Friday, 27 February 2009

Colonial Wargaming website update

For the first time in two months I managed to update my Colonial Wargaming website.

I added information about four books that I have bought and read over the past few months to the relevant Sources of Inspiration - Books section on the website. The books are:
  • THE ARAB REVOLT 1916 - 18: written by David Murphy and published by Osprey Publishing
  • FRONT-LINE ESSEX: written by Michael Foley and published by Sutton Publishing
  • FRONT-LINE KENT: written by Michael Foley and published by Sutton Publishing
  • RUSSIAN BATTLESHIP VS JAPANESE BATTLESHIP - YELLOW SEA 1904 - 05: written by Robert Forczyk and published by Osprey Publishing

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Preparing for Salute 2009

This afternoon I managed to do some preparatory work for the game Richard Brooks and I will be putting on at Salute 2009 on behalf of Wargame Developments. The game is called SOLFERINO IN TWENTY MINUTES, and uses a stylised map of the battlefield and large playing pieces that represent Commanders-in-Chief (and their subordinate Army/Corps commanders), Corps/Divisions of Guards, Infantry, and Cavalry, and Army/Corps Artillery.

Thanks to some excellent illustrations sent to me on a CD-ROM by Richard, I have been able to design both the playing pieces and the command activation cards. Assuming that they meet with Richard's approval, I can print them off next week.

Preparing for Cruiser 2009

I have spent this morning making the final preparations for the two naval war games I will be putting on at Cruiser 2009 on HMS Belfast on Saturday 28th February.

I have well over 50 'targets' for each of the ships that can take part in the Jane's Naval War Game, and this should be enough for at least two games. The major innovation I have made to the way I shall run the game involves the purchase of a small light table of the type used to transfer designs from printed paper to plain paper. The light shines through an opaque surface onto which you put the print and the plain paper; this makes it possible to see the design on the print clearly through the plain paper without casting shadows onto what you are copying.

I saw one of these light tables in the local craft shop and realised that if I put a 'target' onto the light table it would make the pinhole 'hits' much easier to see; furthermore, once the 'hits' are marked onto the 'target' I can put the 'scorer' over the 'target' and transfer the effects of the hits onto the 'scorer'. This will hopefully save some time, as the firing phase of a Jane's Naval War Game can be quite long and tedious if the umpire - me - has to take a long time to adjudicate 'hits' and their effects.

Monday, 23 February 2009

Nugget 224

I hope to take the latest issue of THE NUGGET to the printers tomorrow and I should be able to pick it up on Friday. With any luck I hope to get it out in the post by Tuesday next week, and it should be with members later that week.

I hope to upload the PDF versions of the latest issues of THE NUGGET and THE NUGGET COLOUR SUPPLEMENT to the Wargame Developments website on Tuesday next week so that members (including e-members) can read it before the printed version arrives in the post.

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Cavalier 2009

This morning I went to Cavalier 2009. This is a small wargames show run by the Tunbridge Wells Wargames Society, and it was held in the Angel Centre, Tonbridge.

This is a nice location with a large cark that is free on Sundays – an excellent selling point for a wargames show! There were 39 traders and 12 participation/demonstration games as well as the obligatory ‘bring-and-buy’.

I spent a very pleasant couple of hors at the show, and managed to speak to several people I know, including Dave Ryan (of Caliver Books), Martin Goddard (of Peter Pig), Phil Steele (of the Society of Ancients), and the boys (that should really be men) of SEEMS. The latter were putting on a very interesting and enjoyable World War I air combat game (with the engaging title of ‘WOT? NO PARACHUTE’), where two British heavy bombers were attempting to ‘get through’ against a number of German fighters. The British also had some escort fighters and the ‘skies’ seemed to be full of planes!

There were some other noteworthy games, including Loughton Strike Force’s WINTER WAR’ (it had some very nicely presented winter terrain and the game did not seem to be dominated by tanks), Crawley Wargames Club’s THE BATTLE OF THE ALMA 1854 (lovely figures on a very realistic representation of the battlefield), and the Society of Ancients ROMA INVICTA, which was being run almost single-handed when I was there by Professor Philip Sabin.

Despite being very busy Dave Ryan told me that sales of TABLE TOP BATTLES have been good since January (I wonder why?) and that he hopes to get some more stock soon. He also managed to sell me the newly published Osprey book RUSSIAN BATTLESHIP VS JAPANESE BATTLESHIP – YELLOW SEA 1904 – 05.

A very nice show and an enjoyable end to my half-term holiday!

How I design caricature model ships

In an earlier post I referred to the model ships I made for the Jane’s Naval War Game as ‘cartoonish’. A better way to describe them would have been to say that they are caricatures. In other words, they emphasise the main features of the original ship but are not scale models.

When designing my model ships I usually begin with a side view of the ship I am going to model. The following is an image of a Spanish battleship that I plan to build of at some time in the future.

Having scanned the image into my computer I then begin the process of producing a caricature. I do this be distorting the image so that the ratio of height to length is changed from 1:1 to 2:1.

The design is then simplified, and most of the extraneous detail is removed. This forms the basis of my working drawing for my model.

