Tuesday, 25 February 2014

The Laws of Wargaming

As I'm sure you all know, humans need laws in order to 1) deter damaging and/or anti-social behaviour {I almost wrote "criminal", but without law there can be no crime since crime is the breaking of a law. I know that tortes are "legal, civil wrongs" that are not necessarily actionable as crime, but I digress.} and 2) to delineate what a society might consider "right." This gobbledee-gook is one way of considering law. There are also scientific laws like "For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction." or "A body in motion tends to remain in motion, unless acted upon by some outside force." We humans love our laws. Did you know it's illegal to walk whistle while walking backwards during the showing of a movie in one small town? Did you know it is illegal to be homeless in Columbia, South Carolina, USA? {Again I digress.}

All of us who play wargames know that there are laws governing the playing of the games that have NOTHING to do with the actual rules of the games. I'm taking it upon my self to draft an incomplete list of such laws and I request that my reader add to the list. Most if not all of these "laws" are corollaries of Finagle's or Murphy's First Law: "ANYTHING THAT CAN GO WRONG, WILL." Here goes, starting with my favourite:

  • A newly painted unit will always rout/be destroyed/surrender in it's first time on the table.
  • You opponent will attempt to place the figures out of your reach in the place "that will be to your best advantage."
  • A important and distinctive item/unit/general in your force -one you can not do without- will serve as an "missile-attractor" i.e. The Ark of the Covenant in an Israelite Ancients army will draw the bow-fire of EVERY enemy bowman in range... and out of range... and on other tables... in other time zones... and periods. The USS Enterprise will be the target of the entire Klingon fleet. 
  • Your elites aren't.
  • Fast troops will not move and always at the most inopportune time.
  • Your artillery will usually be masked when most needed.
  • Dice are perverse... at best.
  • Your best-painted troops will lose in melee to your opponent's badly-painted/barely-primed/unpainted figures mounted on hacked cereal box stands. 
  • Tying up your opponent's guard or elite troops with some sort of irregular light cavalry or scum skirmish infantry will lead to recriminations and strained tempers.
  • Reinforcements will arrive at the farthest possible point to be of any help to you and will be late.
  • Gaming will go better if there's beer.
  • Good gamers learn from their defeats; mediocre gamers learn SLOWLY from multiple defeats; poor gamers learn to whine about their defeats.
  • Lefebvre's Law or Hohn's Law: Any day you get to throw dice and push figures is a good day.
Here's a few visual versions of these and other laws. Please feel free to add more as comments.

A crater is a crater, no matter where it came from.

Fanatics aren't.

Compared to the "real world", our arguments are laughable.

"Able Fox Five to Able Fox. I got a target but ya gotta be patient."
Timing is everything.

Monday, 24 February 2014

Campaigns in Libraria: The Battle of Glockenspeil Pioneer Village -- 22 February 2014

For the second week in a row, the armies of Libraria marched. The disciplined, iron-shod legions of the Electorate of Saxe-Freedonia joined the wild and wooly clans and troops of Galifrey to meet the regiments of the Principality of Frankenschwein and the Serene Republic of Rationalia. This means that Beth and I aided by Kevin faced Andy, Martin, and our special guest, Mike "The Mad Padre" who accepted our gracious invitation and came down for the day from Kitchener/Waterloo where he is on an educational sabbatical.
It might have been "Dirty Tricks Day" but such is life. Everybody set up ahead of Beth and I which meant we saw their deployment and took advantage of it while they went to lunch. We shouldn'ta oughta done it, I suppose, but the opposition took it well. Martin had recovered from last week's attack of Brain-Fade-From-Writing-My-Thesis, but Andy had shovelled too much snow this week and had thrown his back out. He was in a lot of discomfort. Well, we probably won't take such advantage of our opponents again.

In any event, the field was cut at about the 2/5th line by an unfordable river that had three crossing points. Kevin held our left with two militia battalions, a regular battalion, a regiment of dragoons, and two guns, one medium and one heavy. Beth was in the centre with 5 "clan regiments" of Jacobite-ish Scots, two regular battalions, and a regiment of dragoons. I was on the far right with 4 regular infantry battalions, two grendier battalions, a regiment of dragoons, a regiment of heavy horse (Dragoons with improved morale) and two gun, one medium and one heavy.

