Napoleonic Day at JJCon 2020

Each year around the last weekend in January (usually Super Bowl weekend) a bunch of us get together to game our eyes out all weekend. Some are my high school gaming buddies, some are HAWKs. It is at my buddy JJ’s house outside Charlotte, NC, so we refer to the weekend as JJ Con. There were six of us this year as a few of the regulars were unable to attend.

I am in the middle of a move from Maryland to Florida. I had a car full of electronics and breakables, and Charlotte was a nice half way point. Of course a weekend of sleep deprivation made the second half of the drive from North Carolina to Florida less fun.

Friday we played a Combat Patrol(TM) France 1940 game with a scenario from one of the Skirmish Campaigns books. It was a lot of fun. Several of the attendees of JJ Con only game this one time a year, so we tend to stick with simple-to-learn rules and try to use the same rules each year to reduce the re-learning curve. Mark and Nick quickly recalled the Combat Patrol rules and were good-to-go after a turn or two. The French defenders won. We also played Eric’s fun cowboy game using Blood and Swash. That evening we played Roman Circus chariot racing and a “board game,” called Captain Sonar. Both were much fun.

Column, Line, Square

Saturday turned out to be Napoleonic Day. When we were in high school in Michigan, one of the adults we played with was Nick, who now lives in South Carolina and attends JJ Con each year. He played a lot of Column, Line, Square in the old days. Since moving to South Carolina his French, Russian, and Austrian armies have been packed away in boxes. I have been encouraging him for several years to break them out and put them on the table. This year he did! CLS has a great old-school feel. You do multiplication. The rules were written on a typewriter. And there were these wonderfully large battalions.

Russian cavalry forms up.

None of us had played CLS for at least 25 years, so we were all learning or re-learning for the first game. The table starts with a lot of figures and units and empties quickly, so after the first game we reset the table, changed the scenario, and played again. The second game went more smoothly, as we all had a good understanding of the basics — and were improving our math skills.

Setting up the game.
The French advance.
The game commences.

Duncan’s die rolling was up to par. In the second game, he failed just about every morale check (rolling 2, 3, or 4 on two dice), and at the end of the third turn, most of the units in the French center had routed to the table edge were were attempting to reform. This gave us time to deal with the other French infantry separately, but JJ’s French cavalry and Legere turned our flank and captured the key road intersection.

Another view of the advancing French. Don’t you just love those huge battalions?! This is what got me into wargaming in the first place!
The stalwart Russian defense.

There was the inevitable kvetching over the rules, which don’t necessarily appeal to modern tastes in rules, but I liked them at least as well as I remember enjoying them as a kid. Memory hadn’t romanticized them too much. One thing about CLS: stuff happens. I get frustrated when after ten turns of play, the table looks the same as it did ten hours before. In CLS, after about six turns, it was easy to see who won, because half the units had routed off the table. Musketry, cannon fire, and especially canister are devastating. The rules for melee are somewhat tedious, with lots of opposed die rolls needed, but again, the eventual outcome was clear and dramatic.

Early in the second game.

It was good to see these big battalions of Minifigs on the table again, and I think everyone enjoyed the games.

Combat Patrol(TM) Napoleonics

Our third game on Saturday was Duncan’s “Battle Before the Battle” scenario with Combat Patrol. In this game, both sides take the role of the skirmish screen as a French column advances to attack a British line. It was a close-run affair, with the British scoring more hits on the French battalion, but the British line receiving a withdraw and pin result from the French skirmish fire.

Early in the game.
The skirmishing commences. In this picture you can see the British line on the left represented by blocks of wood with pictures of figures applied. On the right you can see the head of the French column, also represented as blocks of wood. As the French column advances, two more blocks of wood are added to the column to show its advance.

Family Day at Flight School

Our son is a student at US Army flight school at Ft. Rucker, Alabama. He and his classmates first got into a helicopter three months ago, after the Basic Officer Leader Course (BOLC) and Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE) training. Yesterday was family day. For the students it was just another day — academics in the morning and stick time in the afternoon. Familes were invited out to Toth staging field about a half hour from the fort where we were able to watch our son training on the Lakota helicopter. In April he will find out which platform he will be assigned (e.g., Blackhawk, Apache, or Chinook). The flight school cadre did a nice job of explaining what we were seeing and what to expect. We were even allowed to go up into the control tower and listen to the air traffic controllers talking to the pilots. I just happened to be in the tower when they were talking to Tom on the radio. It was probably routine for the students, but it was a very nice event for the families. He even had a 20 minute break to get out of the aircraft and talk to us. He was assigned helicopter 75K for the day.

