout in the Shoes.

Our brave Police Sergeant presents a huge target and is felled by a pistol shot from the toilets. 
Farmer Johnson recovers, still in a murderous rage.  With only two men left the Police withdraw.   A Writ is sworn out for the arrest of this murderous crew.