Saturday, December 15, 2018

British Paras vs Waffen SS: Small Skirmish

On Friday, I watched a short documentary on Arnhem Bridge, and that got me itching to get my British Paratroopers (King & Country and Conte metal figures) on the table.

I decided since I was getting those out, I might as well pit them against my Conte and Britain's Waffen SS.

Unfortunately, I only have five of each. So I was looking at some kind of small skirmish.

Rather than spend a lot of time looking for something suitable or making something that might not be fun,  I went with a simple scenario I first encountered in MG-42 (Two Hour Wargames) many years ago and have enjoyed playing many times and with different rules: a German half-squad with MG-42 has taken up a position in a farmhouse with a clear shot at anyone using the road that passes in front of it, the paratroopers have been assigned to take out the MG.

For the rules, I broke out "Kokoda Trail" by Kevin White, available for free download from the Lone Warrior website. I used to play these rules fairly often (also many years ago), but it had been awhile. They are pretty simple, and you need to fill in some blanks on your own, but I really enjoy the card initiative and card based attacks.

The country.

Guard out front.

MG team in the house. Pretend they are on the 2nd floor.
Brits got the first shots at the guard, but then multiple German cards had them all come running out to join in the fray (I diced for their location / actions

Caught in the open.
Flank attack from the woods.

Charge! (and grenade but ineffective and then it went further south)

Avenging a fallen comrade!

Not quite.

And another fail.

Things got a little silly at the end when the MG team moved out the back so they could get  a shot at the last attacker. In hand to hand the our hero would take out two Germans.

But alas, it was not to be. 

I played nine turns. Some of them went very fast, with the stop card coming up after just a few activations. It was enjoyable with just a few bumps. Although grenades are mentioned in the rules, there aren't really rules for them. And it's not clear whether hand to hand combat is instant death for the loser or not - I decided it was, which motivated my attempt to close on the Germans, but it just wasn't in the cards (please pardon my 'dad joke', but I am a dad after all).

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Armies in Plastic: Royal Gatling Gun Crew - WIP

I have two AiP gatling gun crews and the first has made its way to the painting table.

These fellows below are the crew proper, with the left and central figure being generic to the various Royal Navy artillery sets, and the one on the right specific to the Gatling gun crew. They need their base edges finished, and then a seal of Mod Podge, followed by high gloss acrylic varnish.

Moe, Larry, Curly.

The two rifle figures included, ostensibly to protect the gun and its crew, are a bit further behind - the rifles themselves need to finished, uniforms touched up, bases need additional coats of green, and then the same finishing as above.

Two stalwart soldiers taking aim at foe (off-camera).

As I mentioned, I have two such sets. The second gun is to serve the Russians, so the crew is unemployed. However, they are not down on their luck. With the exception of the ammo carrier, I think the figures can be repurposed into character figures with a different paint job (explorers, big game hunters, eccentric officers, etc.) or the riflemen could be painted like the two above, and grouped into a 4-figure unit for the Portable Wargame or similar.

The extra ammo carrier will have one of the magazines cut from his hands, to be glued onto one of the guns, because one of the guns did not include the magazine that mounts on the gun itself.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

The HIll : Redux (FiveCore: Company Command)

Saturday night saw my second game using Nordic Weasel's FiveCore: Company Command.

For the scenario, I used The Hill, from 2x2 Small Crossfire Scenarios - but just using the infantry, mortars, and HMG (no engineers, mine fields, etc). US would be the attacker and Germans the defender. This time, I opted to use a 3' x 3' playing area primarily because I was being overrun by a curious cat when I tried to set up on the floor.

Things look a little cramped, but with so few units involved, it didn't feel any great hindrance.

The setup:

That's a pumpkin in the upper left. I really want to put a 'Santa hat' on it, but I can't find mine.
The Germans deployed two squads to hold the hill, with the mortar deployed behind it - as it was out of sight, and couldn't be shot by any attacking unit, I didn't feel that it needed a hiding status - while the HMG deployed on the German right, and a squad on the far left. Heavy weapons units don't do well when assaulted, generally (although last game they did OK), so I thought I'd try holding the hill with two squads instead.

Since the attacker has the initiative, the US, as last time, opted to declare deployment for their first turn and advanced accordingly on the left and right, to the far edge of the woods on the left and right, while I held the mortar and a single squad in the center.

The Germans on their part of the turn popped up - but only 3 of the 5 could because they had to be in combat stance. The MG was forced back to hiding, while the squad on the left got some shots off and forced one of the American squads to panic.

On turn 2, the US forced the assault forward and overran the German HMG (hiding and a heavy weapons crew is not a good combination for fighting off a close assault). While on the American right, the German squad was forced to retreat the woods to their rear.