In this case I also pondered on what might have happened if the original design had been modernised in a similar way to the Light Cruiser Navarra, which the Nationalists rebuilt in the late 1930s. Here a tower bridge has replaced the original bridge structure and forward mast, and anti-aircraft guns have been added onto new deckhouses next to the funnel and rear superstructure. The funnel has also been given a raked cap.

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Battle Cry

Yesterday the Post Office finally managed to unite me with the second-hand copy of BATTLE CRY that I bought from eBay. It had been sitting in the local collection depot for nearly a week because it was too large for the postman to deliver it. Unfortunately when I went to collect it earlier in the week they could not find it, but yesterday they searched for a bit longer and found it.

As far as I can see the game is complete, and I look forward to trying it out in due course. I already own MEMOIR '44, the game mechanisms for which were based on those developed by Richard Borg for BATTLE CRY. As a result it should not take me too long to get the hang of the rules for BATTLE CRY and to start playing games.

Preparing for Cruiser 2009 - Jane's Naval War Game - The model ships

I will be using the Greek and Turkish fleets of 1913/14 for the Jane's Naval War Game session that I will be running at Cruiser 2009.

The model ships are all home-made 1:3000th scale models. They are built from balsa wood, thin plywood, wooden cocktail sticks, and bamboo cane. Like the originals Jane used, the models are not 100% accurate in every detail; they are more cartoonish in style, with the main recognition features over emphasised to make the ships easy to recognise.

The Greek Fleet:

The Greek fleet consists of the Light Cruiser Helle (on the left), the Armoured Cruiser Georgios Averoff (on the right) ...

... the ex-American Battleships Kilkis and Lemnos ...

... and the Coastal Defence Battleships Hydra, Spetsai, and Psara.

The Turkish Fleet:

The Turkish fleet consists of the Light Cruisers Medjideh and Hamidieh ...

... the Coastal Defence Battleship Messudieh ...

... and the ex-German Battleships Heireddin Barbarossa and Torgud Reis.

The gridded 1.2" x 1.2" squares on the 'Sea Squares' give some indication of the relative size of each model.

Friday, 20 February 2009

Preparing for Cruiser 2009 - Jane's Naval War Game

Fred Jane is - amongst other things - famous for designing his naval war game.

Some years ago, after buying a reprint of the 1905/06 edition of Jane's Fighting Ship that contained the complete text of his Naval War Game rules, I decided to recreate - as best I could - a set of models and playing equipment for the game. I then demonstrated the game at a COW (Conference of Wargamers) where it was well received.

As a result of that demonstration Bill Leeson, who had previously published various editions of the Kriegsspiel rules, published a copy of the 1912 version of the rules. Until recently this - and the version published in Donald Featherstone's NAVAL WAR GAMES - were the only copies of the Jane's Naval War Game rules in circulation, and they were not easy to find. The latter has now been re-published by John Curry, who has also re-published the 1905/06 rules as part of a larger volume that contains details of the Royal Navy's 1921 Naval War Game rules.

I have agreed to run a pre-dinner session of the 1905/06 Jane's Naval War Game at Cruiser 2009, and have spent some time today making sure that all the equipment I need is ready.

This picture shows a 'Sea Square' (these are the playing surface; up to eight are used during a game), a 'Target' (what you hit with a 'Striker' - the holes caused by the 'Striker' show when the shot and shell have landed), a 'Striker', several model ships, and a copy of my fast-play version of Jane's rules.
I have enough 'Targets' ...

... but I am missing some 'Scorers' ...

... so it is off to the printers in the morning to get some more photocopied.

I will be using my fast-play version of Jane's rules. These retain the flavour of the original rules - most importantly including the original firing system - but have much easier to understand (and use) manoeuvring rules.

I will be using my own home-made models of the Turkish and Greek Fleets of 1913/14.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Preparing for Cruiser 2009 - The Game of Naval Blockade

On 28th February Chestnut Lodge Wargames Group and Wargame Developments will be co-hosting a public wargames event on HMS Belfast. The event is called Cruiser 2009 and the main driving forces behind it are John Curry and Jim Wallman.

There will be several participation games going on throughout the day, one of which is a The Game of Naval Blockade. This was originally developed by Lieutenant H Chamberlain RN, and was first published in the Royal United Services Institute Journal Vol. XXXVII (1888-89). Richard Brook rediscovered it in the early 1990s, and it was demonstrated at The Victorian Military Society Fair in March 1994.

Richard and I will be running this game at Cruiser 2009, and today I have been making sure that all the components are undamaged after being stored for 15 years in the loft. All the models are in perfect order but the board the game is played on was not. A quick trip to my local craft store, and an hour with a pencil and long ruler, soon cured this problem and the game is ready to go.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Eric Knowles – An early British wargamer

I first met Eric Knowles when I visited his wargames shop – New Model Army – in East Ham, London. Although I had been wargaming for many years, I was a novice compared to Eric, who seemed to know just about all the well-known early British wargamers. He had even taken part in the 150th anniversary re-fight of the Battle of Waterloo that had been staged at the Duke of York’s Headquarters, Chelsea in 1965, and he can be glimpsed in two of the photographs of the game that are featured in Donald Featherstone’s ADVANCED WAR GAMES.

