Sunday, 31 March 2019

Semi-Autonomous and Autonomous Robots in the US Military

From the document: "This Directive: a. Establishes DoD policy and assigns responsibilities for the development and use of autonomous and semi-autonomous functions in weapon systems, including manned and unmanned platforms. b. Establishes guidelines designed to minimize the probability and consequences of failures in autonomous and semi-autonomous weapon systems that could lead to unintended engagements."

The above does not quite make me sleep any more easy ...

Saturday, 30 March 2019

Bionacles - Robot Warfare: Fathers versus Sons, Men versus Boys ... "There will be Tears!"

Bionicles are fun to assemble - albeit rather tricky to balance in an upright position. There are two types "shooters" and "brawlers" [hand-to-hand specialists] .. shooters possessing ranged fire and a little hand-to-hand skill. Both move the same rate (see below, the lower squat models having a distinct advantage over their lanky cousins):

From the yellow bin of robotic parts an intimidating battle-line is formed (see below, I like to think "Spartan Red - with a funny Green dude to the left" [aka "The Dad's Team] looking imposing and imperial):

They faced a motley crew of haphazard designs that had escaped various research facilities and experimental weirdos no combat unit would want to use (see below, lanky shooters and claw armed crushers ["the Kid's Team"] looking unconventional and liking black paint jobs):

Both sides advanced fearlessly (see below, note the professional close grouped formation from the Dad's Team, with a lone gun man out left, contrasted with the "zig-zag" jumble from the kids):

Things start to go awry for the Dad's Team as a long range shot is deadly accurate and a Spartan goes down. Never under estimate the ability of a small child to throw a "six" with the accuracy of a sniper (see below, "man [bot!] down", early days "Don't Panic" as Corporal Jones and the Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy reassuringly says):

Oouch! They are good at this shooting lark. Another Spartan falls. The Spartans are down to two shooters and one last "claw" (see below, OK start to worry a little bit 3:5 odds and more rounds incoming expected any second):

Carnage as the Spartan "claw" de-claws and kills his opponent, that's the spirit! 3:4 are slightly better odds for the Dads Team (see below, the Green Dude has taken a hit but is still standing, but two nasty "black claws" are exploiting an open flank):

The Green Dude is mercilessly targeted and losses limb after limb, like the Black Knight in Monty Python's Holy Grail, but is still fighting (see below, the art here was keeping him in the game by balancing him on one leg (see below, I just hope the centre of gravity is not compromised by an extra dust particle settling on one side):

Carnage "Take II", I am not sure who is still standing, but there seems to be more Spartan body parts lying on the floor. Not a good sign (see below, I think the last Red Spartan bows out being unable to stand of it own accord, the symmetry of the enemy hits coming on one side did for it - good grouping by The Kids):

Left unopposed the "Black Leader" heads towards the "take-out coffee cup top" button which represents a game "kill switch" (see below, no mercy and no quarter is shown in this battle-bot tournament):

"Game Over!" A devastating win for the Kids (see below, ever more the impressive because the Dads thought they had it in the bag - over confidence breeds hubris when you are facing a fearless seven year old!):

The Re-Match (see below, The Dad's were keen for revenge and to right past historical wrongs - it was also fast approaching bed-time so things had to be done fast):

This time more mutual carnage (see below, The Dads had improved their battle algorithms, but to no overall avail as the Kids triumphed once more):

A "black shooter" this time calls time and trips the "kill switch" (see below, the untold hidden story here is a mid-battle substitution when the seven year old called on his twelve year old brother for help, this would be genius "Ender" [see Ender's Game] employed tactical skill combined with good dice rolling to be The Dad's undoing):

Two - Nil. Battle won and war over. Congratulations to the winner (and bed) and commiserations and another beer for the losers!

Friday, 29 March 2019

Stalingrad (2): The Funeral Dirge on the Volga

I was without camera for my last game Chain of Command in the Stalingrad saga so instead of the usual chronological sequence of photos perhaps I can convey a sense of what happened ...

