Saturday, December 9, 2017

Tweenwater War - Battle of Redmead Ridge

Battle 2 of the Tweenwater War Eastern Front

After his defeat at Hartvale, General Spengler regrouped his forces, fell back to a new defensive position, and called for reinforcements. Meanwhile, the Imperial advance continued unabated.

General Spengler takes up a defensive position on Redmead Ridge. The Imperial commander, General Whittelspoon, continues to advance up the road, with his cavalry leading the way. The Imperial artillery is lagging behind.

Regravian reinforcements arrive, blocking the road.

As more Imperial infantry arrive, Whittelspoon decides to clear the enemy from the hill.

Whittelspoon's vanguard tries to take the ridge but is driven from the field. Meanwhile, two brigades of Redgravian cavalry arrive (bottom)

Now Whittelspoon leads an attack on the Redgravian flank, to no effect.

The Imperial artillery finally deploys and begins to bombard Spengler's position on the hill. Under cover of the bombardment, Whittelspoon assaults the ridge.

Only to be routed again! Nevertheless, casualties are piling up on Spengler and the Redgravian infantry has been routed on the left.

 Assault after assault goes in but Spengler's infantry stymies the attacks. Finally, however, it cannot hold any longer and routs from the field. The Imperials hold the hill!

But it is only temporary. Spengler's final infantry unit drives the Imperials off.

As a gloom descends, Whittelspoon realizes he cannot take the hill before nightfall. He withdraws to rally his army.

Game Notes
  • This game was played with my latest DBA-esque horse & musket rules (a partial description is in this post).
  • I will have to post in more detail about the activation rules at a later time. In short, units need to make an activation roll to move or assault. The Imperial army suffered significantly from poor activation rolls throughout the game, which caused them to launch piecemeal attacks on the enemy on the hill. I believe this was a crucial factor in the game. It can be frustrating, and can mess up Neil Thomas's scenario design. Nevertheless, it's not a bad thing from a solo gaming perspective because it adds interesting wrinkles to the story. I may want to tweak the rules to make it easier to move earlier in the game, allowing armies to maneuver into contact and deploy more effectively.
  • The scenario was #8 - Melee from One Hour Wargames. The attackers (Imperials) need to be in sole possession of the hill by turn 15.
  • This was only the second game I played for the Tweenwater War Eastern Front. I started the campaign nearly two years ago but then stalled because I did not have a complete Imperial army.
  • So far in this campaign, each side has won one battle.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Motorcycle Madness

With a little time available this morning, I decided to play a session of Machinas.

I made a couple of rule changes to make it easier for me to run the game solo:

  • I vastly reduced the bonus dice pools. My car started with D6/2 while the non-player cars started with 0.
  • I did not roll a random event for each car. Instead, I rolled one random event each turn, then rolled to see which car was affected.
  • I allowed cars to shoot, even if they did not win a passing roll.
The first two changes limited the role of bonus dice, although they could be decisive if used at the right time. I did not notice any reduction in my enjoyment of the game. The last rule change provided, in my eyes, more action, as cars took numerous pot-shots at each other.

I failed to take pictures, primarily because my phone was upstairs and I was too lazy to go up and get it. The pictures would have been a disappointment anyway because I used my unit markers rather than my wife's Hot Wheels (she reclaimed them).

Here is a turn by turn recap:
  1. Conway is on another Courier run. He finds himself pursued by 2 motorcycles. One passes; Conway tries to shoot him but fails. Another car joins the race.
  2. Conway tries to bash the lead motorcycle but it eludes him. The second bike pulls alongside and unloads a blast at the Courier. Conway fires back. Both miss. The car is drafting in the rear.
  3. Conway shoots the lead motorcycle, causing damage. The car moves up behind Conway and shoots, missing.
  4. Conway bashes the lead motorcycle. It crashes! However, another motorcycle joins the chase. The car shoots at Conway. Conway swerves and bumps into the car. Both maintain control.
  5. The car, equipped with a spiked ram, tries to bash the Courier. Conway manages to avoid his pursuer. One of the motorcycles tries to pass, but Conway holds him off.
  6. One of the bikes collides with Conway. Both swerve, causing a chain reaction! The motorcycle collides with the car. It too swerves, loses control, and flips. The last motorcycle has to dodge the wreck! Unnerved by his nearly fatal collision, the lead motorcycle drops out of the chase.
  7. The remaining motorcycle trades shots with Conway. Conway hits the bike, causing it to swerve. Nevertheless, it maintains control.
  8. More shots are exchanged. The motorcycle loses heart and gives up the chase. Conway is home free!
Six by Six Challenge - 5.3 completed!