I was very privileged to be invited to take part in Eric’s Madasahatta campaign, which was fought out on the large table in the basement of his shop almost every week for over a year. A flavour of the games we played can be had from the section of my own Colonial Wargaming website that is dedicated to the campaign. Eric’s games were always great FUN, and are still talked about by those who took part in them.

Eventually Eric sold the shop and moved to East Anglia, and as a result we lost touch. Despite this he still remains one of the people in wargaming who inspired me – and continues to inspire me – and the fact that I am still playing wargames and enjoying them is in no small part due to him.

Thank you Eric.

Monday, 16 February 2009

Table Top Battles - Play-test - Land Battles (for mid-20th century warfare on hexes)

For the purposes of this play-test, the fighting on the left-hand side of the tabletop was resolved using the amended rules that include:
  • A card driven turn sequence.
  • The use formation morale values.
  • The degrading of individual unit points values and the formation morale values as a result of combat.
The fighting on the right-hand side of the tabletop used the rules as play-tested on 1st January 2009 but with the addition of the card driven turn sequence.

Note to readers

The description of the parallel play-tests in this entry is very long and detailed. This has been done so that readers can follow the game mechanisms in operation.

Scenario

A Russian Rifle Brigade (4 Rifle Battalions – each rated as ‘Conscript’ and with a points value of 2 – and an artillery battalion – with a points value of 2) had been given the task of capturing a vital road that ran between a small range of hills. It was led by an ‘Average’ General (also with a points value of 2). The Russian Rifle Brigade therefore had a formation morale value of 6.

A German Kampfgruppe of two German infantry battalions (each rated as ‘Regular’ and with a points value of 3) defended the road by occupying defensive positions on either side of it. They were also commanded by an ‘Average’ General (with a points value of 2). The German defenders therefore had a formation morale value of 4.

Turn 1

The playing cards were shuffled and dealt to each unit on the left-hand side of the tabletop. The order in which units were activated was:
  • Russian Rifle Battalion 3
  • German Infantry Battalion B
  • Russian Rifle Battalion 6
  • Russian Artillery Battalion 2
  • Russian Rifle Battalion 5
  • German General A
  • Russian General B
  • Russian Rifle Battalion 4
  • German Infantry Battalion C
Russian Rifle Battalion 3 advanced on German Infantry Battalion C and opened fire.
  • The Russian Rifle Battalion’s score was 6 (thus generating a score of 6 plus 2 minus 2 = 6 [D12 score plus unit’s points value minus 2 because the target is in defence works]).
  • The German Infantry Battalion’s score was 9 (thus generating a score of 9 plus 3 plus 2 = 14 [D12 score plus unit’s points value plus General’s points value because he is in an adjacent hex]).
Result on the left-hand side of the tabletop: No effect
Result on the right-hand side of the tabletop: No effect

German Infantry Battalion B opened fire on Russian Rifle Battalion 4.
  • The German Infantry Battalion’s score was 6 (thus generating a score of 6 plus 3 = 9 [D12 score plus unit’s points value]).
  • The Russian Rifle Battalion’s score was 5 (thus generating a score of 5 plus 2 plus 2 = 9 [D12 score plus unit’s points value plus General’s points value because he is in an adjacent hex]).
  • The result was a draw and both sides threw another D12. The scores were 7 for German Infantry Battalion B and 3 for Russian Rifle Battalion 4.
Result on the left-hand side of the tabletop: The Russian Rifle Battalion lost 1 points value.
Result on the right-hand side of the tabletop: The Russian Rifle Battalion withdrew.

Russian Rifle Battalion 6 advanced on German Infantry Battalion C and opened fire.
  • The Russian Rifle Battalion’s score was 2 (thus generating a score of 2 plus 2 minus 2 = 2 [D12 score plus unit’s points value minus 2 because the target is in defence works]).
  • The German Infantry Battalion’s score was 10 (thus generating a score of 10 plus 3 plus 2 = 15 [D12 score plus unit’s points value plus General’s points value because he is in an adjacent hex]).
Result on the left-hand side of the tabletop: No effect
Result on the right-hand side of the tabletop: No effect

Russian Artillery Battalion 2 opened fire on German Infantry Battalion B.
  • The Russian Artillery Battalion’s score was 11 (thus generating a score of 11 plus 2 plus 2 minus 2 = 13 [D12 score plus unit’s points value plus General’s points value because he is in an adjacent hex minus 2 because the target is in defence works]).
  • The German Infantry Battalion’s score was 8 (thus generating a score of 8 plus 3 = 11 [D12 score plus unit’s points value]).
Result on the left-hand side of the tabletop: The German Infantry Battalion lost 1 points value.
Result on the right-hand side of the tabletop: The German Infantry Battalion withdrew.

