Sunday, August 7, 2022

Many Wars Ago

Norm's relatively recent post entitled Too Much Stuff had had me thinking quite a bit about wargame rules and my various figure collections. I realized that one of my favorite sets of rules, G.A.S.L.I.G.H.T., by Buck Surdu and Chris Palmer, hasn't been on the table in ages. This is not because I don't like them anymore, I do, but, as part of that whole "modern age" thing, I am spoiled for choice and find myself always chasing the next rule set. It was time to put this game on the table again.

Saturday night, I set up an Italian assault on an Austro-Hungarian held hill-top, inspired by a scene from the movie, Many Wars Ago, itself based on A Soldier on the Southern Front

G.A.S.L.I.G.H.T. is written for 10-figure infantry units. Morale checks are directly impacted by unit size - however, if you have polyhedral dice, you can have units of a variety of sizes, although technically the math won't be exactly the same/ (A 10-figure unit that loses 1 figure has a 10% chance of failing the morale check, while an 8-figure unit that loses 1 figure has a 12.5% chance. Still, I'm OK with all of that because it makes the game flexible.)

The Italian's have three 6-figure units (5 soldiers and a leader - I tend to treat the soldiers as representing some number of men, while the leader is just one person. I don't know why but I"ve almost always done this with G.A.S.L.I.G.H.T. even though, I am now fairly certain that the intent is 1:1 for everyone), while the Austrians have one 7-figure unit and an HMG unit. 

The discrepancy in the number of figures relates to the sizes for companies given in H.M.G. (a WWI ruleset). While I did not use the numbers given there exactly, I wanted to reflect the differences in the size of the units just the same. The Austrians to have more men per company than the Bersaglieri (a standard Italian infantry unit would have nearly 1.5x as many men per company as the Austrians).

Finally, I set the shooting value lower than usual (normally for trained regulars I use 8-10, so I went with 5 in the event), in order to give the smaller units a chance to survive a little longer.

In any case, enough rambling!

The Battle

The Italians ready in their trenches. There is some concern that there is not much cover on this hillside.

An overview of the battlefield. Both sides are in trenches at the start. I had each Italian unit dice to see if they'd leave the trench when their card was turned. Only the one on the far right in the above picture went over the top on the first turn.

Machinegun fire begins to take its toll almost immediately.

The Italian center and left go over the top - no doubt spurred forward by the gathering carabinieri

The Austrians take fire from the Italians left but they unleash devastation on the Italian right.

The unit on the Italian left is almost to the enemy trench!

The center struggles to advance under oppressive fire. Meanwhile on the Italian right, the unit is destroyed through casualties and desertion. The commander races back towards his trench in a panic but, seeing the gleaming rifles of the carabinieri, he thinks the better of it and eventually makes his way to cover up the hill, where he can fire ineffectively at the MG.

The Italians crash into the waiting Austrians and a viscous hand-to-hand struggle ensues.
Close combat in G.A.S.L.I.G.H.T.  can result in neither, one, or both combatants being eliminated.

The carnage after two rounds of violent man-to-man fighting.

Unphased by the chaos to their right, the HMG keeps firing away, chewing up the Italian center and sending the survivors running back down the hill. 

One of the great things about G.A.S.L.I.G.H.T. is the potential for larger-than-life leaders - the Austrian officer prepared to hold his ground against the Italian wave, but the Italians called off the attack. It had been too costly.

The Italians lost 2/3 of their force but distributed unequally between their three units. Not visible in the pictures, the Austrians had two more figures on the table (they had 3 casualties and 1 desertion) - the two had abandoned the trench on morale failures but were still within 12" of the leader figure. That means they could move to rejoin him on their next card. 

I'm not sure if it felt like a WWI game or not. I think it pretty much did. It felt like G.A.S.L.I.G.H.T. for sure though ( a little silly, a lot of fun, bloody) and that was good enough for me. They will definitely see more use with my Venus collection, which had always been my intent anyway, but now I see them as a strong candidate for small games set in The Great War.


  1. I like a game with larger than life characters! Probably watched too much TV as a child.

    1. Me too (and probably for the same reason')! In one of the games where I was trying out the smaller unit sizes, it came down to an Austrian leader and an Italian leader duking it out on in the trench, in true pulp/cinematic fashion,

  2. I love your terrain John, very effective! An excellent and exciting game! The HMG seemed to be the determining factor which makes a lot of sense in defenders versus attackers. Should work well on Venus!

    1. Thank you, Brad! I was pleased with the improvised hill - two floor two floor cushions side by side, with sheets of foam board to make the slope. I have complete confidence the rules will work for Venus - I used them many years ago with 15mm figures to play games of French vs Lizard Warriors and French vs Prussians, both with lizard warriors in their forces.

  3. I found a copy of G.A.S.L.I.G.H.T. years ago but never really dove in; now I have some inspiration to explore it. Also wondering where you found that amazing 54mm HMG (with crew? or are they modified?). I need one or two for a Belleau Wood skirmish game.

    1. For what they cost, how few pages there are (the original booklets, not The Compendium), and the low production values (they notoriously fall apart with use - mine are basically loose leaf stored between the covers at this point), they have absolutely been worth every cent in my experience. While geared towards VSF, they work "straight" just as well, for just about any period.

      The HMG is from Irregular Miniatures. They make both German (which I use as is, just a paint conversion) and British crews/guns. You can get them with or without the gasmasks (I happen to really like gasmaks). I use the British team and gun for my Italians, but with their Adrian helmeted heads from their multi-part range. Despite being UK based, shipping times are more than reasonable - I usually get my order within 1 to 2 weeks of their telling me the item has shipped. They are top notch all the way.

  4. Good to see these figures in action, esp after watching the collection being put together over time. Sounds like you enjoyed the game which is surely the #1 objective but it also gives the viewer that, "Over the Top" feeling of crawling out of the trenches into MG fire.