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Easy Armies

Following up on my experiment with little block armies, I created a new portable wargame kit

It consists of:
  • An 8" x 10" gridded battle mat (cut down from a Pathfinder battle mat)
  • A pack of dry erase markers (to draw terrain on the mat)
  • 2 dice
  • 2 tins with the unit markers
I originally cut my own markers from craft wood, but I was unsatisfied with the uneven dimensions that I achieved. I then ordered some 3mm bases from Litko and painted them up.

 I am very pleased with the Litko bases. They are regular is dimension, in contrast to my misshapen attempts. They are 3mm thick so they have some height and are easy to pick up. Additionally, the sides are a dark brown (burnt from the laser cutter perhaps?). Initially I tried to paint the sides but they did not take paint well. I found that it was just easier to leave them unpainted. Because they are dark, they don't seem obtrusive.

Here are 2 armies - Red and Blue


Rectangles represent infantry, squares are cavalry, and the circle is the general. The square that is half-tan is artillery. My thought is that if the tan half faces the enemy then the artillery is limbered otherwise it is ready for action.

The dots are unit identifiers. Rather than numbers, I marked a dot on the left, center, or right of each base.

So far, I have painted 6 armies and plan a couple more (green and perhaps yellow).

For years, I've been wanting armies for each of the countries of my Francesia imagi-nations, but I never got around to completing the project. Now I have armies for Redgrave, Bluderia, the Empire, Grayrock, and various barbarian tribes that the Francesian powers shall discover on the continent of Rapala. I just need Greenglade and Drakendorf.

I'm still working on rules for this kit.

Friday, December 1, 2017

November Update

Six by Six Challenge
I'm back! Not sure if I'm going to complete it, but I'm giving it a try. A couple of developments got me back into the challenge:

Machinas
A confluence of factors got me interested in post-apocalyptic car battles. First, Osprey announced the publication of Gaslands. Then there was an intriguing post on the Wargames Website. Alas, none of the rules seemed like they would work for me. Then I remembered Machinas, the subject of numerous wonderful posts by Kaptain Kobold. What interested me in these rules was that cars don't move on the board; instead they move relative to each other. This is a perfect approach for small gaming spaces.

I gave them a try and like them. There is room for some tweaks, but the core mechanisms are solid.

Anyway, Machinas has me playing with minis again. As a result, I decided it would replace DC Rivals on my 6 x 6 list.

Here is what I played in November:
Slipstream
I played 4 games of my pulp sci-fi campaign, but then ground to a halt because the next scene in the Slipstream Plot Point campaign was sooo boring (it's just a straight fight). As often happens, however, game creativity in one area seems to spawn ideas in another. As I was messing around with Machinas, an idea struck me on how to make the scene interesting. I changed it into a dungeon crawl. The Slipstream campaign was back in action.

Here is my November tally:
And with that, I have finished the challenge for Slipstream!

Just a note that FU did not really work for me. They are too open-ended, which may be good for a creative group, but I prefer a bit more granularity for solo play.

Synopsis
I lose 2 games because I dropped DC Rivals but I replaced them with 2 games of Machinas and then added 2 games of Slipstream. That leaves me at 30 games played with 6 to complete in December. A tall order, but I'll be on vacation for the last week of the month. I have a shot!