Russian Rifle Battalion 5 advanced up the road and opened fire on German Infantry Battalion B.
  • The Russian Rifle Battalion’s score was 2 (thus generating a score of 2 plus 2 minus 2 = 2 [D12 score plus unit’s points value minus 2 because the target is in defence works] on the left-hand side of the tabletop and 2 plus 2 = 4 [D12 score plus unit’s points value] on the right-hand side of the tabletop).
  • The German Infantry Battalion’s score was 5 (thus generating a score of 5 plus 2 = 7 [D12 score plus unit’s points] on the left-hand side of the tabletop and 5 plus 3 plus 2 = 10 [D12 score plus unit’s points value plus General’s points value because he is in an adjacent hex]) on the right-hand side of the tabletop).
Result on the left-hand side of the tabletop: No effect
Result on the right-hand side of the tabletop: No effect

Neither German General A nor Russian General B chose to move.

Russian Rifle Battalion 4 advanced towards the left-hand German defences. On the left-hand side they were able to open fire on German Infantry Battalion B, but on the right-hand side the German unit was out of range.
  • The Russian Rifle Battalion’s score was 2 (thus generating a score of 2 plus 1 minus 2 = 1 [D12 score plus unit’s points value minus 2 because the target is in defence works].
  • The German Infantry Battalion’s score was 4 (thus generating a score of 4 plus 2 = 6 [D12 score plus unit’s points].
Result on the left-hand side of the tabletop: No effect
Result on the right-hand side of the tabletop: No effect

German Infantry Battalion C opened fire on Russian Rifle Battalion 6.
  • The German Infantry Battalion’s score was 12 (thus generating a score of 12 plus 3 plus 2 = 17 [D12 score plus unit’s points value plus General’s points value because he is in an adjacent hex]).
  • The Russian Rifle Battalion’s score was 2 (thus generating a score of 2 plus 2 = 4 [D12 score plus unit’s points]).
Result on the left-hand side of the tabletop: The Russian Rifle Battalion withdrew and lost 1 points value.
Result on the right-hand side of the tabletop: The Russian Rifle Battalion was destroyed.

At the end of Turn 1, the formation morale values on the left-hand side of the tabletop were:
  • Russian Rifle Brigade: 6 minus 2 = 4
  • German Kampfgruppe: 4 minus 1 = 3
Turn 2

The playing cards were shuffled and dealt to each unit on the left-hand side of the tabletop. The order in which units were activated was:
  • German General A
  • Russian Rifle Battalion 5
  • Russian Rifle Battalion 4
  • German Infantry Battalion C
  • Russian Rifle Battalion 3
  • Russian Artillery Battalion 2
  • German Infantry Battalion B
  • Russian Rifle Battalion 6 (left-hand side of the tabletop only)
  • Russian General B
German General A advanced 1 hex along the road towards the Russian so that he could support both German Infantry Battalions.

On the right-hand side of the tabletop, Russian Rifle Battalion 5 occupied the empty left-hand German defences.

Russian Rifle Battalion 5 opened fire on German Infantry Battalion B.
  • The Russian Rifle Battalion’s score was 6 (thus generating a score of 6 plus 2 minus 2 = 6 [D12 score plus unit’s points value minus 2 because the target is in defence works] on the left-hand side of the tabletop and 6 plus 2 = 8 [D12 score plus unit’s points value] on the right-hand side of the tabletop).
  • The German Infantry Battalion’s score was 4 (thus generating a score of 4 plus 2 plus 2 = 8 [D12 score plus unit’s points plus General’s points value because he is in an adjacent hex] on the left-hand side of the tabletop and 4 plus 2 plus 2 = 8 [D12 score plus unit’s points value plus General’s points value because he is in an adjacent hex]) on the right-hand side of the tabletop).
  • The result on the right-hand side of the tabletop was a draw and both sides threw another D12. The scores were 7 for Russian Rifle Battalion 5 and 2 for German Infantry Battalion B.
Result on the left-hand side of the tabletop: No effect
Result on the right-hand side of the tabletop: The German Infantry Battalion withdrew.

On the left-hand side of the tabletop Russian Rifle Battalion 5 assaulted the position occupied by German Infantry Battalion B.
  • The Russian Rifle Battalion’s score was 8 (thus generating a score of 8 plus 2 minus 2 = 8 [D12 score plus unit’s points value minus 2 because the target is in defence works].
  • The German Infantry Battalion’s score was 4 (thus generating a score of 4 plus 2 plus 2 = 8 [D12 score plus unit’s points plus General’s points value because he is in an adjacent hex].
  • The result was a draw and both sides threw another D12. The scores were 10 for Russian Rifle Battalion 5 and 2 for German Infantry Battalion B.
Result on the left-hand side of the tabletop: The German Infantry Battalion lost 1 points value.

On the right-hand side of the tabletop, Russian Rifle Battalion 4 advanced 1 hex towards the German defences now occupied by Russian Rifle Battalion 5.

