Saturday, 14 April 2018

5 Men at Kursk - the 54mm experiment

I've been to busy to blog, believe it or not. Today, I've decided to remain at home because of a forecast of freezing rain among other problems. (Winter just won't leave southwestern Ontario!)

In any event, last Saturday at the Hamilton Road Games Group, Andy and Kevin decided to try the set of rules called "5 Men at Kursk" by Nordic Weasel games. It's a skirmish game using a very small number of figures - as few as 5. I blogged a while ago about the sister game of medieval gaming called Chevauche, which made for a very satisfying small game. Andy was eager to play the WWII game using his extensive collection of plastic 54mm figures. In truth, although the game was set for 15mm or 28mm figures, when the ranges are played with (usually doubled), it works well for 54mm figs.

In the first game, I played the Germans defending a ruined farm house and ridge against Soviet troops. Both sides had a commander, a light machine gun and loader, and some other infantry, the Soviets having the advantage of numbers and more submachine guns... which seemed right. (Photos by Andy and myself)

The German defenders in place at the beginning of the game.

A low ridge where the Soviet troops would set up once the giant set of rules were removed.
Based on the strictures laid out in the game, each side has so many activations, bonus moves, and responsive moves/snap fires per turn. This was based on historic points of fire discipline, general morale, and other intangibles.

As it was, My LMG worked to keep the Soviets' heads down and they had to crawl around a lot. The MG-42 also handed out some casualties. The Soviet DP LMG wasn't quite so effective primarily because my dice rolling was astounding, especially to me. (In the game, a 1 might would and a 6 kills, 2-5 having no effect. If a 1 is rolled, the man is "down" until one of his mates checks on him. Then a die is rolled and he might be just stunned or he might be out of the game, depending on the die roll.

The Soviets decided to to a left hook and send some troopers over the bridge on their left to flank the farm house where the German LMG was holed up. I sent a trooper and the officer with his SMG to bolster the ruined house. Just in time, too. The Soviets stayed low and advanced on the house, while causing two troopers and the officer to be frightened and take cover. They began to exchange grenades over a low stone wall.

On the German left, two soldiers came down the hill and assaulted the Soviet LMG from the base of the copse of trees, first using grenades. One man was taken out by a Russian grenade while the other one came on through the trees and attempted to hand-to-hand the LMG gunner. It didn't work well. In the end, the Soviets losses were too much to bear and the German defenders were declared the winner.

The fortified ruin of a farm house with the Wehrmacht defenders.

The sand-bag firebase further down the ridge.

The reinforcement arrives

A Soviet SMG trooper advanced behind the cover of the bridge stone railing.

The Soviets behind their low ridge, keeping their heads down.

The bridge and the small stream from the other end of the table.
I sat out the second game, which saw a switching of sides and the Soviets defending the Motherland and the small farmstead. The assaulting Germans won that one as well, but it was not a bloodless victory. Both Andy and Kevin were pleased with the results of the playing of the game. The squads behaved as they were "supposed to" according to their military experience and study: use the LMG to keep the enemy's heads down and use your maneuver element to take the territory.  The rules allow vehicles and larger weapons, but HMG are stationary and deny space to the enemy. Tanks take up all your activations because you have to separately activate the driver to move, the gunner to fire the main gun or the coaxial MG, and the commander to fire the turret MG, That's THREE activations plus the commander is exposed when firing the hatch MG. Suppose you only have 4 or 5 activations in total? Either your AFV becomes a terrain piece or it sucks up all your activations. Decisions have to be made.

I'd like to see this game set up for WWI. It could be quite interesting, although some adjusting of the rules would be required.

My German flanking force leaves the redoubt to take the fight to the pinned down Soviets.

A pre-game photo of the German force in the field works.

Once again.

All the figures were supplied by Andy, who has been collecting and painting
these for years. They're older Airfix or Matchbox 54mm plastics. He also has
Americans, British/Canadians, Commandos, Japanese, SS, Afrika Korps,
8th Army in Africa, and late-war Germans. Kevin wants to find some Italians
in the scale. It makes for a good looking table.

Soviets! Urrah! The DP-LMG peeks over the edge of the rise.

The German view of the Soviet starting point. The Soviets were considered to be crouching and crawling.

Andy also has been collecting the terrain from Bring-n-Buys and thrift stores over the years This includes the sandbags, the trees, the bridge, and the house. The small walls seen in the left of the photo should be higher, but there's only so much time and cash in the world.
 I agree that the 54's make for a good looking table. Will I buy some figs for this? I can't say just now. It's tempting, especially since I've seen some WWI figs. Well, one step at a time.

Monday, 26 February 2018

Muskets & Tomahawks --- big time

I've not blogged in a while because duties have pulled me away from this activity. Funerals and meetings are things that take time and are things I must do.