On turn 3, one of the German squads on the hill was forced to retreat in a panic thanks to accurate shooting from the American left.

By turn 4, the US assault was fully underway - the left flank had wrapped on and around the hill (threatening the German mortar, who would give a good accounting of themselves in the assault that followed). The center squad also began moving up, as protecting the American mortar was no longer a priority.

Intense fighting near the hill and in the woods.
 At the end of turn 5, the US had control of the hill, the German mortar had been silenced, and although a few of the American squads had morale issues, so too did the two remaining German squads.

On turn 6, I could only activate one of the remaining German squads so, I decided there was no point in playing out the last turn. American victory.

From the German point of view, you can see the American assault covering the table from left to right, in the middle and backgrounds.
Some thoughts:

  • I went with 9" movement to preserve the ratio of  moves to table size (the scenario calls for a 2' x 2' table, and with the 6" RAW move, that's 4 moves x 4 moves.). I think a case could be made for 6" moves for a 3' x 3' playing area, since the rules explicitly state that as a table size the rules were designed for - albeit with 1.5" square bases. As it was, the 9" move seemed to work well enough,  given the 6 turn limit I set.
  • The aggressive assault by the US made a lot more sense than my previous effort. The objective is to take the hill after all, not engage in an extended fire fight.
  • The defender suffers a bit in combat stance: activating half of their units amounts to  never more than 3, and more often, it was just 2 units. This is a consequence of the very small game, not really a problem of the rules themselves.
  • The QRS for Company Command could use some more information on it. A two-page QRS would be ideal (1 sheet, front and back) - at least for me. So I'm making my own with what I need right now. I imagine later, I may be able to get away with one side.
  • I messed up a few things - facing and which friendly units could "spot" for the light mortar (a friendly unit within one move is the correct answer). I added both of those to my QRS.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

New Recruits from Armies in Plastic

As I've mentioned a few times, I took advantage of the Armies in Plastic holiday specials. They arrived exceptionally quickly and below are the new recruits reporting for basic training.

Here is the contents of one box of Cossacks and one of Russians, arguably Russian Civil War, Russo-Japanese, or WWI, but suitable for my purposes in the 1880s.

I'm not sure what I expected light green to look like but this wasn't it. This green would make a fantastic guitar color.
The figure count for the infantry was listed as 20, and I got 24, lots of similar poses to make units with two rows of four rifles, each row looking relatively uniform. I like having two different officer poses - perfect for GASLIGHT, which includes two main characters per unit. The extra four figures will man the gatling gun I acquired - the included crew is British.

One of the Cossacks will serve as an unattached main character / general until such time as I can acquire a suitably dashing Russian cavalry figure.

Here are the elements of the box of Camel Corps. and British infantry that will see paint.

For Queen and Country!
As I already have  a unit of Highlanders, I really only need one unit of infantry to bring up the force to match the Russians. The single camel rider will function as a character / general. His fellows (four others) may end up as an additional unit eventually.

The British infantry came with several running figures, but the other poses were in twos and threes, which made it difficult to get my preferred arrangement of 4 figures in similar poses per line. Lacking a second but different officer pose, I opted for the kneeling figure. That's something I have done in my 15mm VSF games to avoid having to purchase additional figures.

And, as you may have guessed by my choice of the Russians, I have decided to set my VSF campaign against a fictionalized backdrop of The Great Game, which I really only just learned was a thing between England and Russia, although I've heard it mentioned a number of times, and using the imaginations of Gintania and Vodkya.

The setting for the conflict will at least in part be a suitable stand-in for Afghanistan. But it's possible it will be on another planet, thanks to Star Gates. I haven't worked out the details yet. In the event camels aren't present in the battle locations, it'll just be a personality quirk of the British leader that he always has one to ride.

Finally, here is the plastic pile, sorted and awaiting processing:

It isn't terribly daunting - the uniforms for most all concerned are basic, one or two color affairs.
The WWII figures are recent acquisitions from the Classic Toy Soldiers Black Friday Sale (well, the ones I've sorted out that I want to paint). Both sides will be brought up to nine 3-figure bases, nine unbased leader figures,  2-3 anti-tank rifles, 2-3 machine guns, and 2-3 light mortars.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

FiveCore: Company Command : Overview and Thoughts

On Monday night, I had the opportunity to finally try out Nordic Weasel's FiveCore: Company Command (CC here on out). These rules are designed for a company + support on the table per side, where one base = one squad/section. If you just want my final opinion, jump to the bottom, but if you want to know a bit about the rules, read on.

