More Russians and Some Really Useful Boxes

Eight new battalions of Russian infantry in a "really useful box"
Eight new battalions of Russian infantry in a "really useful box"

I recently finished eight more battalions of Russian infantry.  To finish the VII and VIII corps, I just need to complete several regiments of cavalry and many leaders.  It takes 30 figures to make an infantry battalion but only 10 for a cavalry regiment, so I suspect it won’t take long to complete the order of battle.  I’ve figured out what I need to order from Old Glory and will probably place the order soon.

You can get a tray the 4-liter Really Useful Box
You can get a tray the 4-liter Really Useful Box

I have been storing my 10mm figures in cardboard, computer keyboard boxes.  With 10mm WWII there are only 10 infantry figures on a base.  The density of figures for Napoleonic bases is much higher, and the cardboard boxes are beginning to crush.  I mentioned that I was looking for something better, and my buddy Mark turned me on to Really Useful Boxes.  After perusing their Web page, I determined that the 4-liter box would be the right size.  With the lipped tray, you get two roughly equal height storage levels that are perfect size for 10mm infantry, artillery, cavalry, or leaders.

The closed box with figures on the bottom, figures in the tray, and the top closed
The closed box with figures on the bottom, figures in the tray, and the top closed

Here is what the box looks like when it’s closed.  One of these boxes is shorter, but slightly taller than the thin keyboard boxes I’ve been using.  They also store a few more figures than the keyboard boxes.  For 10mm WWII, I put two battalions in a cardboard box.   It will be excellent to put two battalions in one of these, one on each level.  Then I can just hand a player either a box without the tray or a tray without the box, and he will have his total command.  Two players won’t have to fight for access to their keyboard box with another player, particularly when they enter the game on different table sides.

One of these 4-liter boxes will be just about right for most of my 28mm figures with the trays inside, but any figures that have their arms or anything else above their heads will only fit if you don’t use the second-story tray.  They also make two more boxes that are slightly taller but have the same footprint at the 4-liter boxes.  I was thinking that one of these with the tray would enable me to store the taller figures on the bottom level and the shorter figures on the top level.

On their Web page, these boxes are $15 each, but at Staples I can get the boxes for $8 each.  The trays are an additional $4, but you must order them on line, as neither Staples, Office Depot, nor Office Max carry any of the inserts for the boxes.  The boxes are much more sturdy than the cardboard ones, and after I fully convert — in several years — my shelves will have a pleasing, uniform appearance.

My Formal Retirement Ceremony from the US Army

MG Greene awarding me my retirement certificate
MG Greene presenting my retirement certificate

On 26 September 2013 I participated in my formal retirement ceremony conducted by the Old Guard at Conmy Hall at Ft. Myer, VA.  More pictures can be found at http://www.flickr.com/photos/theoldguard/sets/72157635920974634/.

Marcel "Frenchy" Lettre, Tommy, and Candy before the ceremony began
Marcel "Frenchy" Lettre, Tommy, and Candy before the ceremony began

Many family, friends, and co-workers attended, including Marcel “Frenchy” Lettre, who was my battalion commander when I was a company commander (above); my parents, mother-in-law, sister, and brother-in-law; a couple of folks I wargame with; and many of the people with whom I have been working.

The Old Guard color party
The Old Guard color party

I was disappointed when I learned that the ceremony would be indoors, but with the lowered lights and spotlights, the ceremony was terrific.

The Old Guard fife and drum corps
The Old Guard fife and drum corps
The US Army Band, "Pershing's Own"
The US Army Band, "Pershing's Own"
MG Greene providing comments on retirement from active duty
MG Greene providing comments on retirement from active duty

The presiding officer for these ceremonies is selected from the (many!) general officers stationed in the national capital region.  I was pleasantly surprised to know the presiding officer for my ceremony.  I had first worked with COL Greene when I was a PM at DARPA and he was PM Battle Command at Ft. Monmouth.  Then, when I was Chief of Staff for Research, Development, and Engineering Command, BG Greene was our deputy commander.  In fact, I attended his promotion ceremony to BG.  Now he is a major general working for the chief of Army acquisition.  He had nice comments to make to all us retiring soldiers and our families.