Super Simple Horse and Musket
My experiments with Manoeuvre (e.g. this) have inspired me to work up some rules for some really quick and simple horse and musket battles. I have been pleased with my early trials, such as this battle.

Unexpected Values
Have you ever bought a hobby item, intending it for one purpose only to find it insufficient. But then you find a new, and even better use for that item?

That has happened for me with the Pathfiinder battle mat.


I originally purchased it for Four Against Darkness using miniatures.

I found it clunky and shelved the mat. Later, it suffered some water damage. I then cut it into 8" x 10" sheets and am now using it for various projects:

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Saturday Night Race

Last night we decided to play a short game. I suggested Machinas and my wife readily agreed. I set up a 2-lap race.

I controlled the blue car, my wife took the orange, and the black car was run as a non-player. I roared off to an early lead.

The black cat had his money on the black car.

The cars traded positions throughout the race, On the final curve my wife zoomed ahead,

In the final straightaway, I passed her. The black car also passed her and then tried to get past me. I managed to hold him off for the win.

We did precious little shooting or bashing in this race. I tried to bash once but failed. My wife wanted to shoot, multiple times, but generally failed to win the passing attempt. When she did win, she felt that there was no advantage in shooting. My sentiments as well.

Regardless, she enjoyed the race. And I finished another 6 x 6 game.

SIX BY SIX - Game 5.2

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Nothing Shall Stop These Couriers

In the aftermath of the Cataclysm, small pockets of civilization arose, and established tenuous connections among each other. However, the raiders of the Wastelands seek to stop these communications. The forces of civilization have created a corps of Couriers, equipped with souped-up vehicles, to race past the raiders and deliver news and packages between the scattered towns.

Conway, in his blue car, has been tasked with a delivery. As he races down the highway, 2 raiders give chase.

Instead of using the Machinas card deck, I wrote down the vehicle stats on index cards. I plan to create a stack of cards with random stats; I can just pick one and go. I chose the stats for the Courier (blue) car.

Also note that I used some brown paper to cover up my Miami Dolphins blanket from prior pictures.

The green car tries to pass, but Conway outmaneuvers him and then cuts loose with his rear-mounted guns. Bullets shred into the green car, damaging its engine (causing a loss of Speed).

The purple car passes the green car but cannot get past Conway. Again, he lets loose with his rear guns, but this time he misses.

The purple car, armed with a spiked ram, bashes Conway and gets past him. The green car starts shooting but misses.

Conway passes the purple car.

Purple tries to bash again, but Conway holds him off. A new raider enters the fray and passes by the damaged green car.

Purple has had enough and gives up the chase. Green passes the orange car and tries to take on Conway, who again fires his rear guns.

Orange accidentally bumps Green, and both spin. Orange regains control but Green flips and is out of the chase.

Orange makes a couple of unsuccessful attempts to attack Conway.

But it finally gives up. Conway now has open road and can complete his delivery!

Thoughts

  • There was definitely more action than my first test game. Having more cars helped, plus I gave my car rear-mounted guns, which resulted in a lot of shooting (that's a good thing).
  • I used the full complement of bonus dice this time. I'm not sure if having so many adds a lot of value, and I may try reducing the number.
  • Kaptain Kobold sent me a document with his tweaks. I read through them but am not familiar enough to try them out. He has an interesting rule that if there are cars ahead of the player car during a chase then add one to rolls to determine if cars drop out. I actually mis-remembered the rule and reduced my player car's speed. Anyway, it did not really come into play because the Courier remained ahead for most of the game.
SIX BY SIX CHALLENGE - Game 5.1 (replacing DC Rivals)

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Back in the Race

The 6 by 6 Challenge, specifically.

In my last monthly update I said that my 6 by 6 challenge was dead in the water and that I did not expect to finish any more games. Well that has changed. There's a little story behind it.

Monday night I mentioned to my wife that I wanted to pick up some Hot Wheels cars, including her favorite Dodge Challenger. She replied that she had Hot Wheels. I had forgotten that when she was working at Auto Zone she picked up a few toys. Perfect! I had some toys for more Machinas experiments. I grabbed them, set them up, and starting playing a race.