For the set up, I used the hill scenario from these small Crossfire scenarios, leaving out anything that wasn't an infantry unit or heavy weapon. The scenarios are intended for a 2'x2' table, which suits CC's own stated design goals of 2'x2' to 3'x3'. However, since my base size is 3" square, and the suggested base size for CC is 1.5", I opted to double the size of the playing area, and all ranges (everything is in range for shooting, so this is mostly for movement and some reactions).

Here is the initial setup.

Two armies lay opposite and ready.

Don't worry about the US squads being out in the open - they are the attacker and have the initiative to start and are within one move of cover. This is important because if you are targeting a unit in the open, you have an increased chance to destroy them.

In CC, if a unit is within contact of the edge of a terrain piece or obstacle, they have to declare if they are in contact or if they are hiding. In contact means they can see and be seen. The mortar and adjacent squad are in contact - because mortar can't move and fire in the same turn, I wanted them to be able to fire as soon as possible.

The defender (Germans) start hidden in this scenario. I took this to mean "hiding" in CC terms (I used small green dice to indicate this) - they can't be seen, but they can't shoot either. Unhiding can draw reaction fire, but that seems right. Once they unhide, they will be in contact- so, again, even in cover, they will be visible to the enemy.

Conveniently, I don't have a single hill big enough for this scenario, but by using two pushed together, I have a natural crest line that troops can use as cover. FYI, hills are not discussed specifically in the rules with respect to crest lines and all that, I've pulled that concept from somewhere else.

I opted to position a squad near each heavy weapon - CC restricts heavy weapons from being targeted if a squad is nearby (4" as written, 8" in my case). This might be gamey but I like it and to me it makes sense that each side would want to protect their weapon. Plus it forces me to keep squads in reserve.

German MG and mortar benefit from the presence of a rifle squad.

CC offers three modes of play - each mode restricts what you can do as a commander in different ways. I opted to start with the basic mode which requires a side to declare whether they are in Combat or Deployment stance. The stances determine how many units can move or fire, and what, if any rules, govern the movement of the troops.

Most of the game was spent in combat stance for both sides, which meant only 1/2 a side's units could move and fire. The rest had to sit, but they could still reaction fire (well, mortars can't).

Shooting is done with a mixture of "shock" dice (morale effects) and "kill" dice (what it sounds like) and different weapons and situations can alter which/how many are rolled. Only 1s and 6s are of any concern and results range from falling back 3" (6" in my case) to complete removal of a unit. Light mortars, interestingly enough, only fire shock dice unless the target is in the open - this makes them useful for forcing the enemy to keep their heads down while your troops advance. Similarly, reaction fire is with shock dice only, unless the target is within 4" - so its main purpose is to get the enemy to rethink any advance.

The final assault!

I opted to play for 6 turns and the GIs failed to take the hill - despite some valiant efforts to do so, and effective use of the mortar for keeping the enemy from using their MG.

It's always hard to be fully immersed the first time I play a set of rules since I'm usually checking them quite often, but I did enjoy the decision making regarding which troops to activate and which to let sit. Sometimes this lead to troops being pinned down, unable to rally (because a failed rally roll uses up the activation, you have to think carefully about what's important to your overall goal) which added some tension.

Even with my constant rules checking, the entire game and setup took less than an hour (admittedly my playing area is pretty simple. More complex tables would obviously add more time). These forces are small by CC standards (or Crossfire's for that matter, which is the intent),  but even with full companies per side, the rules are designed to play in 60 to 90 minutes.

There were just a few spots in the rules where things did not seem particularly clear to me. As this was my first game with them, it's quite possible it's a me thing and repeated plays will work those issues out. The 10 games, 10 times challenge I did a few years ago on my old blog taught me the value of not judging a rule set too quickly. That said, I already like these rules quite a bit.

They can easily handle all of the force options as presented - minefields, smoke, artillery, engineering squads, etc. So, after another game or two, I'll start adding those bits in.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Modified Morschauser's Modern Rules Ramblings

I've been reading through some of the many rules that I own (some of which - wonders of wonders - I have even played)  and game reports on various blogs and this has had me thinking of some of the things that are "missing" from the Morschauser modern rules. I can only blame this on the sickness that seems to afflict most wargamers with the unceasing urge to tinker with rules in search of some ever elusive holy grail.

As written, for the types of games I have been playing (1 stand = 1 platoon, as with Neil Thomas's One Hour Wargame WW2 rules), there really isn't anything wrong with the rules. Yes, they're missing mortars, but that's easily rectified. There's also no adjustment for cover but I simply reduce the chance to hit - for example, instead of 4 or 6, they only hit on 6, regardless of the type of cover.