     In any event, a few weeks ago, in early February, Andy and Ralph wanted to try out the game they hope to host at Hot Lead, a gaming convention in the area. (A good one, too, in my opinion.) It was a large field-action game using the Musket & Tomahawks set of rules for the French & Indian Wars in North America. This set of rules - by the French firm, Studio Tomahawk, is usually for skirmish games in the wooded areas of the north-eastern US and southern Canada, specifically Ontario and Quebec. This time, however, larger units of line troops and artillery were used. No Native tribes or rangers were to be found. I'm glad to say that the rules worked just as well for the formed troops in more open ground as they would for the more guerrilla tactics of a skirmish game.

   The French force was two good-sized battalions of Fusiliers with three cannon. The British fielded two battalions of 'hatmen' of a similar size to the French, a smaller grenadier battalion, and only two guns. Movement is card driven in the game and the proximity to "officers" is very important.

     The two sides squared off on either side of a picturesque village, a place I might enjoy retiring to if it weren't for all the fighting. No militia, rangers, Coureur du Bois, Provincials, or Native warriors were in evidence. The Grenadiers were rated as elite which gave them a few advantages, but nothing so much as to unbalance a game. (All the figures are from Andy's collection. I think Martin, Andy, and I took the photos.)

Bear and Matt discuss the advance of the Lobsterbacks.

French infantry, cannon, and supernumerary colour party.

British line infantry, cannon, colour party with grenadiers to the rear.

Les drapeaux

Some of Andy's Hatmen -- mostly Old Glory 25's
Some British units "give fire." The cotton clouds show that the muskets need to be reloaded.
Since regulars get two actions when their card turns up, loading/firing/moving in some combination
is assured.

Later in the game, the units were sustaining losses.

The French "give fire" and do some maneuvering in the back.

More shooting.

All sides took casualties. Each movement stand held 12 figures to begin with.

An early game photo. The cannon fired and the bath of the ball was traced by the smoke clouds.
We actually played two games. In the second one, the cannons were reduced to a smaller bore,
which were quicker to reload and easier to handle.

There were a lot of close quarters firefights and very few hand-to-hand moments.
One of the French gun crews

The grenadiers finally got to the front after much moving around and hesitating.

The business end of a French cannon

The fighting was up-close but none too personal. As I said, melees were just about non-existent.
It was all powder-and-ball.

A close-up of the British grenadiers as they advanced into the town.

Another over view of the entire board.
The French pulled this one out and gained a victory. Their firing/dice rolling was better and they out-lasted the British in a bloody thing. It worked well for a game and I think it'll work well at the con.

Andy's new ground cover looks like straw or dead grass. I thought it looked good. The only thing is... it caught the edges of the stands, often snagging and making lifting figures a small problem. Not really a big deal. I'm looking forward to seeing this game at the Con in a few weeks.

Monday, 29 January 2018

En Garde! trial and the better part of valour


I joined in the fun at the Hamilton Road Games Group with the intention of playing one game and ended up playing another. When I arrived, a few people were playing the Sci-fi game "Sunder the Stars" using a lot of Star Trek ships. Another group were playing Osprey Publication's En Garde, a skirmish game set in the period of "The Three Musketeers." The first game ended rather abruptly, and I got in on the second game. The first game had minimal terrain and that was beefed up in the second game. Both Eric and I ran a small warband of 6 and 5 fighters respectively, musketmen, swordsmen, and a halberdier. Martin and his associate ran a similar group. The tighter terrain made for less distance shooting and there was a lot of hand-to-hand combat, which you'd expect with these rapier-swinging bravos. (Photos by Andy, Martin, and myself.)

Two of my swordsmen advance into the garden, trying to avoid being beguiled by M'Lady deWinter.

The view of my part of the warband. The coin was the objective.
Andy put one of his Kinder-egg surprises in the pond as the fountain.
The small white disk indicates a light wound on that figure. Wounds can accumulate until the figure is dead.
Or you can be killed right away.
In the first game, my swordsmen died by doing the stupid things I usually ask of troops under may command: you know, "Attack that swordmaster!", "Jump through that window!", "Hold your ground!" My musketmen, who had taken good sniper positions in a ruined house, fell back and left the field to the enemy. As I told Ralph, who was gamesmastering, "It's not my army!"

The second game saw an interesting mix. Martin fielded a force of Korean peasants from his list for Osprey's "Ronin", a Japanese Samurai-era skirmish game. One musketman, a number of archers, a few swordsmen, and one armoured swordsman. I fielded the same eleven man warband as before. Well, the Koreans die like flies... if you hit them. The archers have a slight advantage in that they don't have to spend time reloading, but they have a slightly tougher time wounding. Of course, Martin won and smacked my Portuguese mercenary band around with his peasants.

My one fellow with a partizan attempts to sneak up on a few peasants.
The Korean 'way to the right had armour under his clothing and was very hard to hit.