Curious about what I was doing with her cars, my wife came downstairs to check on me. As she watched, one of the non-player cars tried to bash, failed (badly), and got flipped.


"Cool!" said my wife.

"Want to try?" I asked. She readily accepted, and took over as the driver of the orange Dodge Challenger. We played a couple of turns before I had to go to bed. However, my wife is hooked.

Anyway, this puts me back into the 6 by 6 race. I am going to drop DC Rivals and replace it with Machinas.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Machinas Test Drive

After picking up Machinas last week, I've been itching to give it a go. I decided to take it for a test drive this morning. I don't have cars or printed counters so I quickly drew a couple and used my Pathfiinder battle mat for the board.

For both vehicles, I rolled randomly on the non-player tables. The blue car (the good guy) has slightly better stats. (3 Savvy, 5 Tech, 3 Speed vs. 3/4/3). He also had armor-piercing ammo, a roll cage, and a box of nails (which I forgot to use). The black car had spiked wheels but old tires. For the most part, these attributes did not come into play

In my first trial, the raider (black car) tried to pass the Courier (blue). The Courier bashed, and flipped the raider. Game over in turn 1.

The second run was far less interesting. The raider drafted in the first two turns then tried to pass in turn 3. When he failed, he gave up the chase)

Game 3 involved a few desultory pass attempts. After 6 turns, the raider gave up.

My Thoughts
  • In general, the rules are solid. I picked them up easily and was able to speed through the games. In fact, set up was the hardest part!
    • To simplify set up, I am thinking of pre-generating a bunch of vehicles and recording their stats on index cards. If I need a vehicle, I can just pull one out of the pile of cards.
  • For solo play, keeping track of bonus dice seems like a chore. I already made a tweak to the rules and dispensed with initial bonus dice for the bad guys. I randomly rolled to give the good guy between 1 and 3 bonus dice to start.
  • I'm concerned that there might not be enough action. For the most part the game revolved around passing (which I think should really be called maneuvering) rolls. There was one bash, initiated by the lead car. After that, it did not seem advantageous for the lead car to bash so I kept holding off the challenge and waited for the enemy to break off.
    • I'm not sure if the problem was reducing bonus dice. I would think that it would offset. Perhaps I should also start the hero with 0, though that does not seem very heroic.
    • I also wonder if tone is due to these primarily being racing rules with an emphasis on jockeying for position. In contrast, I am most interested in combat.
    • Also, adding more raiders should make things more interesting. However, I wanted to start off simple for my initial test.
  • Despite my concerns, I see a lot of good ideas in these rules. I think I may be trying a bunch of tweaks to spice it up a bit.

Notes on Yesterday's Rules - Combat

Yesterday's battle allowed me to experiment with rules for very quick play battles (I did not time it but I think it took less than half an hour). I'll be posting some notes about them.

Types
There are actually 2 types of combat - harassing and assault

  • Harassing involves artillery (each infantry division is assumed to have attached artillery), long-range musketry, and skirmishing. Harassing fire can occur at ranges of 1 to 2 spaces.
  • Assault involves a division launching an all-out attack on an adjacent enemy position. The goal is to cross bayonets, although it could devolve into close-range musketry.
Harassing fire is not going to break an enemy unit, but it will weaken the target. The commander will ultimately have to opt for an assault to rout out the enemy. An assaulting unit, however, is more likely to suffer casualties. In essence, assault is higher risk but higher reward.


Combat Resolution
Combat is based on the DBA system. I know I've written in the past that I don't like opposed die rolls for horse & musket era combat, primarily because they seem to abstract. However, given the scale of these rules (each unit = a division) then abstract feels right.

I changed the combat results. I did not like the "shoving match" feel of DBA. It just did not seem realistic for one unit to retreat, return to the fray and force its opponent to retreat, and back and forth. Retreating should be a serious, almost decisive, affair. Instead, a unit beaten in combat receives a morale marker. Morale markers make the unit harder to activate, more likely to get beaten in combat, and more likely to rout.

