Tuesday, 4 September 2012

As the Summer ended...

The Labour Day weekend at the Hamilton Road Games Club saw a number of games - Warhammer 40K on one table and Fireball Forward at the other. Rich brought in his played scenario from another games group in London and a few of us thought we'd try it. The system was new to me but I wanted to give it a try. I've been invited to the other games group, but since it meets on Sundays, starting in the morning, I can't make it... ever. I work most Sundays, except when I'm on holiday.

A small force of German troops was to hold a river crossing against a larger force of Soviet infantry and armour. Rich refereed; Andy, Martin, and Kevin ran the Red Army while DJ, Rob, and I ran the Wehrmacht. We were to hold while the Red Army was to force a crossing. Rich estimated we'd get about 6 turns in in the time we had.

The table - looking 'north'. Rich actually oriented the table to the real directions.
The table - looking southwest - this is the view of the Soviet entry area.

the German forces - two Platoons, the company HQ and a PaK 75mm which did't make it into the photo. The single figure on the round base denotes that the squad had Panzerfausts. The company HQ had a Panzerschreck as well as an HMG. A platoon of up-armoured Pz. IV's came in on turn 3.

Some of the Russians - two platoons of infantry, two platoons of tanks on board at the first move, a third platoon of infantry entered on the 2nd turn and a platoon of T-34/85s entered on the 3rd turn
Fireball Forward is a card-based move game. The referee turned cards and each time a card came up in your colour, you moved a unit (platoon). Moved units got a 'block' to show they'd had their move. (You'll see the blocks in later photos.) We German players were limited in our deployment - the AT gun, the HQ, and one platoon had to set up within 18" of the bridge on the east side of the river. The other platoon could set up anywhere on the board, even hidden in the woods. So we did that, throwing Rob's squad 'way out on the left flank. Of course, the Soviets came in in force on the right flank. Some of the reinforcements did come in on the left which caused a nasty firefight early on.

The Red Army advances! I was quite impressed with Rich's terrain. The roads and the stream were sort of a stiff foam substance while the forest area were defined by an thick felt-like stuff. FF divides the forest areas into square and infantry can move past one square and into a second while armour could only move into one. (I think the squares were 4"x4". It makes forest movement and spotting simpler than is done in a few systems, in my opinion.)
Rich's T-34/76s and Soviet infantry were very nicely painted. I was very impressed with the weathering done on these tanks. The whole game used plastic 20mm models - light, less expensive, and quite pleasing to the eye. He kept it simple since it was a new system to us - no off-board artillery, no aircraft, no flamethrowers, no Commissars.
Here the Soviet reinforcements battle the German platoon hidden in the forest. We took a chance and threw the one platoon very far in front of our defencive line. They couldn't attack the main force and got hit by the reinforcements who caused them to retreat and basically put them out of the battle.
Troops in the woods - Each base had a printed strip showing the stand's designation. (See on the far right - "1st platoon, Leader" and on the left - "2ns squad, 1st Platoon, A company) It's a good system, keeping it simple for old eyes. The infantry was nicely painted and had the usual droop of softer plastics. That's the cost of doing business, I suppose.

I tried to reposition some of my platoon from the left of the farmhouse to the right, but one squad was caught in the open by the fire of the T-34/76s and bought the farm... along with their Panzerfausts. I was going to reposition the HMG but I didn't get far when the Soviet reinforcements piled in. So I left it where it was. The tanks and the Pak AT gun began to exchange fire.... aaaaannnd that's were objections appeared. {More on that later.}

Lot of Soviet armour - the main attack force on the Soviet left/German right. The green thingies are Risk pieces that designate the speed of the tank: green=slow) The grey monoliths show which units have moved and in what order.
{If natural light hits them, they DO NOT send a signal into space accompanied by Also Sprach Zarathustra.}
One of the German reinforcing Pz. IV's - I can't remember the mark; there are so many!
Very nice paint job on a nice little model. 20mm stuff is quite pleasing to the eye.
More of the clutter on the Soviet left. Kevin and Andy pushed some of their tanks through the woods - slow but do-able according to the rules.
The T-34/85s enter and begin to take casualties. The shooting system in FF is quite unique (to me at least.) You roll a handful of dice - d20's, d6's in two colours, and maybe a d12 or d10. You hit on high numbers of the the white d6's and on 6's on the red d6's. If your rolls on the ranging dice are within the basic range of the weapon you add +1 to your white dice, giving you a better chance to hit. Each hit causes a morale check and might KO a model or unit. (There's a chart for that.) I found this system interesting and complex but not overly so and it gave the shooting player some odd chances to hit things.
the PaK gunner's eyeview as a T-34/85 brews up. Again, nice blast designators by Rich.
Whoops! Another one, Fritzie!

More brew-ups on the Soviet left. The PaK was deadly once it found the range. The Pz. IV's did some work as well; one was KO'd early.
The German anti-armour fire became deadly, knocking out one T-34/85 and 3 T-34/76's and sending another packing. At this point, the Soviets decided to stop the assault. Frustration had worn us all thin and it was time to move on to other issues.
Rich's scenario was very good and his terrain and models were a delight. In my opinion, Fireball Forward suffers from an overly liberal rule on opportunity fire. Each time a unit moved, the opposing side could fire at it - only once per moving unit, but one opportunity fire for EACH and EVERY targeting unit. The PaK 75mm could shoot at every Soviet unit on the board every time one moved. Then there were cards allowing an "interrupt" action (no better term for it.) when played, allowing a unit, like say... oh, the PaK 75 to fire again! A gun like that can "reach out and touch someone" all day long. It's quite powerful and is fast firing which allows the controlling player to fire a second time if the gun hits but does no damage. (The PaK 88 is ungodly in it's power and range in this game.)
I feel the rules need an editing. There are some innovative things in the rules that make them unique and there is some clunky stuff that needs to be re-machined and re-fitted. It was good of Rich to bring them to the club and to supply all the gear as well.

The focused view of the Pak gun emplaced behind a stone wall.
The games club will see an increase now that summer is over and school is back in session. I'll be unable to game for the next two weeks due to a reenactment next week and a wedding the week after. However... a number of us are in deep discussion regarding an "Imagini-Nations" campaign to develop in the near future. I've wanted to do this for years, but I didn't bring it up since I'd been burned in campaigns I've been involved in previous to this. ("Whataya mean you withdraw? You mean I put my entire army on the table just so you could COUNT it and RECORD it?" or "How could he hire all those mercenaries? His country is a desert and they still import sand!") I think this will be different. I may become the Elector of Hesse-Whatsittaewe!


  1. Thanks for this John. I recognize a lot of that kit, especially the old Russian ESCI infantry, and they look good. It does sound like the game looked better than it played, though.

    1. Glad you liked it, Mike. I hadn't played with 20mm stuff in an age. As far as the game went, I don't think I'll invest in the rules.