Wednesday 30 January 2013

A present from my wife

As regular readers of my blog will be well aware, I am a great supporter (and user) of Hexon II terrain. I own quite a collection of the stuff – probably enough for most of my wargaming needs – but I think that you can never have too much of a good thing!

My wife and I are now of an age when we tend not to buy each other big presents for Christmas or birthdays, but just before this Christmas my wife asked me if I wanted or needed any more Hexon II terrain. I answered in the affirmative, and a week or so ago I gave her my list … and it was all delivered yesterday.

I am now the proud owner of:
  • A pack of marsh/swamp single hexes (10 in all)
  • Two packs of blue single hexes (20 in all)
  • Two packs of green flocked single hexes (20 in all)
  • Two packs of desert single hexes (20 in all)
  • Two desert transition hill sets

  • A desert transition escarpment set

The additional hexes and hills/escarpments will give me the ability to have quite a bit more variety of terrain on my tabletop.

What a great present!

Tuesday 29 January 2013

Adding a naval dimension: taking a step back

Perhaps I bit off more than I could chew ... but after some fairly concentrated effort on my part, adding a naval dimension to my BIG BOARD PORTABLE WARGAME rules has now been completed.

The problem is that I am not quite happy with the result. All the game mechanisms work ... but I am not totally happy with the way they mesh together. I have therefore decided to take a step back from doing further work on this project for a few days. Previous experience shows that when I return to it, my mind will be clear and the problems will have either gone or solutions will present themselves.

Another hurray for eBay!

The second batch of AXIS & ALLIES MINIATURES that I bought via eBay has arrived, and they have swelled my collection considerably. The batch was made up of twelve(!) Hungarian Turan I tanks ...

... and six Marder II self-propelled anti-tank guns.

Some of the latter have a rather bad case of 'barrel drop' ... but I think that this can be cured with some hot water and patience.

(I have included a 'small' 20mm-scale figure [actually the officer from the original Airfix German Infantry set] in these photographs to give blog readers some idea as to the size of these model vehicles.)

I probably bought more of the two types of vehicles than I will ever need, but at a cost of £1.00 each they were a bargain ... and wargamers love bargains!

Monday 28 January 2013

Adding a naval dimension: slow progress is being made

I had hoped that it would be a fairly easy task to add a naval dimension to my existing BIG BOARD PORTABLE WARGAME: MODERN rules. I had already written a set of naval wargame rules that followed the same format (my PORTABLE NAVAL WARGAME rules) and at first glance it looked as if I could almost use them 'as is' ... but integrating the two sets of rules is a somewhat harder task that I had at first realised.

Progress is therefore being made ... but rather slowly.

Sunday 27 January 2013

Adding a naval dimension

The response to yesterday's blog entry about my two play-tests was somewhat of a surprise – and an encouragement – to me. I had never before considered that the idea of wargaming a battle between ships and coastal/shore defences – either as the precursor to an amphibious landing or as a separate military operation in its own right – would appeal to anyone else ... but it obviously does.

I was already thinking about how I could include the effects of coastal artillery gunfire on warships in the next draft of the PORTABLE WARGAME rules, but the more I thought about it, the more I realised that what I needed to do was to add a whole naval dimension to my PORTABLE WARGAME rules. I had already written a set of optional rules that allow aircraft to be included (and which are a self-contained set of air combat rules in their own right) and it seemed to me that I needed to do the same for ships.

My starting point is going to be my existing PORTABLE NAVAL WARGAME rules. They follow the same format as the other PORTABLE WARGAME rules, but will need to undergo some revision in order to be compatible with the existing rules.

Saturday 26 January 2013

An excursion into naval bombardment

At some point it is likely that I am going to fight a battle that involves an amphibious landing, and I decided that I ought to see how effective naval gunfire would be against well-constructed coastal defences. As I had a suitable model warship to hand, as well as my Hexon II terrain and a Hexon II fortification that could easily 'stand in' for a coastal defence fortress, I ran two play-tests this afternoon ... with some interesting results.