As I mentioned, harassing the enemy is lower risk. The attacker does not take a morale marker if it rolls lower than the enemy. However, there is no chance of forcing the defender to retreat or rout.

Assaults are riskier and deadlier. The attacker can suffer ill effects if the defender rolls higher. Yet an assault is necessary to take an enemy position. In an assault, a roll that doubles the opposition causes the loser to retreat one space. In addition, the retreating unit must make a morale roll to avoid a rout.

In general, I liked how this worked out. Harassing fire weakened enemy units, making them more brittle in later turns. Once an assault occurred, however, units remained locked in combat until a decisive result was reached. This just felt a little more realistic than a "shoving match."

Cavalry in Combat
For much of the horse & musket era, infantry was "Queen of the Battlefield" so I wanted to reflect that. This meant limiting the combat effectiveness of cavalry to a certain extent. I did this with a rule that forbade cavalry from assaulting infantry. However, cavalry can hang around the flanks, providing support to friendly infantry. And if a unit retreats with enemy cavalry on its flank, it is more likely to rout.

These rules did not really come into play in my sample battle because the cavalry divisions found themselves in a pitched melee on the flank throughout the entire battle.

Another feature is that cavalry cannot harass; it must assault if it wishes to engage in combat.

What About Artillery?
You may have noticed that I did not have any artillery units. As I mentioned, artillery is assumed to be parceled out and attached to the infantry. I am toying with rules for independent "grand batteries." They would have a range of 3, but once emplaced they cannot move.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

And Now For Something Completely Different

A miniatures game without miniatures!

As I mentioned earlier this week, I'm experimenting with rules for army level horse & musket battles using blocks. Here is my first attempt.

The forces of Redgrave and Bluderia face each other!
Rectangle blocks are infantry divisions while the squares are cavalry. The circle is the Commander-in-Chief. Each infantry division is assumed to have attached artillery. I am working on rules for grand batteries but they are not ready yet.

 After some maneuvering, Redgrave holds a hill and sends its cavalry forward.

A cavalry melee occurs on the flank. The Bluderian infantry is ordered to advance. The center, hammered by artillery fire, lags behind.
Notice the crosses drawn behind the center infantry. These are morale markers.

Routs! One of the Redgrave cavalry divisions and the Bluderian center rout from the field!

The Bluderian left faces 2 Redgravian divisions. In the face of superior numbers, it routs! The Bluderian commander calls retreat.
If 2 infantry divisions rout, the army is defeated.

I like the look of the game, and found it surprisingly satisfying! I will share rules details later. In brief, I'm using DBA mechanics. Instead of recoils, however, units receive a morale marker upon defeat. Morale markers act as negative modifiers to combat, increasing the odds that a unit will rout.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Some Random Projects

I'm experiencing some GADD (gamer's attention deficit disorder)

More Horse & Musket
While perusing Wargames Vault, I noticed this set of rules.


What struck me was how nice the blocks look, which has rekindled an interest in some generic block armies.

A couple months ago, I read a blog entry where the blogger created a game using colored blocks, like above. Rather than create realistic terrain, he chose to draw it on the board in a way that it looked like a map of the battle. It was really striking. I wish I could find that post again.

Anyway, I'm thinking of doing something similar. I have a Pathfinder battle mat that I might use for my battle board. I have some dry erase pens and can simply draw the terrain.

I just need to make up some blocks, and decide on the rules,

Speaking of rules, I've been jotting down ideas for a set for really quick play battles (15 minutes or so). They are at a high level so each unit is a wing of the army. There will be 3 wings, plus some independent cavalry. I'm leaning toward DBA mechanics. I hope to play test soon.

Machinas
Lately on TMP and the Wargames Website, there have been a surge of posts about post-apocalyptic car battles, which has spurred my interest. Based on a review, I picked up Broken Axles. After reading it, however, I'm not sure if it will work for my small gaming space (it calls for a 48" wide board).