But, as a result of all of that reading I have done lately, I decided to try my hand at fielding a company sized battle, but with 1 base = 1 squad. And at that level of detail, I felt, again inspired by my reading, that 1) there should be reaction fire and 2) different types of cover should have different effects. I also began to question the ranges given in Morschauser and if they were suitable for such a low-level game, where, "realistically" the whole table would be within range of everything that can shoot.

As you can see I opened up a can of worms rather quickly.

Let me save you the trouble of reading further if you have limited time: I didn't like the end result and I'll try some different rules for that level of game. At least until I decide to try this experiment again.

US Infantry assault a German squad in the woods to the east of the objective.

For reaction fire, I reasoned that it, like cover should be at reduced effectiveness (as it is in a number of rule sets). Except that meant that if a unit was reacting to a unit that moved but was in cover, that would mean nothing but an MG could hit it. I can buy that for hard cover, but for the edge of forests, high grass, fields? That didn't seem right.

I then thought, instead of using one die per stand as I do, I could use one per roster point as Morschauser suggests. Then I could reduce effectiveness by one die for cover, and a second die for reaction fire. But what happens when you're down to 2 strength points? Or 1? The original problem returns.

Finally, I decided, that since shooting at a unit in the open should be easier, I would give everyone two dice to attack. The second die would be dropped for reaction fire. I would use my original adjustments for cover (6 instead of 4 or 6 for all but MGs, who hit on a 4 or 6 instead of 2, 4, or  6).

I decided to forgo the effect of different types of cover. Cover would be cover and that was that. Mostly because the scenario I was playing had only forest for cover anyway. Lazy, I know.

For ranges, I kept movement the same, but made the rest of the table in range for firearms.

The proof would be in the pudding. For a scenario, I used the hill from Dick Bryant's small 2x2 Crossfire scenarios, expanded to 4' x 4' given my base sizes and figure scale and leaving out everything except the infantry and heavy weapons teams (so no artillery, no mine fields, etc. as those would require further modifications).

In theory, my changes don't seem all that dramatic, but something about the games (I played the same scenario three times, each time tweaking things here and there) felt off.

Perhaps it was just my indecision about the changes, the grey areas around the rule edges, etc. and more play and time would change my mind, but, for now, I have decided that instead of trying to change Morschauser's Modern rules, who's appeal to me is that it's very much playing with toy soldiers, I will use a different set of rules for this type of game (1 base = 1 squad, up to a company with support on the table).

Nordic Weasel's FiveCore: Company Command  has a number of ideas that I like, especially that you can't target a weapon's team if there's a unit of infantry nearby (I'm not sure about the reality or reasoning, but I like how it will preserve the weapon a bit longer). I already own it, which is another plus. Other options I have in my collection include Blitzkrieg Commander and David Newport's Tactical Combat rules (available for free via Lone Warrior). I like both of these rule sets and have played them both a number of times.

I hope to get a game in tonight of the same scenario but with Company Command as the rules.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Soldering On

It turns out super glue is not the way to fix a broken rifle on a Britain's figure.

Now, don't get me wrong, I thought it worked, but when I went to move the figure (well over 24 hours later), the broken bit just fell off again. Subsequent attempts failed, even after doing my best to scrape off the dried glue and some paint.

Somewhere deep in the recesses of my brain I recalled someone somewhere on a blog mentioning solder.

I don't recall the exact context but to that person I say thank you!

I pulled out my soldering gear (I usually use it for quick and poor repairs of my effects pedals and such for guitar) and after much swearing and gnashing of teeth (I really need one of those third-hand tools) voila:
Badly soldered but repaired broken rifle.

OK, pretty it is not, but it is a strong repair - both the rifle bit and where the strap attaches to the leg.

Here it is after a touch up of the paint and the figures (this one and the one with the broken strap that I did manage to repair with glue):

A fire team. A squad. A platoon. Whatever you want to call three figures on a base that's arguably too small for them.
Close enough for government work, as they say.

And just for giggles, these plastic pre-paints arrived last night:

These are not the droids you are looking for.
I have been eyeing this Jawa pack for a few years now (seriously), mostly because I love R5D4. If that's NOT R5D4 being used as a horse, I don't want to know.

CTS is having a sale on the long since discontinued Star Wars Unleashed Battle Packs - said to be 1/32-ish - and since I was ordering stuff from them for their Black Friday sale, I thought I owed it to myself to get these.

I plan to acquire Sand Troopers for a little payback scenario (Jawas: The Revenge) - hopefully from Santa or my own rather depleted hobby budget (thanks to the AiP sale):

Image found on Internet. It's available from a bunch of t-shirt sites.