Monday, 23 January 2012

Boot Camp Continues

   For the third week in a row, a portion of the Hamilton Road Gaming Group practiced their Disposable Heroes skills. Andy and I faces off (Soviet Russians vs. German SS) in an experimental match. Robby faced Tyler (Americans vs. Germans) while Martin and DJ did a training scenario (Sikhs vs. Canadians.) Actually Robby and Tyler got two games in. Our restriction was 1000 points on a side, which might include vehicles. My wife and daughter ate lunch with us and then went to the London Dog Show. More on that later.
   Tyler and Robby had two close fought games, Robby's M4 Sherman dying in both outings.

Robby's GI's take cover behind the stone walls and among the dogs.

This dog show "the better part of valour."
(There's a theme developing here.)

Tyler's 8cm mortar doing what it usually does - NOTHING!

Andy and I tired an experiment. He'd been reading an article on the ability of better trained/veteran troops to make better use of cover. He came up with a fairly simple way to do that, using small chips showing the movement of the element. (sneaking/standing still in cover = -2 DM to enemy fire, Maneuvering = -1 DM, running = 0 DM, elite troops = +1 DM additional) The background for this was the idea that paratroops/rangers/commandos/Panzer Lehr were as easy to spot and hit as Home Guard/Volksturm. This didn't seem right to Andy and DJ agreed. I was willing to experiment. It worked to an extent, although it slowed the game down to a degree. The chips helped to keep track. More on this later as well.

We chose a fairly congested urban fight. Houses by the Dollar Store;
cobblestone square from Christmas village supplies at Canadian Tire;
fountain/monumnt is a Roman soldier atop a plactic communion cup in
a medicine bottle top. The Pz. IV was a wreck so it was scenery.

Andy's Russians pinned in a house.

Martin's Soviet appartment block. "Such a view, Tovarich!"

A lone LMG was actually in the house. Photos of the new SS figs in
"Erbsenmuster" cammo togs are to come later.

Soviet  house party! I got slapped around in the large  ruin.
It was a knife fight.

My MG-42 team in that two-storey ruin.

The Russian 76mm AT gun which ventilated a house or two... and a squad.

The mobile artillery... which didn't move all game. Why should it?

The Maxim team hiding and damaging my morale. The chip shows the
element is in "cover" with a +2 DM meaning those firing at them fired at a
further -2 to their accuracy. Nice figs in any case.

Well, I lost. That's not unusual; I lose far more often than I win. (A spiritual director once told me "Anything worth doing is worth doing badly.") but it wasn't all in vain.

Lessons learned:
  • Elite troops are great, but EXPENSIVE. My 1000 points of SS was 'way out-gunned by the less-expensive and therefore, more numerous Soviets. Lots more rifles, HMG's, armour, and artillery for the same amount of points. My morale was better but morale doesn't turn away bullets in this game. This is one of the reasons for our experiment.
  • The jury is still out on our experiment. It worked and has value, but it slowed the game down noticibly. There is also the inescapable equation of combat: more shooters = more hits = more casualties. An expensive SS Sturmmann/Guard Grenadier/Paratrooper can be laid low by a shot from a Volksturm/militiaman/conscript just as easily as from a trooper of equal game morale quality. Quality will make the difference in equal numbers... but remember "Patton's Law": There are more Shermans than Panthers here, and more on the boat. We're going to continue the experiment later. {I hope this experiment is not taken as dissatisfaction with the Iron Ivan rules. We're just trying something. Who knows? Maybe the game designers tried the same thing and rejected it?}
  • The dog theme continued. Dogs ran all over Robby and Tyler's game. Beth and Katie went to the dog show. Later that evening, we received our first foster dog, Dakota. He was rescued from the local pound and had been placed in a home that didn't work out. Now we're part of the rescue movement in this area. So here he is:


Next week, we cannot attend the Gaming Club. It is the annual meeting of the King's Company of Historical Reenactors so we'll gather for meeting, drill, and lunch at the Elgin Regiment's Armory in St. Thomas, ON.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Disposable Heroes Boot Camp... part 2

     The second week of the "Boot Camp" went well at the Hamilton Road Games Club. Two good games were played and some new ideas came up that are quite worth while.
     Two tables were used again. Each player fielded 650 points. Andy, Wayne,and Damien (Germans; Damien assisted Andy) played Martin (Sikhs) and Robby (British paras) on an extra large table. I faced DJ (Canadians) and Tyler (Americans) with a strongly reinforced 650 point of Waffen SS. Since I was outnumbered, I defended and added a piece of armour - the family's favourite Hetzer! DJ and Tyler added M3 halftracks and I had a German 251/1 halftrack. Robby added a jeep with a .50 calibre MG. Martin, Andy, and Wayne added more troops, especially anti-tank weapons.

The East table from my position -
DJ's Canadians advanced on my left and Tyler's Americans on my right.
I tried to hide in the grain field in the foreground.

The West table -
Damien, Andy, and Wayne on the left of the photo;
Robby and Martin on the right

     I lost... badly. Not that's unusual for me, but DJ and Tyler ripped me up with their halftrack MG's and their heavy machine guns. My Hetzer scared Tyler but achieved some fleeting fame by being the FIRST VEHICLE EVER TO BE DESTROYED IN ONE OF OUR GAMES BY A BAZOOKA! (A dubious honour to say the least.) Tyler caught the Jagdpanzer on the side and kicked it in with his bazooka attached to the HQ section. I was caught in the wheat field and could have squirreled myself back into the grain and make the guys dig me out, but the library closes at 5 and I had things to do and places to go.
    Robby reported to me that the other table was larger and still cluttered. The fight centered around the large ruined house on his side of the board where Damien poured almost all his troops into that ruin, so Robby felt he had to follow suit, or suffer from dug-in fire. Martin and Wayne played hide-and-seek in and among the fields and woods. The game ended in a draw, although the Germans might prevailed if the curfew hadn't been reached.

Tyler's GIs advance in a grain field.

DJ's Canadians with their BattleBus

My Hetzer - such a nice model.

The 251/1 with the HQ section and Panzerschreck

DJ had to call a PIAT team a Bren gun team, hence the yellow bingo chip.

US BAR section at the edge of the field - they can see and shoot, but also can be seen and shot AT!

DJ's Canadians in the field. I've got to get him to name a regiment!

A Bazooka's eye-view of my Hetzer. I mourn and gnash teeth!

Sikhs high and Red Devils low.

Manning the Vickers - Taffy and Binky (My son will skin me for those names.)
Martin's Sikhs take cover - coolly and professionally.
A Zug of Infantie - keeping everyone honest.