Scenario 1
A Rusland battleship has been sent to take part in a naval gunnery training exercise. An obsolete coastal defence fortress has been prepared so that it can act as a target for the battleships guns. The latter has been told that it must fire at the target from a range of between eight to ten hexes (the sort of range at which any artillery mounted in the fortress would be able to fire) and it must assume that there are two Coastal Defence Artillery Units in the fortress. Its own armament is equivalent to two Units of Heavy Artillery (the main armament) and a Unit of Medium Artillery able to fire on each beam (the secondary armament).

Shells that landed and did no damage were marked with white markers and those that did damage were marked with black markers.

The results were very interesting!

Turn 1
3 shells on target; no damage caused.

Turn 2
2 shells on target, 1 shell under; no damage caused.

Turn 3
3 shells over; no damage caused.

Turn 4
1 shell over, 2 shells under; no damage caused.

Turn 5
1 shell on target, 2 shells under; no damage caused.

Turn 6
1 shell on target, 2 shells over; no damage caused.

Turn 7
1 shell on target, 1 shell over, 1 shell under; no damage caused.

Turn 8
1 shell over, 2 shells under; no damage caused.

Turn 9
3 shells over; no damage caused.

Turn 10
1 shell on target, 1 shell over, 1 shell under; no damage caused.

Turn 11
1 shell on target, 1 shell under, 1 dud shell; 1 casualty caused ... at last!

Turn 12
2 shells over, 1 shell under; no damage caused.

Turn 13
1 shell on target, 1 shell over, 1 shell under; one casualty caused.

Turn 14
3 shells over; no damage caused.

Turn 15
2 shells over, 1 shell under; no damage caused.

Turn 16
1 shell over, 1 shell under, 1 dud shell; no damage caused.

Turn 17
1 shell on target, 2 shells over; one casualty caused.

Turn 18
1 shell over, 1 shells under; no damage caused.

Turn 19
2 shells on target, 1 over; one casualty caused.

It took 57 shells(!) to knock out the two Coastal Artillery Units in the fortress! This was mainly due to the range at which the battleship was firing (i.e. outside the range of the Coastal Defence Artillery).

Scenario 2
In this scenario the battleship opened fire at almost point-blank range (i.e. three to four hexes). This should increase the accuracy of her gunnery but would also leave her at risk of being hit by the guns of the Coastal Artillery Units if they were firing back.

Turn 1
3 shells on target; damage caused.

Turn 2
3 shells miss; no damage caused.

Turn 3
1 shell on target, 2 shells miss; one casualty caused.

Turn 4
1 shell on target, 2 shells miss; damage caused.

Turn 5
2 shells on target, 1 shell missed; 1 casualty and damage caused.

Turn 6
3 shells on target; 2 casualties caused.

It took only 18 shells to knock out the two Coastal Artillery Units in the fortress, and this was almost entirely due to the range at which the battleship was firing (i.e. inside the range of the Coastal Defence Artillery).

These two scenarios gave me the opportunity to play-test the possible outcomes of a naval bombardment of a coastal defence fortress at both long and short range, and they would appear to show that it if time is short, it is vital to get as close in as possible, and to risk the damage that might be caused to the ship or ships conducting the bombardment.

Latest draft of the Portable Wargame: Modern rules now available to download

In the light of the recent play-test I have made several changes to the existing draft of my PORTABLE WARGAME: MODERN rules. The latest draft includes:
  • A turn sequence that uses playing card tiles to determine the order in which Units are activated.
  • Changes that enable Artillery Units to 'hold their fire' if they are firing at targets that are (or are likely to be) in direct line-of-sight and at a range of not more than 4 grid areas. (This concept was 'borrowed' from Gerard de Gre and Charlie Sweet's Napoleonic wargames rules in which Artillery can 'hold fire' if they intend to use canister later in the turn.)
I have used the opportunity to make a few cosmetic changes to the layout of the rules and have included a range of optional rules including:
  • Air-to-air combat rules
  • Air-to-ground combat rules
  • Ground-to-air combat rules
  • Rules for Cyclist Units
  • Rules for Ski Troop Units
  • Rules for Tank Riders
  • Rules for Gas attacks
These 'one side of a piece of A4 paper' rules have now become seven pages long ... but in my defence I would like to point out that the last three cover Special Rules, Definitions, and Optional Rules.