Dragoon Regiment Scungili and Regiment of Horse Firefly on the Freedonian side

Martin's Rationalian dragoons and infantry

Rationalian cannon and Marine Corps troops

Appearing for the first time, Colonel Pepper's Lonely Hearts Dragoons
A mercenary regiment --painted at my daughter's request -- like the cover of the Beatle's album
Colourful and plastic (models by Zvesda -or something like that-  in 1/72)

The Clan regiments of Galifrey - lots of plaid and pointy, cutty, sticking things carried by screaming Celtic maniacs.
My kind of people!
Beth has a t-shirt that says "I can't keep calm! I'm Scottish!"

Frankenschweiner regulars with the Archbishop's Own Regiment in the centre.
Since I named the Mad Padre as the Archbishop-Metropolitan of Freedonia, it seemed appropriate to have his own regiment. They turned coat for this game, but all is forgiven! They're back in barracks in Freedonia and his Beatitude, the Archbishop is forgiven his momentary insanity!
We had to advance since the Scots are none too good at defending a position and Martin had already ensconced himself on a ridge line. Mike menaced Kevin's flank and Andy hurriedly shifted his troops to the other side of the river through a ford in their deployment area. I sent my troops forward and my dragoons and horse met Martin's dragoon and armoured horse in a head-to-head cavalry battle. My dragoons met his armoured horse and his met my horse with the expected results. The Scungili Dragoons took off in a rout, although they shaped up off-board and would have come back had night/curfew not fallen. My heavy horse regiment hit Martin's dragoons and drove them back disorganised. I was later to fall back myself. My infantry never really got into range to even fire their muskets. One grenadier battalion kept an eye on Martin's armoured horse as it tried to turn the flank and actually got behind my troops.
The big show was the assault by the clans in the centre.

Beth's "Cossack-y" Dragoons before their ill-fated charge against Martin's guns.

Ill-fate in person. The sideways stands are casualties. The figures are WWII Cossacks painted all fancy for the SYW period. Warfare in the Age of Reason has rules for true Cossacks but they're REALLY irregular and mounted individually. We use those rules for Robby's irregular First Nation's Cavalry.

The Charge of the Clans. Four Clan regiments hit Martin's grenadiers and marines. The results were about even. Some of the line held and continued to melee, while the unit hit by two clans routed. The Clans are not a guaranteed thing but they ALWAYS charge and all that plaid and broadswords and targes is scary.

These lads had to charge up-hill. The figures are old Thistle and Rose figures sculpted and marketed by the late Jamie Fish. I always liked the figs which were "muscular" (read large) 15mm.

The white drapery rings are casualties.
Off on the left flank, Kevin and Mike glared at each other over the stream. Mike threw a light cavalry regiment over the ford only to have it hit by two cannon which did a fair number of casualties and caused an high speed return to their starting point. Pepper's dragoons took quite a few casualties from cross-river small arms, but Kevin was doing exactly what he was tasked to do - hold the river line and secure that flank for the entire army.
Beth sent her dragoons to take Martin's artillery out of the game, but she got the short, dirty end of the stick and had to fall back. When her clans charged - with much whoop and hollar as well as bagpipes - they hit the Rationalian line hard. Two clan regiments were held while the two others chases off a battalion of grenadiers which led to a break-through charge onto another Rationalian unit.
Soon after that - at the end of 7 turns - we called the game or as we say in Libraria "Night fell." The results were inconclusive and arguable. Andy was hurting pretty bad and Mike had an appointment with a local hobby store. (as his blog reported - see http://madpadrewargames.blogspot.ca/2014/02/saturday-painting-table_22.html) I hope he enjoyed himself and that he'll join us again in the future.

There are always lessons to be learned. (One of Finagle's Laws hold that no experiment is complete failure; it can always be used as a bad example.)