The sudden alarm convulsed "The Captain", he spat the sweet liquorice tea into the fire and stumbled forwards in a half daze waking from his reverie. The evil hiss of the fire, the sweet vapour of the tea and the deadening sense of urgency left a surreal feeling to his thought processes. He knew he was undone, his sentries had been lax and posted in the wrong place. The Germans had infiltrated into the very heart of his position and at this very moment were heading towards the banks of the Volga. The precious crossing points! The action was over before he had begun. To retreat was the only sensible option, but the cold logic of the day was simple. There was no place to retreat to. Out thought and out gunned they would still nevertheless have to attack with what they had to hand and it would be suicide. But so be it, that was the price to be paid and the Devil was doing the asking.

"The Captain" got to a vantage point. Already the dark figures, that unmistakable silhouette of the German Landser, were running down his left flank. All he could do was charge at them in whatever formation he could muster with whatever he could lay his hands on and hope to take some of them with them. Katya would not see him again. It would end here today he knew it. At this moment he knew he was already lost but the pain and indignation of being out thought by Fritz hurt the most. He pulled on this feeling of outrage and with a fire in his belly called "Hurrah" , raising his pistol defiantly skyward. The Siberian hat nearly fell from his head (not the photographic moment of Communist propaganda), he laughed maniacally. He ran and cared for nothing as the deadly buzzing of the bullets passed by, a German MG from the wreck of the Heinkel.

The Soviets caught "them" by surprise, as once they had past the Russian positions direct "line of sight" they thought they were safe. They relaxed. No one in their right mind would dare run across open ground covered by German MG42s. They laughed. This was a piece of cake, their easiest day in Stalingrad. They were the 'crack' ones and had caught the Russians with their pants down. They must have been facing kids, novices, amateurs. Then the expression of horror and shock was stuck on their faces, caught in a frozen moment of time as the blood curdling sounds of the Soviets swarming from all around them overwhelmed their senses. The horror erupted, bodies tumbled, men fell, in seconds two squads vanished. One Soviet, one German. The survivors clinging to rat holes and dead spots. The other 'baseline' Germans were also in shock. Their crack squad was gone. The Soviets simply had ran through the MG zone, the crew had fired high, caught a few but not enough. Things like that were not supposed to happen. It broke the rules. The Soviets are madmen!

Another German squad now had to run the gauntlet. Again, "Raus" and the Landsers came on. This time in the open Landsers fell, but they reached the house, but from the rat holes the Russian emerged and sniped, and hacked, and shot, and threw grenades\and then threw rocks. The path to the Volga was a trail of grey German corpses. Again the attack hung on the wire. Then as it happened, a nameless German NCO moved from the back, a veteran of Poland, of France of the early Russian Campaign. He saw and knew what had to be done. He ran with his section, gathered the other shocked and pinned Landsers together, rallied them, reduced their shock and pushed them forwards with curses to the Volga. His eyes were cold. The pitiful few Soviets remaining hurled curses. All was unwound, left with but a few rounds of ammunition they could only but watch. They had taken a pound of flesh from the Germans put two had been taken from them in return. They were bled white. "The Captain" turned to speak. As he turned the grenade exploded in front of him. He had fought hard, he had fought with mad valour but now he was helpless as he was lifted bodily into the air and knocked senseless. Grey shapes followed in after the explosion. They poked and prodded his body, searched him - were disgusted by his wretched smell. His final bullet would come another day, for today was his first day as a PoW, the Germans dragged him away. The interrogation would follow but The Germans needed to push forwards, one more house, one more street, they could hear the sound of the Volga. Was it their imagination or could they hear new waves of Russians, splashing ashore, their feet still wet from the crossing.

One more battle to come ... Ivan was waiting. Ivan was always waiting.

