Monday 14 February 2022

Connections 2019 - FireMove and Exiles' Party (Part 1 of 2)

Can I set the scene correctly? It is so long ago now. Late at night, in a Gaming Café in South London, underneath Waterloo [I believe, as I did get a little disorientated as we traversed all those London back lanes] in pre-Covid times (2019), four people did meet and bring their own game to a rather special venue. The game was a miniatures table-top version of "Fire Move" by Professor Phil Sabin of Simulating War fame, or at least should I say this was "The London Exiles" variant - as I met up with two of the 'newer' members of the Exiles (my old London Wargames Club), a club who IMHO represent the finest of the Old Guard of the wargaming fraternity (see below, an epic venue, strain your eyes to see some nicely painted 10mm WWII Pendrakon Figures on the table if you can, a scenic flocked battle board, but most importantly of all - the finest of company, good strong beer and beautiful gourmet burgers to boot - had I died and gone to some form of wargaming heaven?): 

The bar, the food and waitress service were exceptional and the "the gaming crew" certainly took an avid interest in our table's game [partly as it did not come out of one of their stable "off the shelf" boxes - in fact I literally wheeled in the components in a suitcase, they were intrigued]. The game had already had two outings that day at the Connections UK 2019 Professional Wargaming Conference held at KCL, but here "Fire Move" was going to be put to its most serious test as yet in my eyes, this being the measure of the respect I have for the Exiles as arbiters of wargames taste (see below, friendly staff and a buzzing atmosphere): 

One final shot of the whole crew and the first dice of the night are ready to be rolled (see below, British attacking from the left with the Germans defending on the right, a standard probing battalion attack at a sector "believed" to be thinly held by a couple of "under strength" German infantry companies):

A first departure from the basic Fire Move game and Connections UK script was the introduction of the "Fog of War" hidden placement and spotting rule - rather than just laying the German defenders out, the British had to find them. They could do this by getting close enough to spot stationary infantry or enticing the Germans to reveal their position by firing on them (see below, the German player was given ten red poker chip tokens that represented "places where the Germans could be in clear LOS" to the British baseline - note the wood below is in a contested "no-man's land"): 

The British player deploys troops from three out of four of his companies (blue[A]-white[B]-green[C]), five platoons in total, in a left-middle-right attack formation with the fourth company (yellow[D]) held back in reserve. The British white counter in the middle of the left baseline is a "recon counter" that can flush out red hidden German "poker counters" - it cannot assault but it can spot, this is in difference to Frank Chadwick's "patrol counter" and is another experimental element (see below, note no pre-game artillery bombardment was opted for, rather and again going away from the basic book version of the game it was going to be available "on call" during the game): 

Turn 1: Nothing spotted or heard from the Germans as yet [are they really there?] so the British infantry move gingerly forwards. The phycological sight of the row upon row of hidden "possible" concealed enemy positions gives a much heavier level of caution to the British plater, a trepidation of the unknown (see below, it was getting a little bit tense at this moment, "I don't like it Sarge! It's too quiet!"): 

On the German turn [3] there is "contact" as three German platoons are revealed, two from the "purple" company [top of photograph - the white piece of card to the front has a series of crosses drawn on it to denotes it is dug-in, something that is not really captured in the photograph well] and one from the "grey" company [bottom of photograph] - as they "open up" on the advancing Tommies. We played if you come within two hexes of a "red poker" counter you can "roll for a reveal" - same odds as shooting but just determining if anything is there or not (see below, the "grey" company platoon attracting the attention of the 3" British off-table mortar for his troubles):  

Again deviating slightly from the book, as I allowed the British to call down a 25 pounder smoke barrage to conceal their advance from direct fire. This was a LOS impediment which saved the British from withering fire - one shot spans two hexes rather than a point-to-point attack. I like the diverse nature of this spread of fire as opposed to most miniature game systems. Works best with hexes for sure. Chain of Command in effect does something similar by spreading casualties across a group in LOS, albeit with a different mechanic (see below, the beer is being drunk as casualty chits mount up, from strained memory we played every eighth casualty a platoon was removed, likewise the British had an ammo restriction which removed platoons to get replenished - so they could not be over zealous in their shooting. The above two rules make it a very different game from the normal WW2 tactical game experience):

From various cheap "number and word" games you can find in the high street shops that sell budget games for kids (Sudoku, Bingo and the like) I cannibalised "number chits" (see markers to the left and right of the board). These are used as casualty as logistics counters for the British and (decreasing) mortar allocation points. Also note - the new white British counter that has appeared on the baseline is the Vickers HMG platoon that has come down from a higher echelon for the attack to complement the organic battalion 3" mortars as support weaponry, once placed it cannot move (see below, the attack has reached a critical "reveal" stage, over half the British forces are on the table and most, but not all the German forces are shown - the British player can now choose his "main point of attack):   

The British player commits his last company (yellow [D]) to attack in the North (top), therefore reinforcing the success of blue company but still continuing the pressure in the South (green company). The British player has taken losses but not had to remove a platoon to date - logistical or by enemy fire (see below, note the German player has lost one platoon from an infantry assault, the only way the Fire-Move rules allow an entrenched platoon to be removed from play - it can be hit and suppressed [so it cannot fire back] any number of times): 

The British attack progresses and the final German counter is revealed. Two infantry assaults are prepped to "go in" on the next British turn unless the German suppressive fire can register hits this turn - making the British spent and unable to go in. Just off camera, a second Vickers HMG platoon has appeared. The infantry advance in the North is complemented by intense suppressive fire in the South, it is starting to look grim for the German (see below, nothing is guaranteed until an assault or fire hits .. a one is always a miss and it is so suppressing how many times a one comes up when statistically unexpected on a d6 .. Lady Luck is a cruel mistress):

Useful playing aides: Caught on camera are the "painted long stem coffee stirrers" which I used to help the players "get the rules right". In particular direct fire and assaults can only be supported by friendly stands from the same company (or the British HMG stand). Without remembering in a semi-permanent form (as in lasting over the turn) this is easily muddled up in the heat of "game play" (see below, I also think it gives the player an aide for forming his "fire plan" rather than letting organically grow, and be wasteful of ammunition, which does play a significant part in this game): 

To be continued ... the second half as the attack is pressed home.


Martin Rapier said...

I really like Fire and Move. I ran it at COW a few years back and worked it up into a more generic battalion set with tanks etc. Some players found the ammo and casualty tracking too abstract, I think they work better with one player per side than multiplayer.

Geordie an Exiled FoG said...

It is a marmite game to some people:

The flip-flip of active to spent
Logistics of ammo removing troops a lot of people didn't like but seems realistic or probable
Allocation of hits to stand removal but not tracking per stand
Indirect fire being an ammo pile being used up and the last round reluctantly used
Infantry entrenched can only be "killed" when/if successfully assaulted
Only hurting "others" not yourself on your turn - even in close combat

I have yet to fully play a game through of Combined Arms yet ;)