Pinned but defiant - Andy and Damien's Wehrmacht

     Lessons learned and acted upon:
  • 650 points for each player is too, too much on the table. Things just get too tight. We decided that next week's game will be 1000 points on a side, with a lot of variation in the lists, but no aircraft or off-board artillery, and minimal armour. We thought that this might make for a quicker game with less possibility of "steping on each other's toes." So 1000 point lists will be prepared for Americans, Canadians, Sikhs, Germans and Russians. I may put together a Finnish list just for laughs.
  • The grain fields represented by cut-up door mats had some contradictions last week. This week we set a common set-up. When troops are in the field, they recieve cover as per light woods (-2 to the accuracy of those shooting at them) and you have to be within 2" of the edge of the field to be seen/shot at or see/shoot. Two enemy units in the field can only see each other when within 5" (as opposed to 10" in woods.) However, units can see over the field and shoot over it taking the penalty for a linear obstacle. We figured that soldiers could crouch and get through such a field without being seen and could hide from others in the field since it's a lot thicker than a woods. That moving grain - is it a squad or wildlife? Vehicles could move through a field at slow or medium speed only. This seemed good to us.
  • When it comes to buildings on the table, either use lots and lots or use them very sparingly. Lone buildings, especially big ones, become attracters of every unit on the board and the first ones into it control that part of the board. They also attract the attention of every larger weapon on the board. Like standards in some games or the Ark of the Covenant in a Israelite army which attracts every arrow on the table, such buildings can do the same... unless there are more buildings present or a misson that keeps you from hunkering down in the building.
  • Missions really work better than "meeting engagement." Objectives help to focus the player whereas a meeting engagement implies that positions, dispositons, and force compositions are known to the opposition. That can get really tiring. Often you just pour firepower on somebody without regard as to what your mission/objective/direction is. It isn't too bad for 18th-19th Century battles where battle lines and volley fire are required. With most 20th Century games, it's all light infantry tactics responding to firepower and you might not even know what's opposing you. In earlier times, you generally have to see and be seen to shoot your enemy. (I hold that the firearm/musket is not the weapon in linear warfare, but the unit firing the muskets, since they are so inaccurate.)
  • There is a "tipping point" to every set of rules, a point at which the rules begin to creak, fray, and shatter. (I knew a fellow who wanted to play a squad-level game of the ENTIRE battle of Stalingrad. That might be the work of a few lifetimes! Either that or an invitation to a padded room and a jacket with very long sleeves.) As much as I like Iron Ivan games... I'm a true fan and I'd recommend them to anyone... there comes a point where you have to shift to a larger level of play. More players and more subunits can make the game unplayable. If you want to do battalion level or brigade level, you will hve to change your rule set. Let me get back to you once we play the 1000 point-a-side table next week. 
  • We need more terrain! I suppose veteran gamers concentrate on terrain pieces once their armies are set enough. (But... "Money is God's way of saying you don't have enough miniatures!")


Intelligent GIs

In any event, I wish you good gaming! Make it fun... 'cause if you play for another reason, it isn't play. (My personal motto is "Anybody can grow up; it takes a real man to be a boy all his life.")

Friday, 13 January 2012

Favourites... ("Not that anyone cares.")

One of the blogs I follow ("Don't Throw a 1" by Ray Roussel in the UK) engaged in a little deep background work. I usually hesitate to do this, since I often discount my opinion, yet what are blogs for? Ray quoted another gamer/blogger: "We all  have favourite games, periods, inspirations and so on, the challenge then is to document what they are so we can all see what drives us....." So here goes.

Periods -    I reeeeeealy like the Napoleonic period. I started out in the early '70's with Airfix conversions, and moved to Minifigs, and beyond. Presently, I push 15mm Austrians, Swedes, and Turks, usually fighting against my wife's Italians with their French add-ons. We also do the War of 1812 in 15mm ("large" battles and battalion level) and 28mm (skirmish.) 7-Years War in Europe (15mm) is always a load of fun for me. I've added ACW (28mm skirmish and 15mm battalion level), WWII (28mm Skirmish), Spanish Civil War (15mm large skirmish), French and Indian War (25mm skirmish) and Ancients (25mm large armies - Gauls, Early Imperial Romans, Late Romans, and a Hebrew army.) I played WWII Battalion level but moved away from it. On occasion, I play 1/1200 sailing ships and Wings of War WWI aircraft, and once in a while some Sci-fi space craft. I'd like to get back into Renaissance/30-Years War/ECW, but lack the time.
     One game I really enjoy is Traveller, an RPG based in the far future. I still succumb to the lure of D&D once in a while.
      I've also played fantasy gaming with a certain large company's game and 40K and Epic Space Marine, too. Oh, I forgot a favouite - Warmaster!