Thursday, 28 March 2019

Recon Modern Skirmish Rules (Vietnam)

Courtesy of eBay (while buying something else for another member of the family) I spotted a little known rule-set (Recon) that would pair with a speculative buy (Advanced Recon) I had bought ages ago - once upon a time in the late part of the twentieth century [aka certainly pre-2000] - from a game shop that has long since closed (see below):

Thus the wargaming circle is complete - aka  "I knew I had a reason to buy it". The US printed 'Advanced Recon' meets up with a copy of a UK licensed print copy of 'Recon' by the now defunct Platoon 20 figure manufacturers [once based in Northern Ireland]. Th extra bonus is that I have a collection of Platoon 20 Vietnam figures seeking a game (and I am pretty sure that the "Platoon 20 moulds" live on under the wing of another manufacturer). Again game-wise methinks this could be a 2020 affair but watch this space.

Wednesday, 27 March 2019

Ramilles: Consolidated History

High Level Summary:

End Scene: The storming of Ramillies (see below, after the fire of cannon comes the storming of the infantry, a bloody and dangerous affair for sure):

A game of three parts, two won by the Allies, one a winning draw by the French which translates into a 2-1 football score and Allied win; compared that is to Marlborough's 3-0 masterpiece on the day. This was cause partly with the 'historical hindsight' (hard to factor out without being too deterninistic) allowing the French to defend far further forward than they did on the day. Another Allied disadvantage being the total 100% information presence - aka no "Fog of War" which denied the 'stroke of genius' Marlborough had on the day in achieving a critical mass of cavalry on his left flank. However it produced a hard fought and entertaining game which gave a greater appreciation of how good a general Marlborough was.

The Battle Plan: 

As viewed from the Allied side the left wing was going to be the scene of a massed and ferocious cavalry battle, the slim centre was a concentrated bombardment of the town of Ramillies (hopefully down to rubble) and a holding action along the length of the riverbank (despite the Allied infantry being provided with 'historical' brush fascines to assist filling the ditch - to attempt a full frontal attack would be suicidal). The bulk of the artillery from the holding sector was transferred to the Ramillies bombardment along with the Allied Cavalry Reserve (this movement was in the clear as opposed to hidden). The French were happy be aggressive with their cavalry wing and be defensive elsewhere, however they countered the Allied Cavalry Reserved by committing their own Bavarian Cavalry Reserve to the cavalry wing (again movement seen to all).

The Battle: 

The Allied obtained a swift storming of a fortified town hamlet on their extreme left which was invaluable in securing that flank. In addition it drew in no less than six French dismounted Dragoon formations into a futile attempt to retake it. These French Dragoon formations were sorely missed in their mounted role as despite their fighting ability being "less than" that of regular fresh Line Cavalry, they could certainly hold more than their own against the same Line Cavalry weakened or disordered. This in the end tipped the balance in the Allies favour. The reciprocating mutual destruction of massed ranks of cavalry oscillating back and forth across the battlefield was the 'standard mode of operation' for the day. To give you a feel of the level fluctuation, portions of both side's baseline at some point were occupied by 'enemy' cavalry (albeit rather transient in the case of the French Cavalry success). The wear and tear of successful charges being subsequently caught afterwards in a disordered state and then in turn routing seemed a shameful waste of good cavalry. The Elite French Guard Cavalry was the first formation to disappear (as was its fate historically), followed by an Allied Line Cavalry Division and so on. The reciprocal exchange continued but the Allies manage to rally more of the routing units maintaining a slight superiority, having some when the French had lost all of theirs. Towards the end of the battle what was previously the French Cavalry Wing was collapsing into the ruins of Ramillies and rout!

Ramillies itself had been methodically reduced by the might of the Allied artillery (something that from an OrBat perspective was in their favour). When the Allied infantry went in success was assured and the town feel in four quick turns of fighting (compared to the twenty rounds that decided the cavalry affair). This was timed to perfection with the collapse of the French Cavalry Wing so that the defenders of Ramillies were not supported in their time of need.