Tom’s helicopter for the day, 75K.
The Sky God himself!
Tori, Tom, and Candy in front of a Lakota.
The young Sky God with the old ground pounder.
After 90 minutes of flying, the students linked up on the tarmac and were allowed to come and talk to families.
In the morning while the students were in academics, we spent a couple of hours at the US Army Aviation Museum, which was really quite nice.

Considering how little flight time these young officers have had, I think their skills were pretty impressive. In particular, most of them were doing a very good job at hovering, despite the windy conditions.

Tom’s class is part of an Army experiment to use virtual reality for part of flight training. We have been using flight simulators for many years, and that is still part of their training, but for the first couple of month, the VR training replaced some amount of simulator and actual stick time. I think this is an idea that will work whether or not it works, because someone has decided this is a good idea. Tom said the VR system, adapted from a commercial tool to train fixed-wing pilots, had a lot of artificialities that made transition into the cockpit difficult, but when they work out the kinks, this may turn out to be effective.

Tom demonstrates autorotation at Toth staging field near Ft. Rucker, AL.

Autorotation is an important skill for pilots. If the aircraft loses power, by manipulating the pitch of the blades, the pilot can maintain enough energy in the rotors that he can flair at the end and land safely. With a two engine aircraft, like the Lakota, you are not allowed to autorotate and land intentionally, so they came to a hover at the end.

Taking off…

I was having operator headspace and timing issues with the camera and phone yesterday (the iPhone kept defaulting to still photos, so sometimes I thought I was taking video but wasn’t). We still managed to get a few good videos.

A “running landing”

Towns outside Ft. Rucker roll up the streets pretty early, even on a Friday night, but I then took Tom and the others to a very nice Mexican restaurant with great food and amazing service.

It was a good day.

Early War Americans

Some months ago, I posted that I was having trouble finding early WWII Americans for Wake Island and the Philippines. Several of us then commissioned Steve Barber to sculpt some. You can see some of the results here:

I ordered several squads of these figures, but due to a movement of my household from Maryland to Florida, I haven’t had a chance to paint them yet. Steve sent me an Email yesterday with the latest release in this line: the BAR gunner.

I really like the look of these figures. They match closely with the Pulp Figures I have and will allow much more variety. Well done, Steve!

I will post pictures of the painted figures when I have a chance to pull them from the to-be-painted box to the work table. Then you will see pictures of these in some early war Philippine scenarios using Combat Patrol(TM): WWII.

New Year’s Eve Combat Patrol(TM) and Wars of Ozz

As we have been doing every year since 2009, the Harford Area Weekly Kreigspeilers converged on my house for a New Year’s Eve gaming evening, culminating in the wishing each other a happy new year at midnight. This year we played two games. The first was a science fiction game using Combat Patrol(TM). As we are in the middle of a move from Maryland to Florida, much of my hobby stuff is already in Florida. I tried to be careful about what I took down and what I kept in Maryland for New Year’s Eve, but in some cases I had taken things to Florida, like the Albedo Combat Patrol (TM) units and Eureka toy soldiers that were needed for our games, so we had to adapt.

Science Fiction Attack/Defense

Our first scenario featured Combat Patrol(TM) WWII, which works very well for science fiction games as well.

Long shot of the table.

The (mostly) human side was attacking from the right side of the table shown in the above picture. They had a full platoon of hardened soldiers, an extra weapon squad, some light tanks, a large squad of space ducks led by Duck Wader, and a reinforced squad of Colonial Marines. Their objective was to capture three supply caches. One was in the walled town in the foreground, one was near the tower in the center of the table, and one was in the walled town at the far edge of the table.

A view of one walled town with a cache of supplies. This town was defended by an ad hoc force of mercenaries (who can be seen on the far two buildings) and a team of space Dwarfs (who can be seen on the near wall).

The attackers had enough forces to attack this town, but it was a hard-fought battle the entire game.

Patrick and Geoff took it in the shorts most of the game.

The attackers had overwhelming numbers to attack the town on their right flank, between the Colonial Marines (Woodbine), space ducks (Archive), and other forces. Geoff and Patrick got slapped around quite a bit, but they were able to blunt the attack and delay the attackers long enough that they were unable to roll up the defenders’ flank.