Thirty nine soldiers lined up to receive retirement certificates and flags
Thirty nine soldiers lined up to receive retirement certificates and flags

Thirty nine of us held our retirement ceremony Thursday morning.  Each of us received a retirement certificate and a folded US flag individually.  People asked why I opted for the ceremony at Ft. Myer rather than doing something at Ft. Meade.  First, at Ft. Meade it can be difficult to get visitors through the gates.  I think those who attended the ceremony would agree that it would be difficult to top the send off provided by the Old Guard.

The calm before the storm
The calm before the storm

The ceremony was in the middle of the day, so we scheduled a party for the evening when we thought more people would be able to attend.   When the smoke cleared, we think we had about 80 people attend.  Mark Ryan (right in the picture above) gets the award for having travelled the farthest to attend.  He tarred his driveway in the morning on Long Island, drove almost six hours to the party, stayed until about 2100, and then drove four hours home.

Candy giving instructions to Hannah, who generally managed the food during the party so we could concentrate on our guests
Candy giving instructions to Hannah, who generally managed the food during the party so we could concentrate on our guests

When I was a PM, we used to host about three events this size each year.  We quickly found that we spent so much time managing the food platters and drinks that we never got to spend time with our guests.  We typically hire a girl we know who we think can keep up with everything to manage this part of the party for us.  For this party, Hannah did a very good job helping us manage the party, keeping trays full, reheating food, taking out trash, etc.

While the guests initially broke into their “comfort” groups, we did try to encourage intermingling.

It was a nice day, despite my mixed feelings about taking off the uniform.  I will have to adjust to being “just another guy.”  Yesterday, I was in the mall and I was joking to my daughter that I didn’t want to go into a store with her that had “Navy” in the name.  She said “you’re not in the Army any more.”  That’s not exactly true.  A retiree from the Army is subject to recall to active duty until age 60.  More importantly, the Army isn’t just a job, or even a profession.  It’s even more than the camaraderie based on shared suffering, experiences, and accomplishments — even if any two people have never actually served together.  It’s a way of life, and there are many aspects of being a soldier and being a colonel that I will miss as I change my signature block from “Colonel, US Army” to “Colonel, US Army, Retired.”  I’ve been wearing the uniform of this nation for 32 years, beginning as a cadet at West Point.  While you can take the soldier out of the Army, I don’t think you can ever take the Army out of the soldier.

Getting ready for work my last day in the Army Combat Uniform
Getting ready for work my last day in the Army Combat Uniform

On a side note, I had lost my dog tags in an airport screening machine at BWI airport and didn’t notice it until the next day.  I’ve had that same set of dog tags for more than 20 years, and I wear them every day, including my time in Iraq, Korea, and Italy, through jump school and Ranger school, during hundreds of days in the field, so I was sad to lose them two days before my retirement.  Yesterday, I got a hold of TSA lost and found at BWI and learned that they found my dog tags, so I will be able to pick them up today.  After almost 30 years I have an emotional attachment to them, and I was sad that I might have lost them.  I guess that’s what comes of clean living.  

World War II Skirmish Ideas, part 7

If you have been following this series of posts, you’ll recall that I am developing some concepts for a new skirmish-level World War II game.  In previous posts, I’ve provided examples of some of the action cards as they’ve evolved.  Above is a sample unit record sheet for a player.  Note that each player is supposed to lead a squad, consisting of two half squads for most countries.  (Marines, on the contrary, divided their squads into three teams.  One might also argue that a US Army squad was divided into three teams as well.)

Below is an example of a vehicle record.  This is very early in development of a vehicle record, as I haven’t thought through all the vehicle rules yet.  I am also desperately in need of another play test of the basic infantry rules.

Note that the layout of the “back” of the vehicle card.  This is designed to give the players guidance on how to resolve the various results of hit location from the action deck.  I would guess that after a game or two most of the back of this card will be no longer needed.  I am hoping to develop some fun items for the non-penetrating hit table.  Also, I think that any penetrating hit will also include a roll on the non-penetratin hit chart.  I’m not artist, but I’m trying to lay out the back of the card in a way that is intuitive.  What do you think?

