Saturday 26 February 2022

GMT Historical Game with Modern Connotations: Ukraine 1943

Just looking at the GMT website and I came across this interesting game (see below, a different time, a different war but the same geography and landscape): 

See map:

For modern purposes it is maybe only half a map, but the range of name places are haunting. Even Poltava is a name that calls out from history, as does Chernobyl. 

Friday 25 February 2022

SPI Rules Download Link

Cornucopia of good old stuff from the counter pushing days of yore:

For example try Anzio Beach Head!

Fascinating stuff locked away here!

Thursday 24 February 2022

Note to self: Remember Harpoon ... was on your Wargaming "Bucket List"

Question to self: When will I play ... Harpoon? ... I have an old (as in a simplified for the non-naval officer, but still intended for a wargaming audience) "Captain's Edition" of Harpoon (a version dating back to last century), but still apart from a USN v USSR sub hunt (yes Red October style) or the whole Falklands Campaign - there does not seem to be much of an interest (or example case base) to play. However, Harpoon is on the great Wargaming Bucket list!

There is even a new edition out: Specific Link:

But what to play and who to play it with? Probably "The Falklands" with "a little help from my friends"

Tuesday 22 February 2022

Another Go at "The Portable War Game" - WW2 Russian Front Scenario (Long Picture Post)

I have unearthed some photographs from another old game of Portable Wargames from back in 2019, another go at teh Eastern Front Russian "armoured overrun" scenario. The German defenses are interlocking infantry, ant--tank and armoured strong-points backed up with some indirect artillery support (see below, barbed wire crosses abd circles for the minefields, Kallistra hexes with the terrain [hills and woods] I had made for the Fire/Move game, blue dice showing strength points):  

A Red hoard appears at the end of the table, an armoured tank phalanx, well out of range but very threatening (see below, it just goes to show that you never just but one 20mm T-34 model, four seems to be a minimum): 

A Red infantry hoard appears at the end of the table too bring their own artillery along as well, supporting their armoured colleagues the footsloggers are "sprinting down the flanks seemingly eager to make contact (see below, Fritz is popping at them with some long distant [ineffectual] artillery): 

The Russian infantry screens push forward trying to provoke a German response (see below, I cannot help but think this is a post Stalingrad era battle instead of Barbarossa, teh late Pz Mk IV could push it to a 1944 battle, in which case the Russians are using pretty old kit - maybe a Pz IIIL-M would have been a better choice of panzer): 

Anyway the German Panzer decide to move out of its defensive (concealed) laager and take a pop at teh advancing Red infantry while nothing that could hurt it is around (see below, who needs expensive CGI special effects when you have a piece of blackened cotton wool): 

Meanwhile teh T-34s tear down the central track of the board into the teeth of the German defenses (see below, looking scary for teh defenders at this point, not enough anti-tank assets to go around, but also notice the respectful distance the Russian infantry gives the Pz IV on the German left flank): 

The Russian armour survives the defensive fire from the German defenses [taking some damage but is intact as an offensive weapon] and then retaliates in kind (see below, the German defensive values are weaker and ultimately are much more fragile as seen when the German PAK 40 crew is forced to retreat): 

A quick rally, through the exhalations of a senior German commander and the PAK 40 team are back manning the line (see below, "The line must hold, the line must be held, fire the kitchen sink at them or we're all doomed!"): 

It seems to be more of the latter as a particularly valiant T-34 commander takes matters into his own hands (see below, one again bouncing back the PAK 40 team, even with senior German commander present - who himself succumbed to the urge to "run away" after coming face-to-face with the fire spitting behemoth that is called the T-34): 

"The Commissar is in town" (old song from the late eighties or was it the early nineties?), there is a pistol wielding junior Russian political officer extolling the virtues of a Communist Five Year Plan (see below, there is teh chance that other Red infantry may follow him seeing as he has not been shot yet): 

More T-34s advance supported by Soviet infantry as the Red try and expand the breach in the German defenses. On the German left flank a medium range tank duel is being enacted without too much ardour it has to be said. Both sides are in cover and are content to "pop away" at each other looking for a lucky hit (see below, some form of local counterattack has to be attempted by the Germans, as it is getting to "shit or bust" time):