The latest draft can be downloaded in PDF format from here.

Friday 25 January 2013

Hurray for eBay!

A couple of forays on eBay this week have yielded some useful bits and pieces.

The first was a copy of a board game called CROSSHAND POKER. The game was brought to my attention by Pete Jones in a recent comment that he made in response to my post about making your own playing card tiles.

The game contains TWO full sets of plastic playing card tiles (including four Jokers). The tiles are slightly thicker than the ones supplied in the PLAY 5 game and will stand on their edges without any problems.

Having decided that it was quite possible to mix 15mm-scale vehicles and small 20mm-scale figures on the tabletop, I looked around on eBay from some suitable vehicles to add to my collection. I found several from various suppliers of collectible models made for the Hasbro/Wizards of the Coast AXIS & ALLIES MINIATURES game, including three T-26s (painted in Finnish camouflage) ...

... and a Hungarian Zrinyi Assault Howitzer.

I also have some other vehicles on order, but they have yet to arrive. When they are delivered I hope to feature them in a blog entry.

Visiting Fireman

Last night Tim Gow – a fellow member of Wargame Developments who co-organises the Conference of Wargamers [COW] with me every year – paid his (almost) annual visit to my wife and I. As happened on previous occasions, he was in London for a conference and made time to come over for a chat, something to eat, and a wargame!

We spent a very pleasant evening together, and managed to fight the Battle of Bull Run using BATTLE CRY ... which he won! (The end positions for both sides can be seen in the following photograph.)

We also spent time talking about wargaming in general and the Conference of Wargamers [COW] in particular. Quite a few ideas were discussed (including a possible Plenary Game for the next Conference), as were several potential scenarios for large-scale MEGABLITZ wargames we might fight in the future.

As usual my wife and I enjoyed seeing Tim, and hopefully he will be visiting us again in the very near future.

Thursday 24 January 2013

The move to hybridisation

When I bought my 'new' car (a Toyota Prius), my wife jokingly asked the owner of the dealership we bought it from if they ever got any Lexus hybrid cars in. (She has driven a Lexus for the past twelve years ... and loves it!) To our surprise his reply was in the affirmative ... and that he was taking delivery of one this week.

He telephoned my wife yesterday to tell her that the car she was interested in had been delivered, and asked it she would like to see it. She was (very) interested ... and this morning we drove to the dealership to look it over and to give it a test drive. As a result it looks as if we are very likely to be a two (petrol/electric hybrid) car family in the near future.

Wednesday 23 January 2013

Border incursion: a skirmish between the forces of Teutonia and Rusland

After my recent battles using the modified version of my PORTABLE WARGAME: MODERN rules that uses the playing card tiles to determine the order in which units are activated, I decided that I want to play-test the BIG BOARD version of the rules. I set the battle on the borders between Teutonia and Rusland, mainly because I have plenty of eminently useable German and Russian vehicles and troops to hand.

Tension had been rising along the border between Teutonia and Rusland, and both sides claimed that the other had been responsible. A 'outrage' had recently taken place on the Teutonian side of the border (a farm had been raided and several cows had been stolen), and the Teutonic government had blamed Rusland 'bandits'. A small mobile column of Teutonic troops had been assembled near the border, and it was ordered to enter Rusland and conductive a punitive raid on several local villages that were supposed to have been used as bases by the 'bandits'. The Rusland border troops had been alerted by reports of troop movements near the border, and had moved into prepared defensive positions.