To this point in development, the only need for a die has been to roll for movement distance each turn.  To resolve these kinds of combat effects, I think I will put a 1 through 10 in the top right corner of each card.  You could then flip a card to “roll” a d10.  If players prefer, they could also use a d10 already sitting on the table for movement instead of flipping a card.

This Morning I was Important; This Afternoon I’m Just Some Guy

Today I completed my final out-processing from the Army and began what is ominously called “terminal leave.”  I will be on “terminal leave” the remainder of the week and then return to work on Monday as the deputy of the technology development program in which I was one of several project managers.  It’s interesting and important work.  Most importantly it will allow me to keep my kinds in one school throughout high school.  Today I wore my Army Combat Uniform (ACU’s) for the last time, which made me sad.  Thursday I wear the Army Service Uniform (ASU) (the dress blue uniform) for the last time during my formal retirement ceremony.

Completed Several Battalions of 1812 Russians

A closer view of the infantry
A closer view of the infantry

For the first time since May I had a chance to do some painting.  Sam Fuson has made sheets of labels for Fate of Battle that reflect real orders of battle.  For my Russian force, I am building out Bagration’s VII and VIII corps.  My current Russian force was an ad hoc mixture of things I was able to find on ebay.  That was enough to get me started and do all the needed play testing for the rules.  Now I am building out the missing bits to create those two corps.

Eight battalions of Russian jaegers
Eight battalions of Russian jaegers

At Historicon, I had pre-ordered several bags of Russians.  Two bags of infantry and a command bag make eight battalions with two color parties extra.  I’ll eventually mount the color parties on the bases for the corps commanders and Bagration.  I couldn’t sleep this morning, so I wrapped up these eight battalions of Russian jaegers.  The uniforms are just about the same as Russian infantry, except they have white plumes and green pants.

The light artillery
The light artillery

I also knocked out several batteries of artillery.  Of course the Russians in the Napoleonic Wars are known for their masses of guns.  Looking at the order of battle for these two corps, I’m not sure I want to face them on the table.  This picture just shows the light artillery in the VII and VIII corps as well as some attached directly to Bagration.

The heavy artillery
The heavy artillery

This is the heavy artillery.  As a comparison, the two French corps that I have painted have a total of 8 artillery batteries, mostly 8-lb ones.  Later in the wars, the French began to compensate for lack of well-trained infantry by adding artillery batteries to their corps — in many cases supplied by the enemy.

WWII Skirmish Idea, part 6 (I think)

I’ve continued to think about the WWII skirmish ideas while running.  Today I had both a six-mile run and a two-hour plane trip to think about this.  I have been wanting to simplify the cards a bit while also wanting to address indirect fire in a more streamlined fashion.

In the top third of the card, I thought all the modifiers and things looked too cramped and busy.  It occurred to me that the players could start in the right “column” and then apply fewer column shifts.  So in the example above, all the cards have the “EVT” labels under the first three “columns,” standing for expert, veteran, and trained, the three ratings for accuracy and melee.

I had envisioned a multi-step process using the existing mechanisms for resolving HE and other forms of indirect fire:  flip a card to see if you hit the right area [if no, then scatter], then flip a card to see if where you wanted to hit is blocked (e.g., by a window) [if so, then scatter], then figure out which figures are in the short, medium, and long radii from the point of the blast, then flip a card to determine if each figure was hit, then for each figure hit, flip a card to determine wound location.  Argh!  One can imagine the game coming to a screeching halt and folks heading out for a meal every time someone throws a grenade!

It occurred to me that I could make three octagons that are just “rings.”  These would be different sizes, representing different blast radii for indirect fire.  While a bit of an oversimplification, the smallest one would be for grenades, the second would be for small mortars (say 81mm and below), and the larger one would be for large mortars and artillery.

The process for throwing a grenade, for instance, becomes flip a card and look at the small numbers above the row of checks and x’s.  As with direct fire, the starting “column” used would based on the accuracy rating of the thrower.  The top row of numbers indicates the number of radii of scatter and the little knife indicates the direction.