  • We need to either draw maps and deploy on paper first or hang a curtain... which is not a realistic thing.
  • We need to determine objectives; it'll make for a better game since battles aren't fought in a vacuum. Glockenspiel Pioneer Village was the only feature on the board and we all ignored it. Martin called it "Dutch Wonderland" which is actually a real amusement park in Lancaster, PA. It isn't a true Amish Disneyland since they have electricity and a monorail. I've never been there; it's across the highway from the site of HISTORICON! I mean, really.
  • The point system Andy developed works rather well. It allows for a balanced force with many choices. I've thought of taking an all-cavalry force and calling it a raid. It could be fun.
Frankenschweiner light cavalry of Mike's brigade coming up on the river.
(FP&B castings AWI British Light Dragoons)

Frankenschweiner artillery - a medium gun (FP&B AWI "German" gun and crew)

The commander of the Galifreyan forces with his conveyance and his faithful companion.
Another view to show off the scarf. (Black Tree Design figures in 25mm)

Martin's armoured horse regiment does an end run over my Traveller dice while the grenadiers of Battalion Pooka keep a watchful eye. (Yes, I play Traveller and thoroughly enjoy it.)

Martin's personal command stand. I can't remember the manufacturer. A lovely Sedan chair with associated hangers-on.

Colonel Pepper's dragoons after having been shot up rather badly. Still they hung on to the bitter end.
They must be immune to the "new unit curse."
(One of the laws of wargaming states "Freshly painted units will die or rout in their first outing on the table.")

His Beatitude, Michael, Archbishop-Metropolitan of Saxe-Freedonia, Hereditary Sandwich of Monte Cristo,
and Saxe-Bariton Curling champion.

Mitzi, the major attraction at Glockenspiel Pioneer Village.
Open daily March through November.
Only 3 ducets for an all day family pass.
Free bratwurst for the kiddies.
Tell them Andy sent you.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Campaigns in Libraria: The Battle of Ginsing Farms 15 February 2014

It seems that Martin was under the weather. Andy and I concluded that it was the Molson Flu - that's our answer and we're stickin' to it, no matter what excuses/lies/propaganda/half-truths Martin comes up with. We decided on a medium small Imagi-nations game of about 120 points each which gave us each a tidy little force. I had 8 infantry battalions, 2 grenadier battalions, 1 irregular light infantry battalion, 2 dragoon regiments, 1 irregular light cavalry regiment, 2 medium gun batteries, 1 heavy gun battery and 2 generals. Andy's force as similar with some more infantry including militia and no light cavalry.

 We faced off with a forest in the centre of my deployment area and the gin-sing farm to my right. Andy had a good-sized hill in his centre and a forest to his left. There were terrain pieces off to our right/left/northside of the table, but since we didn't go there, they're not worth reporting on.

I advanced with 6 infantry battalions, 2 grenadier battalions, a medium gun, and the heavy gun on my left. My dragoons, the light cavalry (the Franistan Shilitars in their first appearance on the table, as brief as it was), two infantry battalions, and a medium gun on my right. The Saxe-Bariton Jägers held the forest in the centre of the line.

Andy's Frankenschweiner legions on the centre hill

Hellduzer's gin-sing farm viewed from the North. Shanton's Dragoons are riding by for reasons that will be told later.
Artillery opened the ball, but proved to be less than effective. Andy's dragoons attempted to turn my left flank, but were discouraged by the turning of Grenadier battalions Hohn and Pooka to menace him. My line battalions soon got into a firefight with Andy's troops and we ended up in very close firing range. My medium artillery battery came into action as did one of Andy's mediums. This was the first time our artillery came into close range! It made the action a bit more bloody until the batteries began to lose crew... which cuts their effectiveness.
The troops of Frankenschwein show their discipline in linear tactics.

The Freedonian left flank from the enemy's perspective - Dragoon Regiments Shanton and Scungili with a medium artillery battery backed by two battalions of infantry.

The Frankenschweiner dragoons, artillery, and -in the background- Kleinvolk militia

The Freedonian infantry on the left flank - Regiments Luzurne, Gibbs, and Hoch-und-Deutschmeister, a medium gun battery with Grenadier battalions Hohn and Pooka in support.

