Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Goood Morning...erm....Merrow!!!!

One of my purchases at Salute was the latest Force on Force book... Classified.  This one takes a bit of a departure from others in the series which tend to be focused around a particular theatre or campaign (eg. Afghanistan or Somalia etc).  This volume is based on Special Forces operations from the end of WW2 to the present.

Scenarios range from WW2 raiders in the Pacific  to present day Afghanistan.   Very appropriately for this kind of action there is also a 'Hollywood' section with scenarios based on The Guns of Navarone, Predator, Clear and Present Danger and another one I couldn't work out... sadly no sign of Ross Kemp though!!  As I already had a FoF game pre-arranged for Monday night with Andrew this seemed like an ideal chance to try out one of the scenarios.  Andrew had probably been expecting an Afghanistan based game but was confronted with a table strewn with jungle... we were going to 'Nam!

One of the scenarios depicts a 6 man Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol [LRRP] trying to make their way back through enemy lines to a safe point at the other side of the table.  Apart from the road snaking across the table the rest of the terrain was dense jungle so fast movement was going to be an issue.  Opposing the patrol were 3 PAVN squads and a MG section lead by a 2 man command section.

The PAVN squads were forced to deploy randomly from a number of 'hot spots' around the table, limiting their ability to concentrate on the patrol.  The LRRP began moving rapidly off down the road, hoping to gain some distance before too many enemy troops appeared.


An enemy squad appeared at point 1 and after an exchange of fire were forced to move their single casualty back to their tunnels for some attention.  The LRRP took advantage of this and legged it off down the road before encountering another PAVN squad.  Andrew sensibly decided to avoid engaging the higher quality US troops and reacted to the fire by retreating back into the jungle, but annoyingly keeping his squad between the LRRP and the safety of the village.

The PAVN MG section emerge from their tunnels

By this point the PAVN forces were beginning to emerge too rapidly for my liking from various tunnels and spider holes all around the table and were closing in.  My plan [...no really... I really did have one!] was to try and knock out at least one of the enemy squads and use the gap to push through to the village.  I guess there is probably an optimum distance at which the US player should run or fight and I obviously missed it!  The PAVN troops closed in, cutting off the route to safety...

I tried pushing through the main blocking squad but they continued to fall back ahead of me before finally making a stand.  The rules allow units to react to enemy activation by firing or moving so I tried taking advantage of this and using the reaction to slip around the unit but Andrew continued to tighten the noose...

Look... there's the village!

By now the lead PAVN unit was beginning to take quite a battering but their morale held up and they refused to retreat.  At this point the US troops took their first casualty.  As you can see the village was in sight and there was still a [very, very slim] chance that I might make it to safety.

Andrew then threw everyone into a last assault on the beleaguered patrol.  The Vietnamese officer went down in a hail of gunfire drawing the US squad into a firefight [surely worth a medal!] and the LRRP were wiped out in a very cinematic last stand

The last stand of the LRRP

As I said I suspect I misjudged the point at which I should have kept on running for the village but we were very, very close!  Before the game I had expected the LRRP to be significantly more highly rated  than the PAVN troops.  Force on Force uses the principle that a die roll of 4+ is a success but troops are differentiated by the type of dice you roll to achieve that.  The US troops were using a d10 and the PAVN forces a d8 which gave a slight edge to the LRRP but not a huge one.  Given how close they got to the village I guess the ratings were actually quite well balanced.

A fun game with a dramatic last stand within sight of safety... Rambo would have been proud!!

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Salute 2013

Well, like every other blogger it seems, we made our way to Salute yesterday. I've been going to Salute on and off, since it's early days in Kensington and I'm always impressed by the scale of the day.

 My son and I travelled up through South London and decided to complete the journey via the Emirates Airline cable car over the Thames... this neatly brought us a few minutes walk from Excel and remarkably quiet. We had thought about doing the same on the way back, maybe combining it with a boat down the Thames, but there was a mahoosive queue so we reverted to Plan B and the crowded DLR.  Well worth trying out the cable car if you're in the vicinity of the Excel or the O2 if you get the chance.

 We arrived about 11-ish, having planned to get there earlier but still found a huge queue making it's way through the central concourse...rather cruel making wargamers take that much exercise we thought! Despite the length it all moved pretty quickly and we were in... I discovered this'll be the last year I get away with not paying for Callum...I'll have to leave him at home from now on!!