These are some of the attackers, early in the scenario, from left to right, Tom, Duncan, Eric (standing), Kurt, and Chris.
A view of the defenders’ center with the tower and supplies on the left and one of the walled villages on the right.
The insect men began the game near the water facility. During the game, they tried to turn the attackers’ left flank.
Geoff apparently on the horns of a dilemma.
The heavy infantry (Pig Iron) were supposed by three APCs and a support APC with a tank turret. The Drantakh hover tank (Badger) took TWO shots at the attacking tank but missed both times. Eventually the attacking tank got off a shot and knocked out the Drantakh tank.

On the attackers’ left, they advanced with two squads of infantry and a heavy weapon squad to attack the walled village, but the defenders were rushing reinforcements forward to assist.

Another view of the defenders’ center.
Another view of the tank duel between the Drantakh and the attackers. Note that the attackers were supported by a squad of terminators (in white).
A confused situation with a Drantakh tank (defenders), Drantakh infantry, a mobile engineer demolition gun (defenders), and a half squad of space ducks fighting for position in the center of the battlefield.
Toward the middle of the game, a LARC (Sally 4th) entered the table full of a squad of space worms. Note the close quarters fight between the Colonial Marines and the Drantakh infantry in the woods.

In one turn, we had SIX vehicles blown up, most from shoulder-fired weapons.

The defenders move up an armored car with a ray gun to support their infantry defending their left-most supply cache.
Darth Wader (Archive) leads the ducks forward.
The LARC conducts a vertical envelopment of the walled town.
In this picture you can see that the heavily armored special assault ducks used their jet packs to “bounce” into the town and seize the supplies.
The defenders’ armored car (foreground) has been destroyed, but the fight continues.
The ducks take advantage of bomb craters to advance across the open field.
Advancing Drantakh counter attack supported by the demolition gun.
In this picture you can see all the reinforcements that have been rushed to the village on the defenders’ right.
Space bugs! Dave’s lone squad automatic rifleman held off the bugs for several turns.
A long shot of the table late in the game. You can see that the attackers have gotten to the walls. In the next turn, the attackers climbed over the walls and began chucking grenades into the courtyard.
Another, slightly different, view of the table. The fighting was intense, but despite the facial expressions, these guys were having a lot of fun.

The game was very fun. The defenders were defeated on their left, losing one of their supply caches. On the defenders’ right, they were able to hold onto the village by throwing in Venusian giants, space centaurs, and robot troopers to bolster the ad hoc defenders and space dwarfs. The attackers never really threatened the defenders center. I called the game a defenders’ victory.

Everyone seemed to have a good time, but after four hours of playing we called the game a defenders’ victory and set up the second game for the night.

Wars of Ozz

Both people who read this blog will know that I have been developing a set of rules, called Wars of Ozz, to go along with a new line of figures to be released by Blue Moon. While we don’t have all the figures yet, we have been using ersatz figures for rules development. Traditionally Chris runs a Santa-themed game using GASLIGHT, but this year we wanted to try it with the Wars of Ozz rules. When we reset the game, in the interest of time, we elected to leave the green cloth on the table instead of pulling everything off and putting down the white cloth.

Setting up the game.

I asked several players to bring 12-point armies. You can see in this picture a lot of War of 1812 figures pressed into service as Quadlings.

The game in mid action.

The game involved five attackers (on the right) with Munchkins, Gillikins, and Santa’s troopers attacking to seize three hills across the table. There wasn’t a lot of finesse to the scenario as we didn’t know what armies we would have, how many players we would have, or how long we would have until midnight.

We were able to play about 6 turns before midnight, paused briefly for a glass of champaign, and then 2 more turns after midnight before everyone went their own ways. After three or four turns, I was mostly relegated to answering the occasional question and making game master adjudication decisions. Most of the players had never played Wars of Ozz before, but they caught on quickly. Toward the end, one of the players who is often critical said he liked the rules and would be interesting in playing them again.

Happy New Year!

We had a very good time. With the upcoming move, I was on the fence about whether this was going to be just one commitment too many this season. I’m glad we hosted the event, and I think all the HAWKs had a good time in the basement, while HAWKs gaming widows sat upstairs in the kitchen drinking wine and husband bashing.