Saturday, 20 September 2014

Franco Prussian war - Neil Thomas rules

This week I dug out my copy of the Neil Thomas 19th Century Rules and my 6mm Franco-Prussian armies.  These are an apparently simple set of rules that have a bit more depth than they first appear.  There's more info about how they actually play here.
Andrew and I played out the Pitched Battle scenario with my French attacking the Prussian's as we both struggled for 2 towns and a hill in centre of the field.  Before the battle started we checked for any changes to our forces and both of us had troops delayed and arriving several turns into the game.
Both sides raced towards the objectives with my left flank seizing one of the towns while the Prussians managed to take the hill. 
The French capture one of the towns...
The struggle in the centre was going to be the deciding factor  and I had a moment of hope when my Zouaves got there first.  The Prussians threw a regiment into the town and hand to hand combat, driving the Zouaves out and the breaking them completely...disaster!!
...but the Prussians hold the hill
On the French left the regiment occupying the town quickly became stuck with a bit of a dilemma...sit tight and hold the town but play little further part in the game, or venture out into the sights of the Prussian guns.  Probably unwisely I chose to sit least that way I had one of the objectives although Andrew had neatly tied up an infantry and cavalry regiment.
The battered remnants of the French centre fall back before the central town
Over on the hill the Prussian artillery began pounding the approaching French columns and the advantage of steel rifled guns quickly showed  and the casualties mounted.  Fresh arrivals for the French joined in the struggle for the hill but the Prussian's cunningly hid behind the reverse slope and waited for the columns to arrive, denying the French the advantage of their longer range rifles.
By the time they'd arrived the artillery had done its job too well and most French units were pretty beaten up and there was no real chance of seizing the hill and I conceded the game.

The French reinforcements head for the hill

The rules themselves are a very short part of the book but give a good feel for this period... the artillery certainly works like it should!! 

Neil Thomas has a new book just out "One Hour Wargames" which looks like it could be worth a   His books are very readable and 1 hour time scale would be ideal to get a couple of games in during a club night.  They also play on a limited tabletop space which is ideal for those of us without decent sized gaming space at home.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014


When I'm out picking up assorted dog and rat supplies for our menagerie at the local Pets at Home, I usually pop over to the aquarium section to check out any potential bits of terrain.  I spotted this interesting looking canoe which looked ideal for 28mm games, eg French Indian Wars, pirates etc.


They're £5 each but were on offer for 3 for 2.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Star Wars again

My latest game was a Star Wars rematch with Andrew at the Guildford Club.

Previously I’ve used a couple of rule sets for Star Wars games... Song of Mutants and Death Rays and Tomorrow’s War [see my post from xxx for this game].  Both of these sets work well... SoMaDR gives a range of options to model characters with Force Powers etc as well as small squads but I find the “Song of...” rules can be a bit generic.  Tomorrow’s War is great for gritty, low-level, near future skirmishes but doesn’t feel ‘cinematic’ enough for the Star Wars type of game.

 Andrew had acquired a set of the old West End Games rules and was keen to give these a go.  The reaction from others in the club when they spotted what we were playing tended to be along the lines of.... “ oh, those rules...they’re really complex...” which given the size of the rulebook [plus companion volume and scenario book] is understandable, but the basic rules are actually quite short and seemed to make sense when I read them through.  The only additional rules we used were for vehicles as it seemed a shame not to get the toys out!

The rules themselves actually seem quite simple and straightforward.  It’s obvious on reading them that they come from the WEG roleplaying system background and they feel a bit of an extension of an RPG combat system that has grown and grown, but essentially they come down to moving alternate squads, firing [with rolls to hit and to save] and morale effects for taking casualties etc.  So far not to taxing but there are lots of additional rules for skills, use of The Force, vehicles [including flight] , heavy weapons etc all of which could make the game a lot more complicated.