A German infantry force moves up for "tank busting duties", but to their right the German line looks paper thin (see below, teh Russians attack stalls slightly as the Russians decide to "pound away" at static targets such as the German infantry unit on the far right [although that description could apply to any German infantry unit in the Second World War]): 

The brave German infantry counterattack positioning themselves of the flank of the T-34, attacking from cover but "fail" in their assault (see below, the T-34 is stuck fast between the horns of a dilemma - disgrace to go back, death if you linger, best to go forward then?): 

Although bounced back the attacking German infantry unit is the strongest unit in the German front line (see below, there are three front line German combat units down to their last strength point (see blue dice showing 1's) - the front is about to break): 

But the German Grenadiers are hardy fighters, try again and are much more successful (see below, blck clouds of cotton wool indicate a dead T-34): 

The Russians however have no shortage of tanks and infantry (see below, the German infantry unit defending the woods is destroyed): 

From seemingly out of nowhere another T-34 appears (as the portable wargame does not have the sticky-stop concept of "zones of control" and a T-34 weaves its way through the defenses to threaten the German artillery with an overrun (see below, it is a very bad sign when your rear echelon units come under overrun attack): 

A wider panorama of the battlefield shows an intense battle as the German defenses disintegrate (see below, the lack of strategically placed German reserves is really hurting them to react to the Soviet threat): 

With the defenses broken it is now a case of "what" (if anything) can be salvaged from this mess (see below, the Soviet armour is attacked and weakened but not destroyed, so it will attack again next turn):  

The German artillery which (if it rolls lucky) can destroy armour with desperate direct fire is attacked and worn down to its last strength point (see below, hurt but not broken): 

But just when you think things cannot get any worse, they do, a second T-34 rolls into shot (see below, the artillery won't be able to take out two armoured threats next turn):

Russian infantry have penetrated the German right flank and consequently push the German MG Team back, isolating the strongest remaining German infantry in a salient (see below, by being pushed out of these defenses the MG Team have allowed the threat of a dangerous flank attack without defensive bonuses next turn): 

The Soviet armoured overrun is in full progress (see below, close range direct fire destroys the stubborn defending artillery gunners): 

Overrun achieved and the remaining crew are killed (see below, a fresh T-34 takes possession of the hex - "Where is the Panzer IV?" you may ask, it has quietly retired from the field leaving the infantry to its fate): 

There is nothing left to stop the T-34's from carousing around the battlefield behind the German defensive positions while effective Soviet infantry fire removes the German MG Team from play (see below, the middle and right of the German line have ceased to exist): 

There is one last remaining German defensive strongpoint on the German left held by a full strength German infantry unit (see below, it is holding the line as the Panzer departs [which caused some strangled criticism from infantry players - but it was agreed all was lost] along with some battered German infantry, probably hoping for a quicker ride home on the back of a tank): 

"All is not well!" mutters a senior German as he leader departs the battlefield (see below, not much you can do with a pair of binoculars and nothing left to spot for): 

Not a good sign when you are surrounded, down to your last strength point and facing a combined armour/infantry assault (see below, which signaled the end of German resistance in this sector): 

A convincing Russian victory (again) but I do so like getting the toys out on the table. Again this battle was played with teh basic Portal Wargame rules, there are additional rules I would like to bring in from Bob Cordery's later sets (Developing The Portable Wargame). 

Monday 21 February 2022

Looking back at Connections UK 2019 Sabin - Punic War

While on the subject of things dating back to 2019, I found a couple of photos from the first day of Connections UK 2019 which as I remember was was packed full of "other" games. I took full advantage of this and joined a morning gaming session of Phil Sabin's multi-player Second Punic War game (I had read it from the book [Simulating War] but had never assembled a critical mass of interested people to actually get down to play it). Wargaming the strategic level of the Punic War board/wargame was a first for me, I only partially knew the background (Cannae to Zama), so I was not going to pass up a session with the author of the game. It was memorable. In the first run through, playing as the Leader of  Carthage I was beautifully stitched up by the Numidians and lost to Rome (even before the arrival of Scipio Africanus) .. so ho hum (see below, the state of the Cyber game board says it all, lots of Romans in North Africa - it did beautifully show the dynamic behaviour of the campaign and shows how a game can help unravel historical elements hidden by the text book - the importance of alliances and keeping  allies in check in particular - one of those Carthage "C"s in Africa [the Numidian] turns to a "R" [infamy] and the fat lady sings for Carthage):