Scatter distance examples
Scatter distance examples

In these examples, a veteran unit with no other modifiers would scatter two radii, zero radii, and one radius, respectively.  One can imagine that the scatter distance might be doubled for off-board artillery.  Or, you might imagine that HE fired in direct fire would use the radii as indicated on the cards, on-board indirect fire would double the scatter distance, and off-board artillery might triple the distance.  The beauty of this approach is that a weapon with a small burst radius thrown from a short distance, like a grenade, would scatter a smaller amount than a light mortar fired from some distance.  This was a problem I’ve tackled in different ways in other rules, such as BAPS.

Now, here is another nuance.  See the three blast symbols on the top figure?  They represent small, medium, and large burst radius weapons.  When all three are shown as indicated above, if the soldier is within the octagonal ring of either a small, medium, or large weapon, he has been hit, and you flip the next card for damage, just as with normal fire.  You would flip a card for for each figure in the burst radius.  Some convention might be used, like go from inside out or left to right.  The manner doesn’t really matter as long as one card is flipped for each figure.

There are 50 cards in the deck (plus two extras).  Twenty will be misses, meaning that the figure for which you are flipping takes no damage.  Ten will have all three symbols, ten will have just large and medium, and ten will have just large.  (I need to think about this math a little more, to make sure I’m including the right number of each type of effect.)  One can imagine ways to reduce this to one symbol showing the smallest radius weapon that scores a hit, so instead of having to use all three symbols, the “small” symbol would be read as “small or larger.”

What does this mean mathematically?

If there are four figures in the large burst radius, the expected number of casualties is 0.6 x 4 = 2.4.

If there are four figures in the medium burst radius, the expected number of casualties is 0.4 x 4 = 1.6.

If there are four figures in the small burst radius (a difficult task), the expected number of casualties is 0.2 x 4 = 0.8.

It might seem odd that everyone within the radius has the same probability of damage, but on average, I think it will work out fine.

See how this gets away from complicated templates, having to break out the calipers to determine who is in the short radius and who is within the medium radius, etc.

The HE procedure now is significantly streamlined from what was discussed above.  Now you flip one card to determine whether the round landed where you want it and determine the scatter direction and distance all on one card.  Then for each figure in the burst radius you flip one card for damage effect, ignoring the counting (which figure is hit) diagram.  Indirect fire, instead of being onerous, has just one more card flip (on average) than direct fire.  Pretty cool.

I’m going to bed now.

Barrage 2013

The HAWKs team that put on Barrage
The HAWKs team that put on Barrage

Yesterday the Harford Area Weekly Kreigspeilers (HAWKS) ran our annual gaming day, Barrage, in the Havre de Grace community center.  Above is a picture of the team that put together this very successful gaming event.  At it’s peak we had about 130 participants, and we presented 42 miniatures events along with a Flames of War tournament.

Geoff making us breakfast
Geoff making us breakfast

 

We all converged on the community center Friday evening to set up tables and chairs.  After we were all set up, Chris ran an “all comers” fantasy game, using Bear Yourselves Valiantly.  At the same time, Russ from On Military Matters ran several six- to eight-player X Wing Fighter games.  The community center is a 60-90 minute drive for me.  We wrapped up around 2200 and needed to converge again by 0800 Saturday morning.  As I didn’t relish the long drives or short night, so I had determined in advance that I would camp out Friday night in the community center, which has both a full kitchen and a shower.  Geoff elected to remain overnight as well.  After all the HAWKs had departed we watched an episode of Man from UNCLE on my Mac and a few other short videos before going to sleep.  The next morning he cooked sausage and eggs from his chickens for breakfast.  By the time the HAWKS began to arrive again, we were reasonably well rested, clean, and fed.

Don and Geoff at the registration desk
Don and Geoff at the registration desk
Candy manning the food booth
Candy manning the food booth. She was ably assisted throughout the day by Jennifer and Brenda. (In zoology female HAWKs are called hens, but I did't think we'd get away with that at Barrage!)

Don and Geoff manned the registration desk in the morning.  Don manned the desk most of the day.  Dealers and game masters began arriving at 0800, with gamers arriving a little before 0900.    HAWKS ladies ran the food concession throughout the day, offering hot dogs, snacks, drinks, and (later) pizza.  Food was inexpensively priced and allowed folks to stay and game rather than wander around town looking for food.