The Vatican Hit Squad for
Where Heroes Dare

 Rules -
     I cut my teeth on Column, Line, & Square, moved to Empire II & III, suffered through Eaglebearer, a computer based set of rules, and now do Shako for large battle Napoleonics. I truely enjoy the Iron Ivan games with we use for F&I, 1812, WWII, ACW, WWI, SCW, and Pulp games. Their stuff has to be among the best, most playable, and well thought-out rules around. I would recommend them to anyone. Although I've played Warfare in the Age of Reason, I prefer KoenigKrieg for the 7-Years War. I'm very much interested in using Mr. Lincoln's War for ACW larger battles. Warhammer Ancients, Don't Give Up the Ship, Wings of War round out the stable. I'm looking to introduce Clash of Empires and General de Brigade (for battalion/brigade level 1812) sometime.
     In the past, I'd also done Spearhead, Command Decision, Newberry Fast Play for Ancients and Renaissance (a misnomer, sorry.), and a few others, some of which I don't remember... or don't want to remember.
     Oh, I played Flames of War... once. I still itch.

Figures -
     I get the feeling that we are in the Golden Age for figures. I don't remember any time when there were more manufacturers! (Of course, I was out of communication for quite a few years and out of money for many more.) For Napoleonics, I prefer AB Figures, Battle Honours, and Minifigs (especially for 1812 in North America). 7-Years War - Freikorps15 and Essex. Ancients - Old Glory (affordable and acceptable) and Foundry. SCW - Peter Pig and anything I can scrape together. ACW - in 28mm, Perry Miniatures; in 15mm, Old Glory 15s, Essex, and some Falcon Minis for the odd stuff (Garibaldi Guard and such.) WWII - 28mm-Warlord plastics, Black Tree Design, Battle Honours, and Bolt Action (very nice.)
     Obviously, I don't have a favourite manufacturer. Often it depends on what I can find. I still like to see the figs I'm purchasing. I'm old fashioned that way.

Influences -
    One of my biggest influences was my father. He didn't care for my staying in and painting or gaming. He wanted me to be more athletic, but he tolerated my foibles and did answer my questions about his military service. In World War II, he was regimental supply sergeant for a US coastal artillery (anti-aircraft) regiment sent to North Africa, Corsica, Sardinia, and southern France. When they disbanded the regiment (to convert most of the personnel to infantry or transportation corps), he transfered to the Transportation Corp and ran the port of Marsailles for a while. He retired after 20+ years service in the Army Reserve with the rank of major. I suppose that set up some of my interest in history.
    My family's interest in re-enacting has been an influence as well. Learning the 1812 US Manuel of Arms and standing in a firing line is something to be experienced. You see your games in a whole different light.

Books -
   Let's see... Cornwell's Sharpe series, Laumer's Bolo sci-fi books, The Lord of the Rings, Glen Cook's Black Company fantasy books, Anderson's Flandry books, the Osprey and Hippocrene books I've been collecting since the 1970's (I've got some OLD ones.), Forrester's Hornblower series, the Honor Harrington series (without the soap opera), Heinlein's Starship Troopers, my crazed interest in history and my wife's degree in history. Not much history, I know but what can I say? I should read more of Adrian Goldsworthy's stuff; supporting the family, y'know. (We're not related, as much as I might pretend.)

Movies -
    The Last of the Mohicans, Glory, Gettysburg (thought to be a mess by many, but I have a buddy who was in the Signal Corps portion of the film and I've walked the battlefield a few times, so I like it.), Saving Private Ryan, Enemy at the Gates, Das Boot, Michael Collins, Sparticus, The Lord of the Rings, A Walk in the Sun (That's an old one.) I really can't remember any more. 

    Well, that's enough. I know I've missed a lot, but I'm out of patience. I've come a long way from fighting Robin Hood vs. Sheriff's Men in the Sherwood Forest playset ("by Marx!), throwing the Maid Marian figure to knock down the enemy. Good gaming to all of you!