The second run-through (where I played as Rome, but as a junior general) had a strange fratricidal "re-cock" [nothing I hasten to add to do with me] as internal Roman politics proved to be more dangerous than the Armies of Carthage - leading to a stupendous case of petulant "bad play" that let Carthage have an easy victory. After a 'group discussion' a decision to re-cock was made and the Romans got their act together so Carthage fell again (see below, "R" for Roman and "C" for Carthage - Africa has fallen to Rome, end-game for Carthage): 

Individual player scores are kept (so you can be the winner of the winning team and/or loser of the losing team), but this part of the game seems to be more of avoiding a "race to the bottom" - no good seems to come from going to war when you lose (see below, presumably the Roman winners will now celebrate in the traditional Roman way by plotting against each other in internal Senate politics, probably with as equally fatal consequences): 

The other point to note is the really effective way the game was presented by using" minimal computer power". Professor Sabin used a simple Cyberboard display (akin to a PowerPoint or Google Docs electronic document) with the Mediterranean game board & counters. He acted as control by moving the simple tokens about the board as directed by the players. All-in-all it was an obvious evolution of his "chalk and talk" KCL seminar sessions associated with his MA courses. The Cyberboard way of hosting will doubtless have saved him a fair bit of chalk by not having to continuously redraw the map of the Mediterranean. 

Sunday 20 February 2022

Connections UK 2019 Fire-Move Game 2

The afternoon/early evening Connections UK 2019 game was played with one defender and three attackers. The attackers being a mixture of old wargaming Grognards (from Wargames Developments) and a newbie DSTL wargamer C-in-C, with the defender being a newly civilianised DSTL military man who clearly knew his way around wargames. You may have guessed that with his astute interlocking defence [without clumping two units adjacent to each other] and good deployment in rather problematic terrain set-up for the defender (see below, the defender it always made to think hard about whether to occupy exposed hills [with the disadvantage of potentially defending too far forward] or sit back in the "lee" [defending on the baseline] risking being overrun, it is always a compromise of sorts. Another sensible choice was a simplicity of choice in that the two German infantry companies defended separate areas of the board and were not "layered" in a confusing manner [that did not help the defender in the first game Connections UK 2019 game]):  

The British came in "across the board", using three out of four companies represented from the get go, plus sticking the Vickers HMG platoon in the first turn [the middle seemed to be a safe bet]. Of note is the use of the cover afforded by the wood on the second row in. The Green company commander was able to place his full company in its "protective lee" outside of German LOS. However, the notion of an overall "plan" seemed to be missing for this set-up, but all players "were on the board," great for playability but the consequences could be somewhat fatal for the troops involved (see below, the question the British player should ask is where do I use my support assets - the Vickers HMG and 3" mortar - to best effect? It looks like they will continuously be "haggled" over, too many cooks perhaps will spoil this broth): 

Turn 2: The British Grognards see Blue company advance unsupported by the Vickers HMG because of LOS problems and the mortar was "haggled over" and taken to the other end of the table, to what purpose I am still not exactly sure. The Blue attack looks promising as there is a local British superiority of 3:1 and the potential of an additional 3" mortar support on later rounds that means there is a very good chance of suppressing the defender and getting a close assault in (see below, Red company at the top of table has a covered approach [it will take some long range fire initially], then there is an awful "show yourself over the top" moment at the end): 

Turn 3: The British make a big push or rather two big pushes at two separate ends of the table. The British re-sight their mortar (taking precious time and still leaving Blue company unsupported in its continued attack) and provide the German Purple Company some  "target practice" on Green company's platoon as it enters the woods. Blue company has moved a platoon to a close assault position but has rather rashly has opened itself up to more defensive fire than is healthy for the British assaulting troops liking! All depends on Lady Luck and the dice (see below, Blue company has missed a classic fire-fire-move tactic, with a 50% and 33.3% chance of suppressing the defender - one thing the British have forgotten about LOS is that you don't block LOS if you are in the same friendly hex firing, they have swung their assaulting platoon too far left and got into trouble): 

Turn 4: There is a withering hail of German defensive fire with seven "fire for effects" being rolled for. The German defending platoon in peril of being close assaulted is opting to fire for a single hit on two British platoons to make them both "spent" and inactive until their rally phase rather than hurting one with three hits. As it stands with accumulated casualties the British player is very near to withdrawing one for platoon with KIAs and also one platoon for ammunition expenditure (see below, the dice rolls will be "make or break" for the southern British attack):  