On the left-hand side of the tabletop, Russian Rifle Battalion 4 opened fire on German Infantry Battalion B.
  • The Russian Rifle Battalion’s score was 5 (thus generating a score of 5 plus 1 minus 2 = 4 [D12 score plus unit’s points value minus 2 because the target is in defence works].
  • The German Infantry Battalion’s score was 4 (thus generating a score of 4 plus 1 plus 2 = 7 [D12 score plus unit’s points plus General’s points value because he is in an adjacent hex].
Result on the left-hand side of the tabletop: No effect

On the left-hand side of the tabletop Russian Rifle Battalion 4 assaulted the position occupied by German Infantry Battalion B.
  • The Russian Rifle Battalion’s score was 9 (thus generating a score of 9 plus 1 minus 2 = 8 [D12 score plus unit’s points value minus 2 because the target is in defence works].
  • The German Infantry Battalion’s score was 3 (thus generating a score of 3 plus 1 plus 2 = 6 [D12 score plus unit’s points plus General’s points value because he is in an adjacent hex].
Result on the left-hand side of the tabletop: The German Infantry Battalion lost 1 points value. Because its points value was now reduced to 0, German Infantry Battalion B was destroyed.

German Infantry Battalion C opened fire on Russian Rifle Battalion 3.
  • The German Infantry Battalion’s score was 1 (thus generating a score of 1 plus 3 plus 2 = 6 [D12 score plus unit’s points value plus General’s points value because he is in an adjacent hex]).
  • The Russian Rifle Battalion’s score was 4 (thus generating a score of 4 plus 2 = 6 [D12 score plus unit’s points]).
  • The result was a draw and both sides threw another D12. The scores were 7 for German Infantry Battalion C and 8 for Russian Rifle Battalion 3.
Result on the left-hand side of the tabletop: The German Infantry Battalion lost 1 points value.
Result on the right-hand side of the tabletop: The German Infantry Battalion withdrew.

At this point the German formation morale value reached 0. The reduction of the formation's morale value to 0 would force all the units in the formation to withdraw next turn.

On the left-hand side of the tabletop, Russian Rifle Battalion 3 advanced 1 hex towards the right-hand German defences.

On the right-hand side of the tabletop, Russian Rifle Battalion 3 advanced and occupied the empty right-hand German defences.

Russian Rifle Battalion 3 opened fire on German Infantry Battalion C.
  • The Russian Rifle Battalion’s score was 3 (thus generating a score of 3 plus 2 minus 2 plus 2 = 3 [D12 score plus unit’s points value minus 2 because the target is in defence works] on the left-hand side of the tabletop and 3 plus 2 = 5 [D12 score plus unit’s points value] on the right-hand side of the tabletop).
  • The German Infantry Battalion’s score was 10 (thus generating a score of 10 plus 2 plus 2 = 14 [D12 score plus unit’s points plus General’s points value because he is in an adjacent hex] on the left-hand side of the tabletop and 10 plus 3 = 13 [D12 score plus unit’s points value] on the right-hand side of the tabletop).
Result on the left-hand side of the tabletop: No effect.
Result on the right-hand side of the tabletop: No effect.

Russian Rifle Battalion 3 assaulted the position occupied by German Infantry Battalion C.
  • The Russian Rifle Battalion’s score was 10 (thus generating a score of 10 plus 2 minus 2 = 10 [D12 score plus unit’s points value minus 2 because the target is in defence works] on the left-hand side of the tabletop and 10 plus 2 = 12 [D12 score plus unit’s points value] on the right-hand side of the tabletop).
  • The German Infantry Battalion’s score was 5 (thus generating a score of 5 plus 2 plus 2 = 9 [D12 score plus unit’s points plus General’s points value because he is in an adjacent hex] on the left-hand side of the tabletop and 5 plus 3 = 8 [D12 score plus unit’s points value] on the right-hand side of the tabletop).
Result on the left-hand side of the tabletop: The German Infantry Battalion lost 1 points value.
Result on the right-hand side of the tabletop: The German Infantry Battalion withdrew.

At this point the German formation morale value reached -1.

On the left-hand side of the tabletop Russian Artillery Battalion 2 opened fire on German Infantry Battalion C.
  • The Russian Artillery Battalion’s score was 10 (thus generating a score of 10 plus 2 minus 2 = 10 [D12 score plus unit’s points value minus 2 because the target is in defence works].
  • The German Infantry Battalion’s score was 1 (thus generating a score of 1 plus 1 plus 2 = 4 [D12 score plus unit’s points plus General’s points value because he is in an adjacent hex].
Result on the left-hand side of the tabletop: The German Infantry Battalion lost 1 points value. Because its points value was now reduced to 0, German Infantry Battalion C was destroyed.

At this point the German formation morale value reached -2.

On the right-hand side of the tabletop German Infantry Battalion B retreated 1 hex along the road and took up a defensive position around the small farm at the bend in the road.

On the left-hand side of the tabletop Russian Rifle Battalion 6 advanced 1 hex towards the empty right-hand German defences.

Russian General B advanced 2 hexes up the road to support the advancing Rifle Battalions.

Turn 3

By now it was obvious that the Germans had failed to prevent the Russians from capturing the road between the range of hills and that the German General would be lucky to escape. The play-test was ended.

Conclusions

Trying to run two play-tests in parallel is both time consuming and exhausting, but it does give the opportunity to compare two different variants of the rules using some degree of scientific method.