The Opposing Forces
The Teutonic mobile column comprised:
  • 3 Tank Units
  • 1 Assault Gun Unit
  • 1 Self-propelled Anti-tank Gun Unit
  • 1 Infantry Gun Unit
  • 2 Infantry Units
  • 2 Machine Gun Units
  • 1 Commander
  • 5 Truck Units
  • Exhaustion Point = 6
The Rusland border troops comprised:
  • 1 Light Tank Unit
  • 1 Tank Unit
  • 1 Infantry Gun Unit
  • 1 Anti-tank Gun Unit
  • 3 Infantry Units
  • 2 Light Machine Gun Units
  • 1 Commander
  • Exhaustion Point = 4
The Terrain
The terrain along the border was mainly flat and featureless, although there were some small hills and woods.

Above: The battlefield as seen from the Teutonia side of the border.
Below: The battlefield as seen from the Rusland side of the border. The prepared defences (mainly minefields and barbed wire) are designed to hinder any advance and channel attackers into areas where the defenders can deal with them.

Turn 1
As the Rusland defenders were under strict order not to instigate any combat, they remained inactive but alert.

The Teutonic troops were under no such restrictions and the leading Teutonic Units – the Tank Units – entered the battlefield in a vee formation.

Turn 2
In obedience to their orders, the Rusland troops did nothing, whilst the Teutonic forces continued their advance.

Turn 3
At this point the leading Teutonic Tank Unit had broken through the outer barbed wire cordon of the Rusland defences and their orders permitted them to take a more active role. Firing on a pre-registered target area, the Rusland Infantry Gun Unit engaged the leading Teutonic Tank Unit ...

... and hit it!

The Teutonic forces continued their relentless advance, but all along the defence line the Rusland troops engaged any Unit that came within range.

The right-hand Teutonic Tank Unit drove into a minefield (and suffered casualties) in order to engage the Rusland Anti-tank Unit ... which it missed!

On the left, the Teutonic Tank Unit that had first broken through the Rusland defence line engaged one of the Rusland Infantry units and inflicted casualties on it.

On the other side of the battlefield the Rusland Anti-tank Gun Unit hit the Teutonic Tank Unit that had just passed through the minefield, forcing to retreat back through it, causing it further casualties.

The Rusland Infantry Unit that had been attacked by the Teutonic Tank Unit counter-attacked, even though they had no anti-tank weapons ... and were forced to retreat without suffering further casualties.

The Teutonic Assault Gun Unit opened fire on the Rusland Machine Gun Unit that was concealed in a small wood, but were unable to cause them any casualties. (I allowed the Assault Gun to fire as if it were a Tank Unit. This play-test convinced me that the existing rules need to be amended to allow this.)

The Rusland Tank Unit was presented with a very tempting target – a Teutonic Tank Unit – and engaged it ...

... causing it to retreat.

At the end of the turn, the battlefield looked like this:

On the surface things seemed to be going well for the Teutonic troops, but they were already half way to reaching their Exhaustion Point and had yet to totally destroy any of the defending Rusland Units.

Turn 4
The Rusland Infantry Gun Unit opened fire on the nearby Teutonic Truck Unit ...

... which it hit. Furthermore, the Infantry Unit that was being carried by the Truck Unit was also hit and suffered a casualty ... thus bringing the Teutonic troops even closer to their Exhaustion Point!

The Rusland Anti-tank Gun Unit fired at the Teutonic Tank Unit directly in front of, which it hit and destroyed!

At this point the Teutonic force had reached its Exhaustion Point, and from the beginning of the next turn it would not be able to take any offensive action. They were not, however, prevented from doing so this turn.

On the left-hand side of the Teutonic attack, things were going somewhat better for them. Although the Teutonic Assault Gun Unit was unsuccessful in its attack on the Rusland Machine Gun Unit that was in the woods ...

... the Truck-borne Teutonic Machine Gun Unit that dismounted nearby was able to inflict a casualty upon the Rusland Machine Gun Unit.