 

A difficult purchase chose at one of our dealers
A difficult purchase chose at one of our dealers
Joe DiCamillo participating in the Flames of War tournament
Joe DiCamillo participating in the Flames of War tournament

We had several dealers.  Steve, from Age of Glory, has been supporting Barrage for 13 years.  For the past two years, Russ, from On Military Matters, has been coming to Barrage.  In addition we had several other folks selling books, games, and figures.  The dealers told me that they did well.  We even had a couple of folks come to Barrage just to spend money with our vendors.  Barrage is an “old school” convention with the dealers arranged around the outside of the gaming area.  This allows players to slip over and sample their wares between turns and in many cases allowed vendors to participate in a game or two while still watching their tables.  Russ had an X Wing Fighter game going most of the day, and Steve got to participate in a Force on Force modern Afghanistan scenario.  Bob from the I-95 gamers hosted the second annual Barrage Flames of War tournament.  By all accounts the tournament was very successful, despite another Flames of War tournament being scheduled on top of ours elsewhere in Pennsylvania, which sucked away at least five participants.

A battle during the Spanish Civil War
A battle during the Spanish Civil War, using Bolt Action

Above and below are samples of some of the excellent games we had on offer at Barrage.

Getting started playing "The Bridge"
Getting started playing "The Bridge"

The game pictures above used some ‘beer and pretzels” rules from Bill Molyneau.  This was the first tabletop gaming experience for the three young men in the center of the picture.  They got to play in three games (Dr. Who by GASLIGHT, Aerodrome, and this ACW battle), and they expressed interest in coming to a HAWKs club meeting.

Another view of the Flame's of War tournament
Another view of the Flame's of War tournament
Bill and William running a very attractive War of 1812 game
Bill and William running a very attractive War of 1812 game

Bill and William ran this very interesting War of 1812 game of a battle in which Bill had two ancestors.  He used John Bull and Patriots for the game.

Sean's Fireball Forward game
Sean Barnett's Fireball Forward game

Once again, Mark and Sean, the authors of Fireball Forward, supported Barrage.  The game looked great, and the players were engaged the whole time.

Brian Cantwell's ancient naval game
Brian Cantwell's ancient naval game

Brian Cantwell ran this beautiful ancient naval game.  The ships are paper models with 15mm figures deployed on them.  I think Brian had 10 players, and the game seemed to go very well.

Bob and Cleo in a very interesting 6mm modern game
Bob and Cleo in a very interesting 6mm modern game
Steve's attractive Shako II game
Steve's attractive Shako II game
A young gamer in Geoff's Lego pirate game
A young gamer in Geoff's Lego pirate game

In addition to several kid-friendly game, the HAWKs normally dedicate one table to games designed for kids.  We didn’t have very many kids this year compared to other years, but here is one youngster who enjoyed Geoff’s Lego pirate game with his aunt.

Dave Wood's Fate of Battle game
Dave Wood's Fate of Battle game
A really nice looking ACW game
A really nice looking ACW game
Squire Chris running is Bear Yourselves Valiantly game
Squire Palmer running is Bear Yourselves Valiantly game

I think this game was a play test for Fall In.  Chris said the game was “intense” and went down to the wire.  I never did find out who won, but the players all had a great time and left the game looking like they had survived a real battle — in a good way!

Two guys for whom Barrage was their first gaming event
Two guys for whom Barrage was their first gaming event

Above is a small piece of a Dr. Who game using GASLIGHT, featuring an elaborate tunnel system and lots of chaotic action.  This table was a source of lots of whooping and hollering during the morning.

Dystopian Wars
Dystopian Wars
Ed Watts' pirate game
Ed Watts' pirate game
Dr. Who, Daleks, and a tremendous tunnel system
Dr. Who, Daleks, and a tremendous tunnel system
Nazis using a time machine to hunt dinosaurs
Nazis using a time machine to hunt dinosaurs

For the second year in a row, Bendan Watts ran his Eat Hitler game, in which Nazis in their time machine hunt for dinosaurs to help with their war effort.  In this case, all the Nazis became dino-snacks.