Both variants work, and which of the two should be developed is ultimately down to a matter of personal preference. The left-hand side of the tabletop produced a game that had less movement but which saw the gradual destruction of units; the right-hand side of the tabletop had more movement and saw units withdrawing or being totally destroyed rather than being slowly degraded. On balance I prefer the former rather than the latter, but I feel that with a little more tweaking I can get the best of both melded into one.

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Another traffic jam ... another re-think ...

I managed to sort out and setup the terrain for the parallel play-test I planned to run on Thursday, but pressure of work means that I have not yet been able to run the play-test. However the extra time has given me the opportunity to have another re-think about the amended combat rules I intend to test.

Whilst sitting in the inevitable traffic jam on the way to work on Friday my thoughts turned to the combat results I proposed to use. As my play-tests are almost always solo affairs, I like to make as many of the decisions 'automatic' as possible. In other words, to create game mechanisms that only allow a few decision-making options. It struck me that my proposed combat results contained 'either ... or' options that could be eliminated ... so I have eliminated them. The combat results now read as follows:

Firing
  • If firing stand’s score is lower, fire has been ineffective.
  • If the firing stand and target stand scores are equal, each stand throws a D12 and the stand with the lowest score reduces its points value by one.
  • If target stand’s score is less than the firing stand’s score but more than half the firing stand’s score, the target stand reduces its points value by one.
  • If target stand’s score is less than half the firing stand’s score, the target stand withdraws until it is one hex away from the nearest enemy stand and reduces its points value by one.
Hand-to-Hand
  • If attacking stand’s score is lower, Hand-to-Hand Combat has been ineffective.
  • If the attacking stand and defending stand scores are equal, each stand throws a D12 and the stand with the lowest score reduces its points value by one.
  • If defending stand’s score is less than the attacking stand’s score but more than half the attacking stand’s score, the defending stand reduces its points value by one.
  • If defending stand’s score is less than half the attacking stand’s score, the defending stand withdraws until it is one hex away from the nearest enemy stand and reduces its points value by one.
These new combat results strike me as being much simpler and easier to remember during a wargame. It will be interesting to see how they work during the play-test.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Too much work ... too little time ...

The last few days have been very hectic, with work and my non-wargaming life taking up almost all my available time. As a result I have not yet been able to set up the play-test of my most recent proposed modifications to the TABLE TOP BATTLES wargames rules. With a bit of luck the situation should ease tomorrow, and if it does I hope to be able to report back on the results of the play-test.

The play-test will be set up somewhat differently from previous ones. Because I want to see how effective the modifications I have proposed are or are not, I intend to set up a simple attack scenario that I will run in duplicate. In other words the same scenario will be played out on two identical parallel battlefields. When I throw dice the results will be adjudicated in both battles according to their allotted version of the rules. This sounds much more complicated than it actually is, but it is as close to a ‘scientific’ method of play-testing that I can come up with.

In the meantime I have added a visit counter to my blog in the hope that I can get some idea how many people are reading my rambling and incoherent thoughts.

Friday, 6 February 2009

Table Top Battles - Land Battles (for mid-20th century warfare) - Even more thoughts

One of the things that struck me after my play-test on 1st January was that it was too easy for attackers to drive defenders out of defensive positions without having to resort to Hand-to-Hand combat. So whilst sitting in today’s traffic jam on Blackheath I started thinking about how I could deal with this problem. The solution I came up with was to amend the combat results.

My amended versions of the combat results are:

Firing
  • If firing stand’s score is lower, fire has been ineffective.
  • If the firing stand and target stand scores are equal, each stand throws a D12 and the stand with the lowest score withdraws until it is one hex away from the nearest enemy stand or it stays in its current position and reduces its points value by one.
  • If target stand’s score is less than the firing stand’s score but more than half the firing stand’s score, the target stand withdraws until it is one hex away from the nearest enemy stand or it stays in its current position and reduces its points value by one.
  • If target stand’s score is less than half the firing stand’s score, the target stand reduces its points value by one.
Hand-to-Hand
  • If attacking stand’s score is lower, Hand-to-Hand Combat has been ineffective.
  • If the attacking stand and defending stand scores are equal, each stand throws a D12 and the stand with the lowest score withdraws until it is one hex away from the nearest enemy stand or it stays in its current position and reduces its points value by one.
  • If defending stand’s score is less than the attacking stand’s score but more than half the attacking stand’s score, the defending stand withdraws until it is one hex away from the nearest enemy stand or it stays in its current position and reduces its points value by one.
  • If defending stand’s score is less than half the attacking stand’s score, the defending stand reduces its points value by one.
I hope that these amendments will work with the other changes I proposed yesterday. My next play-test should indicate whether they do or not.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Table Top Battles - Land Battles (for mid-20th century warfare) - Some more thoughts

Last night I re-read the section that deals with unit rosters in my copy of the TABLE TOP BATTLES wargames rules. The idea is quite simple; rather than removing a stand if – during firing or hand-to-hand combat – its score is less than half the firing or attacking stand’s score, the stand’s points value is reduced by one. This continues until the stand’s points value reaches zero, at which point it is destroyed and removed.