At the first opportunity the Rusland Machine Gun Unit returned fire ...

... and hit the Teutonic Machine Gun Unit, reducing its strength by 50%.

Nearby the Rusland Tank Unit moved forward and fired on the nearest Teutonic Tank Unit ...

... and missed, as did the Rusland Light Tank Unit when it opened fire on the Teutonic Self-propelled Anti-tank Gun Unit.

The Truck Unit (which still contained a Teutonic Infantry Unit) was too tempting a target for Rusland Machine Gun Unit on the left-hand side of the defences, and they raked the Truck Unit with machine gun fire that inflicted more damage of the Truck Unit (in fact, destroying it) and causing the Unit it was carrying further casualties.

The foremost Teutonic Tank Unit returned fire on the Rusland Tank Unit that had engaged it earlier during the turn, and forced it to withdraw.

In the centre one of the Teutonic Infantry units finally disembarked from the Truck Unit that had been carrying it ...

... whilst the nearby Teutonic Infantry Gun Unit unlimbered and prepared to engage the enemy.

The Rusland Machine Gun Unit that was in the woods on the left of the Teutonic advance was fired on by the right-hand Teutonic Tank Unit ... and suffered no further losses.

At the same time the Teutonic Self-propelled Anti-Tank Gun Unit fired at the Rusland Light Tank Unit and inflicted damage upon it. (I allowed the Self-propelled Anti-tank Gun Unit to fire as if it were a Tank Unit. This play-test convinced me that the existing rules need to be amended to allow this.)

At the end of the turn the Teutonic force was in a position to exploit a minor breach in the Rusland defences, but the loss of one third of its initial strength meant that it could not take advantage of it.

Turn 5
Neither side's Artillery Units had targets in direct line-of-sight or that they were otherwise able to engage.

The Teutonic troops began to conduct a fighting withdrawal whilst the Rusland troops did as much as they could to harass them. The troublesome Rusland Machine Gun Unit fired at the nearest Teutonic Truck Unit just after the Teutonic Infantry Unit had re-embarked, and caused casualties on both the Truck and Infantry Unit as well as forcing them to withdraw.

This was countered by some ineffective fire from one of the withdrawing Teutonic Tank Units.

On the other side of the battlefield the Teutonic Self-propelled Anti-tank Gun Unit fired at the Rusland Light Tank Unit, forcing it to fall back.

The Teutonic Assault Gun Unit covered its withdrawal by firing at the Rusland Machine Gun Unit directly in front of it ... to no effect.

The Rusland Tank Unit exchanged fire with the foremost Teutonic Tank Unit ...

... but neither Tank Unit was able to inflict damage on the other.

The other Rusland Machine Gun Unit engaged the depleted Teutonic Infantry Unit to its front, and inflict a further casualty on them before they were able to fall back.

At the end of the turn the Teutonic troops were withdrawing in a good an order as they could whilst the Rusland defenders were able to breath a combined sigh of relief that they had just managed to prevail!

Turn 6
The was no further combat because the Rusland troops had been ordered not to pursue the Teutonic troops if they withdrew.

By the end of the turn the only Teutonic troops remaining on the battlefield were the remaining Tank Units, and these were being carefully watched by the Rusland Light Tank Unit.

This battle was fought over the space of two days and with lots of interruptions. The use of the playing card tiles enabled me to walk away from the battle and return to it hours later without having to worry about remembering which units had or had not moved during the current turn.

From a tactical point of view the Teutonic force should have brought its truck-borne Infantry Units on earlier ... and disembarked the Infantry Units from them earlier so that they could have supported the Tank Units. As it was all the Rusland troops had to do was just sit tight and defeat the Teutonic troops piecemeal.

It became very obvious that self-propelled Artillery needs to be treated more like Tanks that have a restricted gun traverse and not just as Artillery that has a bit more mobility, and the rules will need to be adjusted accordingly.