I have been following Kaptain Kobold's experiments with Machinas, by Two Hour Wargames.


I liked that movement in Machinas is somewhat abstracted - cars move respective of each other rather than across a board. The movement system seems more amenable to gaming in small spaces. So I picked up a copy!

I had been hesitant to pick up Machinas because I am not a fan of Two Hour Wargames. I can't really put my finger on it, but for some reason I struggle to understand his rules. However, having read through it last night, I think it will work for me. I like that it is somewhat abstracted. Aside from the movement mechanism I mentioned, it doesn't track every single weapon carried by the vehicle.

Naturally, I don't like the background and plan to develop my own. I am not interested in racing; instead I plan on running chases. I think I'll have the "good guys" be couriers who travel between the scattered pockets of civilization. They must contend with the denizens of the wastelands who try to stop them.

Now I need some cars. I will probably just use some counters. Nice that Machinas comes with some. Anyway, I hope to experiment soon.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Remembering Our Vets

Thank you!


Russian Counterattack

With Halloween over, my interest in vampire hunting has waned, but I was hankering for a game this morning. I decided to pull out Manoeuvre and try out the last two armies - Russian and Prussian.

The Rules
I considered experimenting with different rules; this time I pondered using Horde of the Things. But those strength ratings on the counters pulled at me and I decided to use them. So I went back to Manoeuvre's combat rules, which are admittedly very HoTT-like. I rolled a D10 and added the unit's rating.

As you can see from the combat chart, it is difficult to eliminate an enemy (playing command cards make it easier, but I did not use the cards)


I used a somewhat different activation method than before. I would nominate a unit to activate and roll 1 die, trying to score <= their listed rating. If I failed, I would move on to the next unit. Two failures would end that side's turn. It worked well enough.

The Scenario
I decided to use a One Hour Wargame scenario, and chose #21 - Twin Objectives. I made the Prussians the defenders while the Russians attacked. I randomly pulled units from the counter bag. The opposing forces are as follows:

  • Prussians (defending) - 3 infantry (strengths of 6, 6, and 5) and 1 cavalry (str = 6)
  • Russians (attacking) - 5 infantry (str = 8, 7, 6, 6, 6) and 1 cavalry (str = 5)
The map is comprised of 4 tiles randomly selected from the Manoeuvre tiles. There is much more terrain on these tiles than the scenario calls for, which may make things tricky for the attacker.

The Russian objective is to seize the hill (bottom left) and village (top row). The Prussians have a difficult task - they are outnumbered, must hold two dispersed objectives, and have poorer quality units!

The Battle
As the Grande Armee retreats from its disastrous invasion of Russia, the Prussian contingent finds itself beset by the Czar's forces. General Schnapps orders his troops to hold a strategic hill and a small village.

However, Schnapps opts for a forward defense, and moves his troops up. The Russian attack quickly drives the defenders from the hill (bottom left)

The Russian Guards are reluctant to advance against the Prussian Dragoons (the Guards kept failing their activation roll even though they needed 8 or less on a D10!). Meanwhile, the Prussian infantry drives back its Russian counterparts.

The Russians are more successful on the left, pushing the Prussians away from the hill.

But a Russian counterattack routs a Prussian unit.

The Russian inexorably advance!

Although the Russians have taken heavy casualties (many of their units have taken a hit; 2 hits will break the unit) they manage to rout another Prussian unit.

The Dragoons retreat to the village.

And find themselves beset. Meanwhile, the last Prussian infantry routs (left)

And as dusk is falling, the Orlov Regiment drives the Dragoons out of the village!

Victory to the Russians!

Final Thoughts

  • All in all, an enjoyable battle that came down to the last turn. Of course, the Russians may have won more easily if the Guard could manage to activate!
  • And with this battle, I have completed my One Hour Wargame challenge. Over two years ago, I set myself a goal to play all 30 of Thomas's scenarios and this was the last one on the list!