Meanwhile the posturing along the "Siegfried Bank" by the river eventually escalated from earnest skirmishing with dismounted Dragoons to full musketry exchanges between Line Infantry. From the Allied perspective this sector was always planned as a forceful demonstration to 'pin' the bulk of the French Infantry down in what they [the French] knew as an advantageous position without committing to the 'futile' (historical) fascine crossing. However the course of the battle drew in the Allied First Infantry Line and then even some of the Second Infantry Line. It was the concern of the Allied Cavalry Commanders (including myself) on the outer Cavalry Wing that the Allied Infantry Commanders would lose their restraint and commit to an assault (in fact because the battle continued over ten separate "game nights" the faces of the infantry commanders were never the same). There in question being "one particular moment" where this seemed to about to happen - thankfully instead of going forwards the Allied Commanders took the pain of tracing back [and taking artillery hits as a consequence of being condensed targets]. If the French had counterattacked at the end of the line (the Allied Right Wing) something may have come of it. As it was, when Ramillies and the French Cavalry Wing fell so did the player morale of the French and the came was conceded. Night was calculated as falling and the it seemed natural to stop at this point. We (the players) were all mentally exhausted and glad to see it "done".

In Retrospect and Conclusion: 

The rule-set was Under The Lilly Banner Version 3 (admittedly this was not a universally known set of rules - although several play tests had been made, several unique circumstances occurred during the battle which we had to figure out on the fly). One conclusion was that although we "bath-tubbed" down the scenario with regiments representing brigades, the rules at times played (such as partial interpenetration being prohibited) too tactical for the forces we were trying to represent. Higher level morale was absent and the consequences of a wings's collapse "were local". Having said that the game was played and thoroughly enjoyed which stands as a great testament to all involved.

Note: One 'house rule' that really seemed to work was an ammunition restriction on cannon, only having a certain number of cannon balls [black balls as markers] which turned it into an asset that needs to be husbanded.

All Ramillies Posts can seen through this link but you will have to cycle back to the oldest post and read forward:

Individual Ramillies Posts can be seen directly using the following links:
The end of one Malburian Epic but the starting point of  another ..

Tuesday, 26 March 2019

DBA Version 3: Athenian versus Early Achaemenid Persian (Part 2 of 2)

After another round of infantry combat the centre looks a mess. A unit of Persian 8Bw Archers finds itself overlapped and fighting a hoplite line [1 to 5 in the Greek favour] and finds itself forced to make a fateful roll (see below, the meance is in the methodical approach of the hoplite battle line with mutually supporting stands):

As per many a historical result the Persian dies (see below, Greeks 1 - Persians 1, with the Greeks in an overall far stronger position trying to overwhelm the Persian 4Sp):

However - as it seems to be the way with all versions of DBA - you can never guarantee the win where you think you should be able to expect it (see below, the Persian 4Sp at a reduced attack value of 2, repulse the massed hoplite phalanx of supported 4Sp of attack value 5 - a sorely "missed opportunity"):

Meanwhile the Athenian 3Bw (I know they are based as 4Bw but don't tell the OrBat Police) spot a target of opportunity (see below, even better because they are hitting the Persian Bow on their rear they don't get to shoot back so the Athenians can ignore any adverse results):

This results in a spectacular success (from an unexpected Athenian source). This flank now looks ripe for Athenian exploitation (see below, Persians 1 - Athenians 3, the writing seems to be very much on the wall for this one):

The Persian archers have a very unsatisfactory time against the hoplites - that could have been because I forgot to award them a +1 tactical modifier for their double base (see below, a lot of arrows in hoplite shields perhaps but nothing much in a tactical [useful?] sense):

The Persians only real hope comes from a cavalry attack led by their General. The Persian Light Horse have already "closed the door" on the Athenian cavalry, so the Persians have a chance to turn the tables on the Athenians. As Sun Tzu puts it, "to get the best out of your troops put them on 'perilous ground' so that they have to fight for their lives" (see below, "good dice" [for the Athenians] and "poor dice " [for the Persians] or it is "death" for the Athenian cavalry):