Freedonian heavy artillery - dealing righteous death to all the Elector's enemies!
The Frankenschweiner dragoons attempting to turn my left.
The Shilitars attempted to flank Andy's left and made a mad dash into the woods on his far left. They met his dragoons and were routed! No surprise there; irregular class 1 cavalry in their first time on the table vs. regular dragoons? I'm surprised my Bashi-bazooks didn't catch fire before I took them off the table! My dragoons attempted to charge. Regiment Shanton failed to charge while Regiment Scungili ran willy-nilly (that's an actual command in the Electoral army) into a unit in square. Lesson learned. The "Sea slugs" routed but later recovered. Andy's dragoons came around the flank this time and routed one infantry battalion, made Shanton's dragoons fall back, and wiped out the medium gun battery.

The ill-fated dragoon charge. Regt. Shanton with General Lebo holds back while Regt. Scungili attacks a square. It was their fire time on the table and had to try to get them to do SOMETHING!

A bad photo of the Franistan Shilitars as they sweep in to attack the Frankenschweiner rear.

Frankenschweiner artillery... slowly becoming a grand battery.

Simitar vs. broadsword - The Shilitars melted like butter in the sun.
On my lift, as the infantry lines exchanged volley after volley, Andy's hovering dragoons charged home against the rear of 2/HuD... and it was gruesome. They had no room to redeploy into square as this would bring them closer to Andy's infantry nor was there time to turn them around. All I could do was shift 1/HuD down a bit to keep the breakthrough from hitting them. My grenadiers came up fast to plug the gap as 2/HuD disappeared in a flurry of swords and horse crap. Andy brought a grenadier battalion off the hill to menace the right flank of my brigade so I countered the move by bringing the Jägers out of the forest. They were a distraction at best and soon broke under artillery fire and scampered back to the safety of the woods.

The Frankenschweiner's infamous destruction of 2nd Battalion, HuD.
Oh, the pain!

The Saxe-Bariton jäger make nasty faces at the Frankenschweiner grenadiers.

My jumbled left flank as I attempt to bring fresh troops into the battle.
I soon discovered that I had lost 30% of my force, but could not negotiate an army withdrawal as the rules allow, so I conceded the game. My right was a shambles and "them-what-make-it-so" were coming to make mincemeat out of my left. Time to leave. Besides both of us had some things to do and we can blame the curfew.
I really get a kick out of these games. The rules - Warfare in the Age of Reason - work well for us and we can be all sorts of creative with our regiments' uniforms and names. Andy is far more regular than I. My infantry uniform is based on Russia in the SYW although I have two battalions in the Swedish blue-and-yellow. The light infantry, sepoys, border troops, and combat engineers are a crazy quilt batch. The hussars and light cavalry are fanciful while the Dragoon are based on Prussia/Russia again. The cuirassiers are actually based on the Austrian cuirassier's armour when fighting Turks. It looks like a throw-back to the Thirty Years War with cuirass and lobster helmet. My artillery is very Austrian. 
We intend to try this again next week. Better luck to me!
Frankenschweiner infantry in square.
Regiment Luzurne marches into trouble or glory. You decide.
The majority of our troops are 20mm figures from Frying Pan & Blanket - a nice little range I'd recommend to anyone who games Horse & Musket in 20mm.

An air-borne shot of my dragoon brigade

Grenadier Battalion Hohn -with the red-brown gaiters- advances

The major feature of Flat-Tree Hill on my far left was this copse of trees.
For a while I worked for a fellow who moulded his own figures and sold them in his shop.
I got these out of a scrap box one day.