To the horror of the British players, Blue Company evaporates under withering fire and logistic depletion (loosing two platoons, but the Germans gaining only 1 VP  for the KIA platoon). The reserve Yellow company is now thrown on - in the middle of the battlefield, which is literally the teeth of the German defence presenting themselves as bunches targets (a German platoon firing can hit two adjacent hexes, remember also the Germans do not have to worry about ammunition depletion and the only way you can cause hits on an entrenched German platoon is to close assault them). This looks an increasingly hard task for the British players to pull off and now depends on the main attack in the North going well for them - but again it is into well sited German entrenched platoons (see below, the surviving Blue platoon it providing distant covering fire for the Yellow company, which really should have been following like avenging demons in the tracks of their brave Blue infantry compatriots [route one down the middle is "not open"]): 

The British again have to pay the butcher's bill from the German defensive fire and again, because they fired so many units - the ammunition depletion rule hurts them. Blue company is no more (ammunition depletion) and both Yellow and Green company have removed KIA platoons. What also does not seem to help the British is the fact that the supporting mortar and Vickers HMG seem to be supporting in the wrong places (see below, the British are now looking very thin on the ground thanks to some costly human wave tactics against entrenched Germans): 

The German defensive fire has left the Northern attack "pinned under the guns" and they are likely to be stuck there for some time. The British Green company loses another assaulting British infantry platoon and the attrition is going to be only one way from point in (see below, the battle is called at this point, the British will not be able to destroy a single German platoon, let alone get to the baseline [therefore zero VPs, whereas the German player has at least 4VP]): 

The British have attacked in what amounted to piecemeal "Human Waves" (I don't think alternative "all-in-charge" would have done any better though) and have been comprehensively beaten. I believe in the South they did have an "in" [an isolated German platoon] with Blue company but mismanaged it, but could have reworked it with Yellow following it up, In the North there was a terrain problem to work out, domination of the ridgeline which would have been a protracted firefight (with correct positioning of "supports" - keeping a company off table would have pinned the German platoons "in position" in the middle as the flanks were attacked. This one was a hard nut to crack, in fact a win in VP terms needed very patient play (see below, the Grognards did use it very much as a "learning the rules2 experience and game away thinking how they would do it next time, after many games the nuisances of the rules only come out after several play-throughs): 

The laurels for this play-test definitely lay with the defender, but with terrain generated randomly it means that any two games are highly unlikely to ever play the same. 

Saturday 19 February 2022

Connections UK 2019 Fire-Move Game 1

The Connections UK 2019 Conference allowed me the opportunity to run two games of Fire Move, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. The morning game had one defender and two attacking players, all of which had never played the game before. Interestingly this meant that a few new wrinkles came to light as the players discovered important aspects of the rules, which as we all know is an invaluable and the critical part of playing the game in the first place (see below, we are several turns into the game - the German player has elected to keep a platoon in reserve off table [a sound tactic], but he has "stacked heavy" [concentrated] in the centre in order to try and dominate the centre and the German right flank. However the terrain to the German also left disrupts "his line of sight" which has isolated his far left platoon. In the centre a single British platoon firing can hit two German platoons simultaneously, so note the positioning of the Vickers HMG platoon allows the British a good chance to suppress two German platoons each turn):  

The problem on the German left is an awkward hill that lies three rows in from the British side, which means the German cannot set up on it. Three waves of British infantry are now in the process of assaulting the German left flank [8:3 in the British favour ], so the German player hastily calls forth his platoon out of reserve and ponders the use of his valuable mortar ammunition (see below, the yellow "sun" marker is the landing point for the British 3" mortar, note also the British players have pounced on this avenue of attack, to the almost the point of ignoring attacking the German right flank. remember the black cocktail sticks denote movement - the blue coffee stirrer denotes firing): 

The British player starts to crowd and concentrate multiple platoons into single hexes [a potentially dangerous tactic if in clear LOS to an enemy "fresh/active" platoon or if the German player can conduct a mortar attack on the hex in question - however it could pay off in close assault and allows a better chance of supporting fire by clearing LOS hexes]. The key thing here is to suppress the Germans in the British "fire phase" so they cannot return fire in their "fire turn" - it is all a balance of risk and probabilities (see below, suppression and poor LOS are very frustrating to the German player):  