It seems that the "gods" have favoured them "this day" and it is (unexpectedly) the Persians who recoil (see below, it is the Persian who is shaking his head in disbelief this turn (see below, the Persian cavalry chooses to recoil 40mm, simply because he can):

It is now the Athenians turn. The hoplites come forward on mass "to crunch" and "crunch" they did  (see below, hoplites love fighting poorly armed "Hoards" and "Archers" - doubles always seem to come along like clockwork):

Big gaps start appearing in the Persian line and the Athenian hoplites have the inclination as well as movement to "close the door" on the Persian troublesome 4Sp (see below, the Persian battle line has fragmented in many small unconnected fighting bodies of men, fighting desperately for their lives the Persian 4Sp seem a "lost" cause):

The Persian 4Sp are killed which seals the battle as far as DBA is concerned. Looking at the right hand side of the Persian line "escape" is only thing on the minds of the Persian infantry. How is another matter (see below, an imposing line of hoplite spears face them):

After a brief heroic counterattack the Persians collapse in a heap (see below, their surviving horse may get away but the bulk of their infantry would be doomed - so not silver lining for the Persians here! Greeks 4 and Persians 1 therefore Greek decisive win):

A "good" battle to get a feel of the rules. As it was a gentle play test of a "stand-up" fight without searching out tactical tweaks the result was as expected .. that's not to say all Greek versus Persians should be a forgone conclusion as the Greeks had a deep hatred of the Persian horse. It was well respected for and good reason. It is a long time since I have had these ancients 'out of the box' and I was pleased to see how well my paint job had stood the test of time.

Monday, 25 March 2019

DBA Version 3: Athenian versus Early Achaemenid Persian (Part 1 of 2)

I wanted some hands on practice with DBA Version three. So a friend and myself played through a simple Early Achaemenid Persian versus Athenian hoplites. It was the Athenians who were the aggressors - they must be meddling with the Ionians again, so the Persian chose a gentle battlefield that suited cavalry. Two small hills to assist in defence and two "ploughs" .. which disappeared as "1" was not thrown on the first PiP die roll (see below, both armies were horseshoed in their deployment - Athens top and Persians bottom):

A little bit of a shocker, I thought I was well endowed with Persians but I was a "hoard" [7Hd] short so I 'borrowed' one from the Spartans. This means there will be some extra painting to be done for DBA 3 which in itself is not a bad thing. The Persians below are all Xyston, beautiful figures and I tried to labour the love and attention that befits 25/28mm on these 15mm beauties. (see below, incidentally these are Xyston's Later Acheamenid Persians who would have fought the likes of Alexander - they recently [or rather since I have painted mine] have brought out true SparaBara which I undoubtedly must invest in at some point): 

I found myself performing strange gymnastics with the Persians, by shoving the light horse on my flank to the outer zone. leaving a gap for my 3Cv to fill up later. This all seems a tad geometrical and artificial but the way in which the rules push you (indirectly) to play - I have big hopes of converting these DBA armies into the simple Alexandros tactical battle system but more of that another time (see below, my creative deployment [I kind of hate myself for doing this], in the background you can see my Irregular Miniatures stockade camp - populated by Psilio pretending to be camp followers, I need to base up some civilians here): 

The Greeks (more from Xyston - but sporting the fabulous Little Big Man 15mm Ancient Greek Hoplite Shield Transfers) have a simpler time of it (see below, another stockade camp can be seen in their rear - and a less pronounced horseshoe formation [deployment] to expand out from):

The Armies:

  • Athenian: [3Cv, 2LH, 3Bw, 4sp(Gen), 8x4Sp]
  • Early Acheamenid Persian: [3Cv(Gen), 3Cv, 2LH, 4Sp, 4x8Bw, 3x7Hd, 3Ax]