In addition, if the unit is part of a formation (e.g. brigade or division), the formation will be allocated a morale value that is half the total points value of the units in the formation at the beginning of the battle. When units lose points value, the formation loses the same number of points from its morale value. When the formation’s morale value is reduced to zero, it must withdraw from the battlefield.

I am not a great lover of rosters because they involve paperwork that tends to clutter up the tabletop, but the concept is a good one and addresses some of the problems that I had when I first adapted these rules for fighting mid-20th century land battles.

I used some of my Megablitz units for my play-test, and they already have magnetic tape on the back of the stand for a strength point marker. I therefore used Megablitz strength point markers to remind me of each unit’s points value during my play-test.

Whilst journeying to work this morning I got stuck in the usual traffic jam that occurs on Blackheath. As I sat there waiting to move I started to think about using the roster concept but replacing the roster sheet with removable Megablitz strength markers. These could be changed for lower values as a unit’s points value is reduced. In addition, the formation command stand could have the formation’s morale value represented by a Megablitz strength marker. This could also be changed as the formation’s morale value is reduced.

At the same time I also got to thinking about replacing the use of a D12 throw at the beginning of each turn to determine which side had the initiative with the card-drive turn sequence I have used in RED FLAGS AND IRON CROSSES (TARRED AND FEATHERSTONED). This should make the game much easier to play solo, and reduce the amount of time each player spends sitting around waiting to do something in face-to-face games.

I hope to try these ideas out in a short play-test at some time over the next few days.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Running before the wind - Further thoughts on naval wargaming by Gerard de Gre

Another dip into Donald Featherstone's NAVAL WAR GAMES has revealed a further contribution by Gerard de Gre. It concerns the effect of wind on the movement of sailing warships.
  1. Direction of wind to be determined after both fleets have been placed in position. This may be done with a dice roll (eight-sided) or by drawing from a deck of ‘Wind Cards’ (eight) to determine from the N, NE, E, SE, S, SW, W or NW.
  2. Each commander has the option prior to his move to roll a regular six-sided dice to give one of the following effects: (a) 45° clockwise (b) 45° counter-clockwise (c) 90° shift clockwise (d) 90° counter-clockwise (e) No change (f) 180° shift of wind. New wind direction prevails until changed by dice roll of one of the commanders.
  3. Ships are given a standard mobility factor such as one square or 6 in.
  4. Ships may turn only at the beginning and/or end of their move, and neither turn may exceed 90° to port or starboard. Moves are in straight lines only after making initial turn at beginning of the ship’s move.
  5. Ships may not sail directly into the wind; mobility factor times zero.
  6. When beating into the wind, that is, when the wind is coming into the ship at approximately 45° of the bow, the mobility factor is multiplied by one.
  7. When reaching into the wind, that is, when the wind is coming in at 90° perpendicular to the beam, the mobility factor is multiplied by two.
  8. When on the broad reach or sailing directly before the wind, that is when the wind is directly behind the ship or at 45° of the stern, the mobility factor is multiplied by three.
  9. These relationships of wind direction to the ships’ mobility may be represented diagrammatically (as in drawing).

Gerard de Gre has also devised rules for broadsides of guns that give slightly more latitude than most rules thus:
We determined the effectiveness of broadsides on the basis of the relative bearings of the ships to each other. For example, if one ship had another directly on its beam it could fire a full broadside, while it opponent had its target only on the quarter-beam, then it could only fire one-half of its broadside. You will notice that the wind rules and broadside rules operate best for a gridded sea.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Squidge and Squop - Gerard de Gre's gunfire system for Naval Wargame Rules

The following naval wargames rules were written by Gerard de Gre and published in NAVAL WAR GAMES (by Donald Featherstone) in 1965. John Curry has recently republished this book, and I recommend that anyone who is interested in naval wargaming and who has not got a copy should get hold of one whilst it is still available.

When we resort to dice rolls, fire-tables and matrix systems for gunnery, something goes out of the game – the satisfaction of skilfully placing a well-aimed shot on our target. The MGC (Note: MGC is the abbreviation for the Model Generals Club) Research Centre therefore dutifully set itself to work on the problem – to discover a method of missile fire which had to cope with range, and which would permit of a development of accuracy through practice and at the same time would not damage our model ships. We believe we have found the solution – Tiddly-winks! They permit for firing with beautiful trajectories, they allow for development of skill in gunnery, they are readily and cheaply accessible, and, above all, they do no damage.

Equipment required: One set Tiddly-winks, preferably with ½ in. diameter winks and 1½ in. tiddles; one firing platform for each player. The ones used for the experimental series were made of ⅛ in. balsa cut in squares, 2 in. by 2 in., on which we cemented 2 in. squares of felt.

Method of fire: The firing platform is placed within 6 in. of the ship (but never forward of it). If the battle area has been divided into squares the rule is that the firing platform may be placed in any adjoining squares to the rear or side of the gun, good form calling for the effort to fire the wink if possible along the line of fire of the gun.