Martin's well timed photo of me taking a photo.
I found En Garde to be a fun, playable with some availability of simple dueling rules, such as attack, parry, riposte, and the "mighty blow." Firearms are matchlocks, firelock muskets, and pistols. Inaccurate and deadly if they hit, the balance is about right. The integration of the Ronin warband seemed rather smooth. (I've never played Ronin, so I can't say for sure.) I've got to try a Scots warband of muskets and sword and targe or an Irish warband of archers and Galoglaich. I have the figures so it shouldn't be a big issue. I look forward to trying it again. I'd even recommend the rules to those who would find skirmish gaming in this period interesting.

The Korean musketman, an archer, and a guy with a nasty polearm.

My commander attempts to lead some swordsmen to confront the Korean right flank.
A commander can issue a "Follow Me" order and have a crew of guy (if within 3 inches) move with him
and even more ahead of him.

Here Martin's team take out a few of Eric's figures and one
shoots through a house window at my advancing swordsmen,

The "chit"with the red mark indicates a light wound.
The swirly circle chit indicates that the figure is "stunned."
You can recover from a stun on the next turn... if you roll the proper number.

Confrontation at the hedge.

The armoured sword-bearer advances.

An aerial view of the action as my swordsmen advance through the one house.
Ralph's scratch-built houses all have removable roofs to allow movement or action indoors. 

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Further Facinations

Since I've been finding interesting art work of late, I thought I'd share some more of it.

These works are from the Polish artist, Jakub Rozalski. His subjects tend more to the "Steampunk" than the futuristic Science-fiction. He draws the inspiration for his art from Polish history and from some rather grim mythology. Some of his work illustrates an other-when Soviet-Polish War of the 1919-1921, a Polish rebellion against Tsarist Russia in the 1830's, the Warsaw Uprising of 1944, and some horrific (in the sense of horror movies) works from what he calls his "Wolfpack 1863." I'm not much for horror movies, but this man's work is very interesting. His early 20th Century Steampunk works are evocative of such things as the band, Steam Powered Giraffe, as well as some alternative fiction. Many of his illustrations are for video games where they set the atmosphere.

An illustration of a twisted, steampunky version of the 1831 rebellion.
Even the Napoleonic-ish constructs are wearing shakos.

A little view of some futuristic Polish army units on some not-to-be-hoped-for battlefield.
An interesting view of the advance of the Kosciuszko Squadron made up of American volunteers.
There actually was such a unit in the Polish-Bolshevik War, but it was a squadron of planes.
Pity.
I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be as calm with the flocks if those mech stomped by.

A German/"Saxonian Empire" armoured unit advances.
The officer in the foreground is one of the characters in the video game, as his his wolf.
The mech is based on the hull of the German A10 tank from the First World War.

The Polish resistance, led by Anna, another named character from the video game.
She's usually accompanied by her bear, Woytek.

There he is! On detached duty.

Nordic Empire intervention forces. I think they're from Scandinavia and might be
Swedes or Finn (who had a bone to pick with the Bolsheviks.)

"Iron Fields" Cold... mechanized... industrial...
Anna and Woytek ask directions... and get them, I'd guess.
Note the harness and packs on the bear; he pulls his own weight.

A Nordic Hunter... a Steampunk viking! and why not?
Of course you can mix genres! It's imagination!

Polish cavalry and mechs advance past some women continuing to work in the fields.
They're braver than I.

I think this is called "Leaving Home." The woman is handing the sabre to her man before he rides off to battle
with the uhlans and the mechs in the background.
I find this piece very evocative and romantic... and really cold.

If you look close you can see the Soviet mechs firing while Red Army cavalry advance in front of them.
The Poles, both mechs and cavalry advance from the right of the piece. It appears some cavalry have been
detailed to screen the farm workers.
Winged Hussars... with bazookas! Oh, yeah!

The Battle of Warsaw. Steampunk romantic art.

Crimean Tatars with a wild tricycle mech in the background and a walking one behind that.

This is just called "Medic." My wife and daughter find it heart-breaking.
This fiery image is a piece showing the German/Saxonian (I'm at a loss) invasion of the newly
revived Polish nation.

This one has to do with the 1939 German invasion of Poland...
with a massive steampunk twist.
Scary stuff from the "Wolfpack" gallery. I don't like Werewolves very much.

This is a separate case. The Krampus and Santa Claus duke it out in the snow while children watch.
A bit disturbing.
The artist also has a series of works based on a world where Samurai Japan intersects with Viking homelands.
I think it's called "The Ancients" and there's plenty of large monsters or deities or demigods all around.
Here the giant Shogun cuts into a Samurai army.
This is just a small sample of Mr. Rozalski's work. There's lots more... some of which I'm not as much interested in. The "historical" works I find intriguing. I recommend you look them up and enjoy them. I may do more another time.

One last one... entitled "Knock knock."