The Persians try to fan out their army. Not a problem with the mounted, but the foot look a little laborious (see below, the Persian infantry certainly don't want to be mixing it with the Athenian hoplites, their hope is that their Cavalry have successes on the flanks of the Greeks and it's game over before the heavy infantry clash):

The two battle lines approach with both sides desperately trying to "fill out" to get that overlap advantage (see below, the Greeks are slightly ahead with 10 bases in position compared to the Persian 9):

The Greek attempt a bold and adventurous outflanking move with their Light Horse [2LH] against the Persian right (see below, the Greek 2LH flanks the defensive stance of the Persians):

The rest of the Greek battle line advances to almost touching distance (see below, they [the Greeks] also survive the first of many arrow storms - shield [i.e. hoplon] and hoplite armour preventing serious damage):

Locking horns the battle starts in earnest as the battle lines clash - just as the hoplites wanted it (see below, with a basic value of 4 from the 8x4Sp the Greeks have the advantage in infantry against 3Ax value 3, 7Hd value 3, 8Bw valueu 2 with only one 4Sp value 4):

The strange combat is the Persian 8Bw [value 4] versus the 2LH [value 2] with the mounted at a distinct disadvantage (see below, the horse will have difficulty disengaging getting out of bow range): 

Good Persian dice and poor Greek dice mean first blood to the Persian as the Greek Light Horse is doubled and dies (see below, Persians 1 - Greeks 0):

Meanwhile the Greeks bounce the majority of the Persians back in hand-to-hand melee, without scoring any kills (see below, there may be opportunities on the following round but the initiative lies with the Persian commander and his important PiP roll):

The Persians are looking desperately for their cavalry that has massed on the left flank to do something decisive.

Sunday, 24 March 2019

A "Splendid Set of Naval Rules" by Long Faced Games

One of the problems that besets "Naval" wargaming (IMHO) is the seemingly implicit fascination with the kit and by this definition,  you get complexity .. too much for what you need to game it. You are required to have a Byzantine level of understanding of how things operates and procedural minutia before a dice is rolled. The Long Faced Games IMHO give a refreshing antidote over the "kit oriented"  approach. A fast play set of rules for squadrons of ships, one that has enabled me to shine a light on a few naval collections that were "hiding their light under a bushel" (namely my hibernating Russo Japanese 1904-05 and WWI: RN versus SMS Kaiser Fleet).

Russo-Japanese War: 


Future periods of interest include:


And the NEW period - Spanish American War

Watch this space for AARs.

Saturday, 23 March 2019

The Next Generation of Gamers - Playing in the Bedroom

Modern/Future RPG: A mixture of 28mm Russian WWII Soldiers, Dungeon and Dragons floor-plans, a die-cast 1/72 T-80 Russian Tank, Heroclix Superheroes  and a 1/144 RAF Jaguar ground attack aircraft plus lots of teenage imagination (see below):

Laughter, shrieks of "No!" and the rolling of dice, plus provision of drinks and biscuits to keep the sugar levels high (see below, a sketched floor plan [on a £1 roll of lining paper that scrolls along as the adventure progresses - a tip they picked up from this old D&D'er] and individual figures of goodies and baddies relative to each other - sound familiar to anybody?):

They seemed to have bags of fun and trying to save the world (although it seems perilously close to some dastardly scheme). As per usual, teenage voices can be loudly heard "debating" events!

Friday, 22 March 2019

28mm French Napoleonic Light Cavalry (Hussars) - Wargames Illustrated Sprue: Assembly

Had to put this sprue together; the latest free giveaway from Wargames Illustrated, French Napoleonic Light Cavalry, Hussar (see below):

An officer and a trooper .. these be Warlord games but I have an unopened box of Perry's to join them. I think I need to look into "Sharp Practice 2" (see below, within a blink of a weekend and a few week nights sixteen troopers appear):

Slightly a historical with the backdrop of a section of my WWII Naval Library. Satisfied that they are assembled, painting is another thing and getting them onto the wargames table yet another. Methinks I have some more gluing to do .. perhaps see this lot on table in 2020?