 First thoughts were that it seemed busier this year... whether it was an increase in numbers or a change in layout, I'm not sure but there did seem to be a lot of people in the hall. I'd brought a camera along but, as usual, forgot to actually take many pics! Looking at other people's blogs they've been much more diligent than me. I'm also always struck by how many games I seemed to miss despite wandering around all day...maybe there comes a saturation point where they stop registering in my brain!

The hall later in the day... it seemed even busier earlier on

 The games on show were of a universally excellent quality. Not too many seemed to suffer from my pet peeve of being overcrowded with figures. Games that stuck in my memory include the huge Waterloo game complete with a 1:1 scale Napoleon, the cloud-shrouded Victorian game where only the rooftops were visible, the Planet of the Apes game with the enormous (I'm guessing) Washington Monument and the Martian Skyships.  Apologies to the various groups that put them on as I can't remember who did what!  The range of laser cut MDF buildings seems to be growing rapidly and parts of the hall reeked of woodsmoke (which, lets face it, is a big improvement on the usual aromas!).

 My shopping plan this year was (relatively) modest. I'd pre-ordered the In Her Majesty's Name rules a couple sets of figures (the Servants of Ra and the Scotland Yard set plus the assorted freebies from the 'Nickstarter' funding plan) from North Star and some 1:600 ACW ironclads from Peter Pig.  I also picked up the latest Force on Force supplement which deals with Special Forces ops but had no other great plans. I nearly bought a box of the new Gripping Beast un-armoured Dark Age troops but eventually decided that, tempted as I was, I didn't really need them right now (I know...heresy... the Wargames Police will be round for me later!).  I did, however, succumb to the temptation of Ironclad Miniatures lovely tunnelling machine which will be ideal for the IHMN steampunk style games.

Callum was also lured by the whole VSF steampunk thing as well but, having sensibly decided that the Northstar figures were a bit pricey, bought some of Ironclads Sanwar figures... these are apparently designed to be some kind of subterranean people/strange cultists/post-apocalyptic survivors ie. pretty useful in a range of games and really nice models.  The whole VSF range that Ironclad produce are really nice and, I suspect, will become a handy addition to my Northstar figures.  The range can be found here....  Ironclad Miniatures

I wasn't tempted by much more however and so managed to keep the spending to a reasonable level.

Sarissa and 4Ground have both turned out some really nice Victorian buildings for the impending Steampunk boom but mostly out of my price league I fear... I'm looking at card modelling as a more affordable option.  The houses were very nice though, especially the Police Station which would be ideal for my Scotland Yard figures.  The humongous Thanes Hall on display was also very impressive but waaay beyond my purse!

The Police Station from 4Grounds Whitechapel to Baker Street range...
lovely model even though it's in an odd shade of pink
The mahoosive Thane's hall from 4Ground...
how many teddy bears died to make the roof???

So, all in all I was very impressed by the day.  The games were impressive as always.... The level of creativity is always inspiring and the games seemed better this year at avoiding my usual gripes of lack of 'punter engagement' and too much figure clutter on the table.  The participation games were pretty chockablock so we didn't manage a game but neither of us minded too much.  

The excellent terrain for the 'In Her Majesty's Name' game...
I missed the flying car overhead!

Somehow I managed to completely miss the Bloggers Gathering at 1pm... I think I was distracted by a very tasty Salt Beef Bagel out in the concourse... maybe next year!!

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Vladivostock Railways regret delays to the 5.15 to Tashkent...

I managed to coax Legatus [Stephen] back to Guildford Wargames Club with the promise of an outing for his undoubtedly inscrutable Chinese Warlord army against my ideologically sound Bolsheviks.

Ever since I read some of Peter Hopkirk's excellent books on this theatre, I've always found it a fascinating area.  Both of us have built up armies based around Mark Copplestone's excellent figures [Copplestone range ].  As well as my Bolsheviks I also have a number of Chinese and White Russians and archaelogists.  For some reason I also have a large number of RCW figures in 20mm... who knows why!!

We had decided to try out the Triumph and Tragedy rules as I'd heard good things about them on LAF.  Previously I've tried using Contemptible Little Armies [fun, but bloody] and Red Actions from The Perfect Captain [excellent rules!] but being a sucker for new rules I was keen to try out T&T.