 I’d put together a scenario in which the Imperials had received received information that Rebels were gathered at a supply building to trade with some Jawas and have just launched an attack on Jawa HQ.  This gave the Imperials several squads of stormtroopers to match against fewer but higher morale rebels, along with a bunch of Jawas [my favourite Star Wars alien, I needed little excuse to field these].  Both sides had reinforcements due to arrive at some point... a speederbike for the Rebels and a very impressive AT-ST for the Imperials.

 The game opened with the Stormtroopers advancing towards the base while the Rebels took cover in the woods and Jawas defended the walls surrounding the complex.  Disappointingly [since I was the Rebels]  the Imperials didn’t follow standard procedure and march slowly straight towards the enemy, but cunningly tried using the shelter of the woods to cover their advance.  Even more annoyingly the Imperial AT-ST turned up on turn 2, far more quickly than I’d hoped.  The troops quickly came within Blaster range and began exchanging fire in the woods, which proved a bit too effective at giving cover as we found this made it very hard to hit and wound the enemy.  Eventually we sussed that standing still at close range seemed to be the way to do it.

The AT-ST stomped it’s way across the table at a sensible cruising speed [more on movement rates in a bit] and began blasting away at the Jawas with it’s arsenal of blasters and grenade launchers, causing several casualties.  I decided that defending the base from the other side of the buildings seemed a good idea at this point!

Next turn showed a bit of good fortune for the Rebels when the Speederbike arrived and zipped across the table at a comfortable 50” per turn!  Movement rates for vehicles in these rules are incredibly fast... for example the Snowspeeder would effectively shoot down the length of the table in one turn and then reappear several turns later having managed to turn round!  Luckily the Speederbike is pretty nimble and is able to use a lot of its movement zigzagging it’s way across the terrain and dodging trees etc.  I managed to manoeuvre the bike, rather neatly I thought, right behind the AT-ST before discovering the other feature of vehicle rules... heavy vehicle mounted weapons often have a lengthy minimum range meaning I couldn’t actually hit it.  Luckily Andrew had made the same mistake with the AT-ST and so had to content himself with blasting Jawas at long range rather than the more tempting target of Rebels lying just ahead.

My rebel squads gunfire looked as though it was going to be pretty ineffective against the armour of the walker but the rules include a surprisingly effective cinematic effect.. if you roll a 1 it counts as a miss, but if you roll a 6 you get to roll again and keep going until you stop rolling 6’s.  The fact that I managed to roll several 6’s in succession proved very frustrating for Andrew and admittedly was quite flukey but I think represents that lucky shot hitting something vital in a critical moment [I’m not sure if I’d have felt so positive if it had been the other way round though!].  I managed this twice, knocking out the gunner and some of the targeting computers on the AT-ST as well as causing more physical damage than I’d any right to.

The  AT-ST continued to stomp around trying to keep far enough away to bring its Blasters into effective firing range and avoiding the flurry of ‘lucky 6’ backed gun and grenade fire from the Rebels.

My Speederbike meanwhile had decided that it was far too difficult trying to get into a firing position on the walker and sped off across the table in search of more static prey.

Meanwhile the firefight in the woods had swung in favour of the Rebels with the Stormtroopers firing like only Stormtroopers can and generally missing everyone while the Rebels managed to gun most of them down on the left flank and in the centre [thanks to more lucky rolls of 6’s].  The remaining effective Stormtrooper squad contented itself with gunning down the Jawas who ran away to a man..erm..Jawa and proved not surprisingly rubbish.

We ended the game there with the Rebels gaining the upper hand but the Empire not completely down and out

The rules felt very ‘Star Wars’-y if that makes any sense at all.  The speed of fast vehicles and the minimum ranges made it ‘interesting’ to say the least... it proved a real headache getting them anywhere near their intended target while still being able to fire.  Troops behaved as you’d expect with Rebels being more skilful and having higher morale while Stormtroopers have armour bonuses but are slower and less effective because of it.  I’d put down lots of woods to give some cover but it might be better to have less as this made it quite hard to actually damage each other and could have resulted in a much longer game if my dice rolling hadn’t been quite so lucky!  We plan a rematch, possibly branching out a bit with the rules and trying some of the extras.