The British "Yellow Company" conducts a classic and very successful close combat that destroys a German platoon, note "close assault" being the only way in the rules an entrenched infantry platoon can take damage (all other hits simply supress and is a design feature of the rules). The platoon in question takes six hits and is removed from play - excess hits would not carry over to other platoon, they are simply lost (see below, the risk in this case payed off with handsome rewards - the barn door is now swinging open, the deployed reserve platoon is looking very vulnerable in the "open"): 

The Fire/Move battlefield looks very good from a British point of view, fifty percent of the German forces are effectively "out of play" because they cannot interfere with the streams of British infantry flanking to their left threatening to roll up the German baseline. The Vickers HMG is causing extra pain by consistently pinning them in place to stop the German platoons reinforcing the German left (see below, the British have performed a very good attack exploiting the weaknesses of the German set-up): 

Despite the outstanding success the British players were hit by the "cunningly clever" logistics rule of Fire-Move, again a purposely designed subsystem in the game which means that after a certain amount of firing [set IIRC at eight or nine fires - note this is a factor that can be calibrated as a game parameter] the British have a "depleted ammunition platoon removal". No victory points awarded to the Germans but there is one less manoeuvre element for the British Battalion Commander to use (see below, if you look closely there are now only two not three "yellow company" British infantry platoons - and note to fulfil this logistics requirement you have to take a platoon off that has been actively firing that turn [cheesy play is always possible - which platoon you take, but the temperament of the players is arbitrated by the umpire's oversight (or overrule - aka final word) to be "simulation" and not "competition" play (aka avoid unrealism's)]): 

The German reserve platoon (in the open) was mercilessly gunned down. The Germans had suffered 50% casualties and could not stop the British advance. The game was called as a comprehensive British victory, well played to the two young players from DSTL who had not played a wargame before! The German player took away some valuable lessons learned. 

Thursday 17 February 2022

Connections 2019 Fire/Move Components

In hindsight perhaps I should have showed this post first as this was in preparation for the 2019 Connection UK Fire-Move games. I decided to take the same terrain as I did for Connections UK 2016 when I first did Fire-Move, but upgrade the infantry models from Skytrex Action 200 to Pendrakon 10mm figures (see below, the basic British OoB for the game [as per the book], comprising of an infantry battalion, four companies [red, yellow, green, blue] of three infantry platoons, plus a Vickers HMG support platoon [white] and a 3" mortar platoon [top right hand corner, off-table left with basic flocking]): 

The similarity to a Spearhead or Command Decision order of battle (OoB) is somewhat striking (and reassuring) - so I now can field a British infantry battalion for those rulesets too, which is a bonus. These are also the playing pieces that can appear on table top - note the Vickers HMG can support all the other companies with direct fire, but once placed on the baseline cannot move other than to retire out of the game for good. The other thing to remember about the Vickers is a -1 DRM applies when danger close, as in a friendly unit is adjacent to an enemy unit it is firing at. The distinct colour banding is also to act as a aide memoir to help supporting direct fire and close assault respect the "same" company restriction (see below, I have also colour coded fire and assault markers [painted cocktail stick and coffee stirrers] for the combat phase, so a simple "same colour" visual check can be applied): 

The Germans can in theory operate in two modes, the common static defence position, as shown below with a colour coded company (as per the British because the same fire restrictions apply to the Germans)  and a crude "barbed wire" representation to their front (X-X-X). This slip of paper could be detached or folded under the figure base if it was moved in the course of the game (see below, a simple system that worked well in practice, although it is noted that the Germans hardly ever elected to move .. note in the London Exiles game, the only German movement was to move [retreat] off table): 

With that the game components were complete ready to "meet the players". Going back to reference the Spearhead and Command Decision rulesets again, in Fire-Move there is no reference to a Battalion Command Stand, so there is no limitation to the number of orders that could be given in a turn, either in the number of or distance from the battalion. Command Decision drops a level further down to Company Command Infantry stands [Nationalities like the Americans and German can actually elect to have a separate Company Command Stand]. One last difference is the provision of the Battalion Carrier Platoon, often used in a fighting Reece function or a very valuable Admin helper moving munitions and stores around, even evacuating casualties. That element is ignored for Fire-Move and assumed to be on "other duties".