Duncan's award-winning game of Crysler's Farm, during the War of 1812
Duncan's award-winning game of Crysler's Farm, during the War of 1812, using Wellington Rules

The last couple of years we had a monotonically increasing number of gamers and games.  While the trend continued, the increase this year was very modest, which was a bit disappointing.   Attendance was impacted by a huge accident on I-95 that affected the Philadelphia and New Jersey gamers.  It was also affected by a competing Flames of War tournament that siphoned off 5 to 8 of the players we expected.  Despite the lower than expected attendance, all but three of our scheduled games were run (as a policy we try to push folks into the guest game master gamers, so the three games that didn’t run would have been put on by HAWKs), the dealers did well, and all the participants had a great time.

If you didn’t make it this year, and you live between DC, Frederick, and Philly, you really need to make Barrage 2014 part of your plans next September.

 

Began Work on Russian Jaegers

I started work last weekend on eight battalions of 10mm Russian Jaegers.  It was the first time I’ve picked up a brush since May.  Between the move to a new house, Summer vacations, and other events, I just haven’t had time to paint.  I have been trying to fill out my Russian forces IAW the order of battle and labels that Sam Fuson prepared for Fate of Battle (available as a free download from the LSNC Yahoo Group).  I bought eight battalions of jaegers at Historicon, but this is the first chance I’ve had to paint them.  I will have some time off the last week in September, and I hope to finish them, along with 24 batteries of artillery.

Backpacking Shenandoah National Park

Setting out

This past three-day weekend I went with the Venture Crew to backpack in Shenandoah National Park.  This was meant to be the kids’ first overnight, long-distance, back-country, backpacking trip in preparation for our planned trip to the Grand Canyon next Summer.  The kids did a very good job for their first trip of this kind.

Pizza Hut

After fighting our way through traffic in the global epicenter of stupid (DC), we stopped along 66 for dinner at Pizza Hut.  We then continued to Shenandoah National Park, arriving near 2200 at our camp site in Big Meadows camp ground.

The park entrance

The next morning we drove along Skyline Drive for about 50 miles stopping from time to time at scenic overlooks.  Unfortunately there was a mist covering the valley, so some of the views weren’t as spectacular as they might have been.

The tree

At one stop, some of the kids decided to climb a tree.  What isn’t clear from this picture is that the bottom limb on which the two girls are sitting was about eight or nine feet in the air.

The gang

At another stop the kids did some rock climbing.  These are all the kids who came on the trip, minus one girl who joined us later in the day.

On the march

After hiking a couple of miles on Saturday, the sky opened up, and we were drenched.  At one point we took refuge under a rock overhang while the storm passed.

Setting up camp

After hiking about three miles and linking up with our missing crew member we set up camp in a fern-covered area.  This was probably the first time that most of the kids had camped in a non-prepared, meadow-like camp ground with comfort facilities.  Setting up camp went well, and the kids enjoyed a good night.  Several of the girls kept the rest of us up quite late with their squeeling and giggling.

A welcome rest

Sunday was “death march” day.  We had planned to hike about six miles, but at the six-mile mark we were on the side of a steep mountain with few good sites to set up six or seven tents.  By the time we reached a decent campsite, we had marched over 10 miles over goat trails and rough terrain.  I’m proud of the way the kids kept up their spirits despite the exertion.

Setting up camp

Along the way we stopped at a stream to replenish our water bottles and soak our feet in the cool, swiftly-moving water.  Water purification techniques included filter systems and iodine tablets.

A stream crossing

Camping on a rock

We finally made camp on this rocky outcropping.  Again it was a new experience for many of the hikers to camp in an unimproved and less-than-ideal location.  Some of the kids found small patches of moss or grass on which to pitch their tents.  The boys ended up on a steep slope and spent the night sliding down inside their tents.  The good news was that the water soaked through their tent, so they got to be wet all night too!

The view from our rock

… But this was our view from our rocky campsite.  Wow!  I woke up about 30 minutes before the others and watched the mist passing between the various lines of mountains in the distance.  It was quite a morning.