The key feature of the rules is in preparing the unit cards: each army has a stack of cards, one for each unit, which you have to place in activation order at the start of each turn.  Each player then reveals the top card simultaneously along with their order [also chosen from a ceck of cards]... this avoids players hoding off, waiting to see what their opponent is going to do and forces you to commit to a course of action each turn.  In practice this worked really well and we both found the rules pretty intuitive and quick to pick up.

I'd set up a variant of the scenario contained in the rules, changing it from a Red v White encounter to an attack on a remote railway station on the Russian/Chinese border.  The Chinese were attacking, attempting to seize the station and the vending machines full of revolutionary KitKats, while the Bolsheviks had to hold them off and attempt to telegraph for help... one of the unit Leaders was a highly trained telegraphist who needed to enter the station and tap out "HELP!!!!!", presumably in Cyrillic-morse dots and dashes.  The terrain was, I have to confess, decidedly un-Chinese like with a number of woods and corn fields providing cover for the attacking Chinese.

The game began with a lone Naval unit [not sure how they'd ended up somewhere in Central Asia but let's face it... if Trotsky has ordered you there you're unlikely to argue with him!]  Both sides had 3 or 4 infantry units and a MG [heavy for the Chinese and Light for the Russians].  The Chinese were also possessed with a cavalry unit so new and shiny you could almost smell the fresh paint on the figures and who were, therefore, doomed!!!

The Navy guard the station... note the tactically deployed
Yak in the background!

The brave (and doomed) cavalry advance

The Chinese made a rapid advance towards the station while the remainder of the Russians arrived at the table edge and began moving up in support of their Sailor comrades.  The cavalry cunningly skirted round the woods along the left hand table edge and began quickly threatening to flank the station.  One of the newly arrived Russian infantry units took up position in the woods and then thought better of it and fell back , refusing the flank to the cavalry and making ready to take pot shots at them.  The Navy engaged in some surprisingly effective long-range fire against some of the Chinese while remaining safe behind a wall.  Over on the right flank the Red LMG advanced quickly and began firing on the advancing Chinese infantry... I'd had high hopes for this but it immediately proved to be rubbish, largely missing the Chinese hordes and then being shot to pieces by the Chinese HMG!!

The Russians guard the railway

...before bravely advancing (and then rapidly retreating
again once they spot the Cavalry!)

A series of exchanges on the right then followed with both sides becoming badly shot up and accumulating lots of suppression markers [a bad thing] before managing to recover from them [a good thing].  The Russians were holding their own but were being gradually worn down.  Over on the right Stephen's lovely cavalry were, as predicted, being steadily shot up by the infantry and by a unit of locals who's turned up to see what all the fuss was about [a Raw, leaderless unit who proved surprisingly effective].  The cavalry eventually turned about and rode around the woods before bravely, and pointlessly, attempting to charge the Naval unit.  Their charge fell a cruel couple of inches short of the wall and they were annihilated by rifle fire....thus perish all newly painted units!!!

The Cavalry launch their charge which ran out of
steam just in front of the wall...oops!

They were followed up by an infantry unit who proceeded to lob hand grenades over the fall, devastating the sailors.  The Russians had tried a similar tactic on the other flank, missing their target but managing to take out the Chinese HMG by accident!!

In the centre the Russian telegraphist had managed to send his message and then withdrew from the station.  The Chinese general promptly rode into the station and armed with nothing more than an impressive hat [..oh... and a sword!] seized the station single handedly.  The remainder of one the last Russian units charged in and defeated him but were in turn charged by the remnants of a Chinese unit... the net effect of which was that everyone ran away from the station!!

At this point we took stock of the situation... most units were severely depleted apart from each side's 'raw' unit, both of which were somehow fairly intact.  We decided to draw a veil over the remainder of the battle.  My version of events is that the Chinese decided to slink back off across the border with their tails between their legs while the revolutionary heroes were relieved by reinforcements steaming down the track to their rescue.  I'm guessing Stephen may put a different spin on it!

In conclusion the rules worked very well.  The game was fast and we picked up the key concepts quickly.  I'm sure we made loads of mistakes [for example Stephen's general should have been more effective in combat due to his 'fearsome reputation'] but nothing that caused us major problems or would have had a major impact on the game.  It would be good to try them out again, possibly adding in vehicles or artillery, and they'd make a good addition to my quest for a decent set of rules for the Spanish Civil war.... highly recommended.  Thanks to Stephen for an excellent game!!