Saturday, January 12, 2013

WWII Game with Morschauser Rules

Closing out my week off from work this weekend, I had a solo WWII game today using the modern era rules from Joseph Morschauser's How to Play Wargames in Miniature. Despite their simplicity (or perhaps because of it) they gave an excellent game. The simplicity of the mechanics allowed for calculation of maneuvers in an almost chess-like manner. While not to everyone's taste, I rather enjoy that type of calculation.

I threw in a few simple house rules for wrecked vehicles – other vehicles can't move through them and they block LOS/LOF. I also tossed in some restrictions for overrun attacks (called "running down" in the rules). I decided overruns could only take place if the target infantry was in open terrain or on a road, and only if the overrunning vehicle's entire move took place in open terrain and/or road, and only if the overrunning vehicle could cross the target infantry base completely without contacting any other enemy units (the latter allowing for defense in depth).

 Middle of the battle. Plumes of smoke (I know they should be black, not white) rise from wrecked vehicles, blocking LOS. The German infantry at top left take advantage of the house rule prohibiting overruns vs. infantry deployed in depth.

The game moved quickly and smoothly and was extremely entertaining. I set up a plain old meeting engagement, with symmetrical forces – nine rifle squads, four tanks, and one scout car on each side. The Germans got the first move, but the Americans had choice of table edge. Consequently, the Americans made it to the large town near the center of the table before their opponents. First contact occurred at the edge of town, when a Sherman survived a shot from a Pz IV, then destroyed the German tank in the following American turn.

 Overall course of the battle.

Except for a couple of tanks on each side that pushed straight up the middle, the battle took on a classic "hurricane" pattern, with the weight of each side's advance on its own right flank, hitting the enemy left. Each army, on its respective strong side, pushed back the enemy, but the Americans got the better of it, dropping the German force to less than 50% strength before the Germans were able to do the same to them.

In the end, the Americans lost two AFVs and four rifle squads (six units total) and held the field. The Germans lost three AFVs and six rifle squads (nine units total), and withdrew.

I'm looking forward to playing some more with Morschauser's rules.

Monday, January 7, 2013

AWOL (but haven't deserted)

I've been A.W.O.L. from the blog for several months, but finally got some time to catch my breath with a week off from work responsibilities before plunging into the next academic term.

Taking advantage of the time, I built and painted up two Armourfast StuG III's.

I love how quick Armourfast models are to build.

Real life has put a serious dent in my hobby time these past few months. My new year's resolution this year is to make more hobby time, no matter how much work and other obligations scream for me to do otherwise. Hopefully I won't be so absent from my blog.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Simplest Terrain Ever, Simplest Skirmish Rules Ever

Things have been very quiet on the modeling front. I eased back in with some really simple terrain: some Italeri stone walls, and some homemade hedges. The hedges were particularly easy. A pack of tongue depressors, a can of green camo spray paint, white glue and some moss from a local craft store. Spray the tongue depressors camo green, then glue clumps of moss to them. Voilà.

The Italeri wall around a house. Hedges on the edges.

Close-up of the wall.

Because I couldn't just make terrain without doing something with it immediately, I made up some skirmish rules on the spot. Each guy moves 6+d6". If the d6 roll is a "1" the guy moves his 7" and then the turn passes to the other side. Moving in rough (over hedge or wall) costs a penalty of 3". Shooting – rifles and LMGs 24"; SMGs 12". Rifles hit on a 5 or 6, LMGs/SMGs on a 4,5,6. Penalty of -1 if target is in cover. A hit eliminates the target. Shots may be taken at start or end of a man's move. If the d6 roll for the shot is a "1" the turn passes to the other side. So basically any "1" rolled on the die, for movement or shooting, is a turnover. 

 Close-up of a hedge.

And another.

In my quick game, the opposing squads had ten men each. In the end, the Americans made a valiant attempt to take the building with the wall around it, but the Germans drove them off, breaking the U.S. squad. The GI's lost five men to the Wehrmacht's four.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Something Old, Something New

It's been a crazy academic term. Last week most of all – we gave the graduate students their comprehensive exams, interviewed for a new faculty member for next year, and interviewed for next year's tutor. This weekend, I am not working. Taking three full days completely off.

To treat myself, I picked up a couple of WWII games for the PC, something old and something new, both from Matrix games.