Monday, 9 January 2012

Disposable Heroes Boot Camp

    An idea occurred to some of us a while back. Since we play so many different periods and so many varied sets of rules, wouldn't it be a good idea to stick with one period/rule set for an extended length of time. So that's what we did. The historical bunch in the Hamilton Road Gaming Group decided to make the first six weeks of gaming for 2012 a "Disposable Heroes Boot Camp." We'd have six  weeks worth of World War II games using the Disposable Heroes rule set  by Iron Ivan Games and get real familiar with those rules. Command Authority (who shall remain un-named 'caus "I don't wanna.") set the first game to be 600 points of infantry and foot support (HMG's, heavy mortars, etc; no vehicles) to duke it out in Italy in roughly 1944. More complexity would be added later.
     On Saturday, January 7, eight of us played on two tables. Andy, Mark, Wayne, and I played German platoons with support, while Robby played "Red Devils" British Paratroops, DJ played Canadian infantry, Tyler played US infantry, and Martin played Sikh infantry of the British Commonwealth. (It was still the Empire then, I suppose.) Mark and I faced Tyler and Martin. Andy and Wayne squared off against Robby and DJ.
    It was quite a successful run. The Allies won on our table and the other table saw a draw. We kept it simple - no tanks, artillery, aircraft, or unusual troops. Robby is a veteran at the game so the Red Devils were an OK choice. DJ wanted to add in all his Canadian M-5 halftracks including his M-16 MGMC (Multiple Gun Motor Carriage) with 4 .50 calibre MGs, but he said he's wait for the addition of the vehicles. Andy and I supplied the Germans; He chose to have a third infantry squad while I decided on a sniper team and 8cm mortar team instead. Martin's Sikhs were colourful, each squad having turban in different shades

The "east side' table - Martin, Tyler, Mark, and John...  as Tyler's son watches.

Martin's Sikhs advance.

Tyler's GI's advance past the big ruin. The Allies got in first and ruined the
Axis players' day. I did actually have a mortar hit something and mess up
Martin's command section while they hid in the ruins.

My German command section advances of a wheat field that started life as
a door mat.

Martin, Tyler, John, and Mark - "A reading from the Book of Armaments"

Sikhs defend the wall at the rubber road. Although rated like all other
Commonwealth troops, the Sikhs added a lot of colour and diversity.

One of Mark's LMG crews looks for a target.

These Sikhs retreated (two red chips) and the GI's provided cover.

The "East side" table - Andy, Wayne, Robby, and DJ

The Red Devils advance along the creekline and into the woods.

Wayne's Germans using the ruins to good effect.

Andy's HMG took up a grand position.


DJ's Canadians advance into the small woods and pass the wheat field.

Holding the churchyard.

Wayne, Andy, DJ, and Robby - two of the four are military veterans.

Stubborn defenders

Robby's sniper team - Commandos serving as Paras

     Everyone who took part enjoyed themselves. This coming week, we're adding 50 point to each list (maximum of 650 point each) and a soft-skin vehicle can be purchased from those points,  up to and including a halftrack. No tanks yet. Lists will be readjusted to swap men or equipment for AT weapons.
     Just about every one of the players is satisfied with the Iron Ivan rules - playable, adaptable, understandable, using common sense where necessary. We add things like "roof penetration" for two story ruins, and allocation of just where the mortar bomb hits when multiple units are in a ruin. Probably in two weeks we'll add a tank. [Note: in this rule set, tanks on their own are REALLY vulnerable to infantry close assault. They are NOT the unstoppable monsters we imagine them to be. With out infantry support, they are just about dead ducks every time.]
     If  you happen to be in London, ON on a Saturday, the Hamilton Road Gaming Group gathers at about 10:00am and  plays to almost 4:30pm at the Crouch Branch of the London Public Library on the north side of Hamilton Road, west of Adilaide Street (next to the Beer Store, if you need a landmark.) Many different games might be played on any given Saturday and the gathered group may varry from week to week. But if you're a gamer, you'd be welcome there.