Determination of hits: Targets are designated prior to fire. If playing on a squared-off board, hits are obtained if wink lands in the square occupied by target. (This is the method employed in the experiments.) If battle takes place on an un-co-ordinated surface, then a hit is registered if the wink falls within, say, 3 in. of the target. An alternative method of fire is to place the tiddly-wink cup within 3 in. of the target and attempt to score hits by landing the wink directly into the cup (this last method is recommended for players who have become quite skilful in firing their winks!) In intercollegiate Tiddly-wink matches, all shots landing on targets are referred to as ‘squidges’.

Silencing of guns (squop): Ships may not return fire if a shell (wink) has landed in the square which they occupy. (If board not co-ordinated, then ships are silenced by winks landing within 3 in. of any part of them.)

Destruction of guns: Ships are destroyed if previously designated as targets, and cumulative effect of hits is equal to value of ships. Ships damaged by hits may not fire for one turn. (Hits are registered in usual manner.)

Range of guns: We have allowed entire battle area for ranges, differentiating between types of guns only on the basis of the amount of damage they cause when hitting target areas.

General rules used in experiments: Players alternate each turn as attacker or defender. Only attacker may move his ships, although defender may wheel in position to return fire.
  1. Firing takes place after attacker has made his move.
  2. Defender fires first with precedence, followed by attacker’s fire (unless the latter’s fire has been stopped by squop or hit).
  3. One round (wink) fired for each gun in action, target announced beforehand.
  4. If a defender’s wink lands inadvertently in a square occupied by an enemy gun, the attacker may not return fire (squop).
  5. Artillery hits destroy equipment in target square which they have landed in ratio to size of gun. If specified target square is missed, missile has no effect in other sectors in which it may land, except for squops on attacker’s guns (See note below)
  6. Ships may fire in support of their own forces into squares occupied by them.
  7. Guns have range of entire battle area.
Note: Optional rule: #5: Shells (winks) landing on unspecified targets have only half effect, and in the case of protected targets no effect except Heavy Guns which have quarter effect.

Clearing snow gives you time to think

There was a bit more snow yesterday afternoon, but not enough to make things much worse. Today I have spent time clearing a pathway from the front door to the pavement as well as making sure that it should be possible to get both cars off the driveway and onto the road tomorrow morning. That way my wife and I can both go to work for the first time since Monday morning.

Whilst clearing the snow away my thoughts turned to what sort of wargaming I enjoy, and I came up with the following:
  • I like to play large-scale, all-day, operational-level wargames – preferably World War II – with a group of friends;
  • I like to play (and design) small face-to-face or solo wargames that can be fought to a conclusion in a couple of hours;
  • I like to fight campaigns;
  • I like to use gridded playing surfaces;
  • I like to use card-driven turn sequences;
  • I like to use simple combat resolution systems;
  • I like to find out about early wargames designers and – if possible – try out their rules.
Now I am back in the warm, and have just finished reading the latest Osprey publication I have bought, THE BAY OF PIGS. This operation has always struck me as an excellent basis for a disguised wargame scenario, and having read the book I am now convinced that it is something I would like to try at some time in the future … but not until I have brought some of my other projects to fruition.

Monday, 2 February 2009

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow …

Despite the worst snow London has had in 20 years, I managed to get to work only slightly later than normal, thanks to my trusty Mazda Tribute 4x4. Most of the side roads were not gritted or cleared, but these were not too difficult to negotiate in low gear with the four-wheel drive set to permanent. The main roads were almost empty – thanks to the fact that no buses were running – and most of the other drivers were being sensible, although I did see a few ‘muppets’ who had no idea what they were doing and a couple of drivers who seemed to think that aggressive driving was safe in the prevailing road conditions.

Having got to the Academy where I work I discovered that the staff outnumbered the students; there were six staff and five students! Needless to say the Academy was closed by 9.30am, and will remain so until Wednesday morning at the earliest. So it was back home for a couple of ‘bunce’ days off work.

This has given me the opportunity to do a couple of things that I thought would have to wait. Firstly I was able to read through a set of draft rules sent to me by Richard Brooks. We are jointly putting on a game at the forthcoming SALUTE 2009 on behalf of Wargame Developments. The game is entitled SOLFERINO IN TWENTY MINUTES and is a fast-play game that uses an 8 x 8 grid and playing pieces that represent infantry and cavalry divisions, artillery support, or personalities. Like most of Richard’s rules they look simple but produce very sophisticated results.

The second thing I managed to do was to have a long look through my most recent book purchase. This is Caliver Books latest publication, UNIFORMES DE LA GUERRA DEL PACIFICO 1879 – 1884. This war has intrigued me for a long time, but most of my interest has been in the naval aspects of the war, particularly the Battle of Angamos. This was one of the few ironclad vs. ironclad actions, and resulted in the capture of the Peruvian HUASCAR by the Chilean BLANCO ENCALADA and COCHRANE. Such was the importance of the capture of the HUASCAR that she is still in existence today as a museum ship in the port of Talcahuano, Chile.

This book about the uniforms of the War of the Pacific has shown me that I could easily refight the war both on land and at sea. The uniforms were variations on the typical European uniform styles popular at the time (i.e. French and German) but with a few South American twists. As I was trying to read the Spanish text and looking at the superb illustrations it struck me as being an ideal project for use with the TABLE TOP BATTLES wargames rules. Here we go again …