Hence the name "Flat-Tree Hill"

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Patton's Dream

At long last, the weather permitted me to get to the Saturday games group. Rob decided to spend the day with friends so I was on my own. I joined Andy, Kevin, and Martin for a game we'd been planning for a long time. Derek and Bear joined us for a while until they realised that they had a previous engagement with Battletech at another table.
The scenario was one for an alternate 1948 where the Soviets faced NATO including the remnants of Nazi Germany, the US, Canada, France, and Great Britain. It was really an excuse for Martin to get out his Panzer-Disney toys - the stuff on the drawing board and the proving ground that never made it into production. The West was heavily outnumbered but was dug in - sort of. There were also two twists in the plot. First, a convoy of vehicles carrying special scientific equipment had to get through, although the two vehicles containing the graduate students were expendable. Second, a group of jeeps and a civilian car carrying General "Buck" Turgedson's mistress needed to get off the board. The scenario allowed for certain things to happen once those groups got off the board. We were using Iron Ivan's "Disposable Heroes" rules with no infantry and ignoring the "target acquisition" rule for expediency.
The Soviets attacked with T-10s, JS-IIIs, KV-5s, T-44s, T-54s, and an incredible amout of T-34/85s. Defending were German tanks like the Maus, the E-100 with twin squeeze-bore 88s, and a bunch of Jagdpanzers from the drawing boards, all with huge cannon. The US was represented by 2 M35 Taylor heavy tanks and 2 M106 heavy tanks. The French contributed 2 AMX-13s, and the Canadians entered later with Centurion Vs and IIIs.

Andy and Derek set up the Soviets while take "the pause that refreshes."

Some of Martin's German stuff - A Löwe, the E-100, and the Maus

The American M103s and M35s. The French AMX-13s are just on the edge of the photo.

Paper houses - inexpensive and always worthwhile!

From later in the game - Kevin's Cossack charge of the T-34's
I decided to key on getting the special stuff off the board. The mistress caravan of 4 jeeps and a Mercedes-Benz limo moved very quickly and got off the board triggering the arrival of 2 A20 attack bombers, which did a little damage. The slower scientific convoy had to make way for them and for the arrival of the Royal Canadian Dragoons and their Centurions later on.

The scientific convoy of two half-tracks crammed with grad students and a Raupenschlepper Ost full of science stuff.
(A favoured quote from MST3K - "Turn up the Flash Gordon noise and bring in more science stuff!")

The mistress convoy at high speed.

Eek! KV-5's!

JS-IIIs disguised as JS-II's (Models I traded to Andy for something, I don't remember what.)
Since my tanks were dug in, I didn't take many casualties early in the game. Since my dice rolling was absolutely wretched, I didn't deal many casualties either. It was truly sad. If I hadn't been in a "hull-down" position, I'd have been cut to ribbons early on. With all the 120mm, 86mm, 88mm, and 100mm guns firing, it could have been messy. When the Centurions arrived with their 20 pounders... well, it didn't help.

JS-IIIs... I thought these were great models.

The Tiger III and the Löwe brew up.

The scientific convoy make way for the Canadian Centurions. The lead tank is a Centurion V but Martin had to use a German Leopard II model. The others are Centurion IIIs.

The Maus brewed up real good!

An overview of the board late in the game.  The T-34s are approaching into knife fight range. My tank destroyers are being destroyed - light armour, heavy gun, you know the tune. The E-100 couldn't hit the broad side of a barn. The AMXs proved more valuable than I expected, even if they were armoured with tin foil.
In the end, I got the two convoys off the board, but I lost the town. Kevin got some T-34s into the town and my inability to hit anything made the outcome a given. Even the minefields were ineffective. No use whining; it was a fun game none-the-less.

Urrah! Urrah! Urrah! De Cossaquibus!
Kevin's horde roars in as more wait to enter.

JS-IIIs negotiate the small woods and the little wall. That a T-10 burning on the far left. I discovered later that the T-10 was to be called the JS-IV, but Stalin died and fell out of favour, so the designation had to be changed,

Geez-Louize! Dere are a lot o' dem tanks out dere, heyna?

Martin's Centurions - I was impressed and still am. I like the Leopard too, but I've always liked the Leopard.

Kevin drives his tanks "into my eyes." The tactic worked. The two closest tanks passed the US heavies shortly after this was taken. The German "Emil" tank destroyers have taken it on the chin, as you can see.
Later that evening, I relaxed in the family room with my rat-pulettes - my daughter's rats.
Spryte in white and Gizmo in black watched some TV with me and peed on my sweater which my wife interpreted to mean they like me so much, they've claimed me as their own. (I think they were just full of pee.)