First off, Panzer Corps. In a nutshell, it's a remake of the old Panzer General game, but with improved graphics. Since I used to love Panzer General, this one was a retro no-brainer. Twenty-first-century update of a classic, plays just like the original. I went through the first scenario (Warsaw, 1939) on the easiest difficulty setting (there are five) and Poland fell in short order.

Panzers advance on Warsaw in Panzer Corps

I also picked up Unity of Command. This one was new to me. It's is a nice little game focusing on the 1942 campaign on the eastern front. In many respects it's very similar to Panzer Corps, though logistics seem to play a much more substantial role (you'll get slaughtered if you don't pay very careful attention to them). It has a very intuitive interface and set of game mechanics.

I played through most of the "easy" scenarios in one day – though the "Edelweiss" scenario (Germans attacking south from Rostov toward Maikop) was pretty darned tough. I had to play it something like four or five times before I finally won – on the very last turn of the game. 

 Jumping off from Rostov in Unity of Command

All in all, an excellent start to the holiday weekend.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Games That Define Us - Chiming In

Jumping on the bandwagon again, this time with the games that define me.

1. Chess. My introduction to both strategy and tactics. I learned to play when I was seven, eventually reaching a respectable (but not brilliant)USCF rating as an adult. In all the wargames I've played, I have never encountered a single one that provides the same tactical or strategic depth without having rules dramatically more complex than those of chess. It is an incredibly "economic" game in terms of its depth-to-complexity ratio. It has always been the standard by which I measure all other games of strategy and tactics.

2. Stratego. My first truly "war-themed" game. I played this for years and years as a kid until I finally moved up to actual simulations. I'm kind of surprised that Stratego never led me to an obsession with Napoleonics, given how much I played it.

3. Afrika Korps. The first wargame I ever owned, which I got for my twelfth birthday. From that point on, WWII was my favorite historical period. And for a very long time, I was a fanatic about the western desert campaign, reading everything I could get my hands on. I think it also set squarely in my mind the idea that simple games are not only fun but can, at the very least, make a decent simulation.

4. Dungeons and Dragons Basic (Moldvay). The first RPG I ever owned, which I also picked up when I was twelve or so. Even once my friends and I "graduated" to AD&D, we were really still just playing D&D Basic with expanded classes, spells, and monsters.

5. Panzer Leader. My first foray into tactical (as opposed to operational) wargaming. A step up in complexity, but I fell in love with this game. Even after I tried Squad Leader, Panzer Leader was still tops for me. For only a fraction of SL's complexity, I felt like this game gave a pretty full range of West Front WWII weapons and tactics. The lack of so-called "realism" (compared to SL and other more complex games) was not significant enough IMO to break the game. It's still one of my favorites.

6. Talisman. This was my favorite fantasy board game. My friends and I played this all the time when I was an undergraduate. I recently bought the Fantasy Flight Games edition of it, and I still play it. It's also one I've managed to get Mrs. Bard to play, and she enjoys it too.

7. Bruce Quarrie's "Tank Battles in Miniature" from A Beginner's Guide to Wargaming. I did no gaming throughout grad school. When I picked it up again, I got curious about miniatures. This very simple set of tank rules was my first introduction to miniatures rules. I played with this set and a few handfull's of 1/300 scale tanks for quite a while. It involves written orders, but surprisingly that makes it excellent for solo play, by just making up random tables for enemy actions. Then you write your orders (committing your forces to specific moves and targets), then roll to see what the enemy does. The enemy's unpredictability combined with your inability to "uncommit" your tanks makes it work quite well.

8. Paul Scrivens-Smith's "Men of Frost." This is a free set of WWII infantry skirmish rules that I first encountered something like 10 years ago, and it is still available through the Free Wargames Rules site. A very simple set of rules with a fascinating individual initiative-based system. It's probably still my favorite set of WWII man-to-man skirmish rules.

9. Song of Blades and Heroes. My first fantasy minis game, at least the first one to which I gave any serious attention. I played it and never looked back. Simple, flexible, effective.

Two Up, One Back

"The dominant (though not the only) tactical formation for the infantry in both attack and defense remained 'two up, one back.' This was a product of the triangular organization that the infantry used from platoon to division level. Triangular units had three main 'maneuver' elements (weapons units did not count as 'maneuver' elements). Rifle platoons had three squads; rifle companies three rifle platoons; battalions, three rifle companies; and so forth. This encouraged commanders to place two of their maneuver units forward while keeping back the third so that it could relieve or reinforce a frontline unit."

--John Sayen, U.S. Army Infantry Divisions 1944-45 (28)