Random Enemy Generation

I have written a number of blog posts about my use of cards for a new skirmish system I have been developing.  I was reading a recent article in Miniature Wargames about generating enemy forces for solitaire play.  Now, I’ve never done much solitaire gaming, as I’ve generally been lucky enough to find or build a gaming group whenever I’ve moved to a new area, but this idea intrigued me.  The author of the article had some really interesting ideas.  I did enjoy Ambush some years ago.  I was thinking, however, that I could replace the use of charts and tables to generate enemy units, locations, cover status, and activities with cards.  The US Army has something called a SALUTE report (Size, Activity, Location, Unit or Uniform, Time of report, and Equipment).  If we eliminate “U” and “T,” it seems to me that you could divide up the card by the other letters.  Then you could use a series of card draws to generate enemy forces.

First draw:  Is there a new enemy unit?

If so, second draw:  What is the size of the unit?  A vehicle?  A squad?  This would cover both the size (“S”) and whether they have any special equipment (“E”), such as a machinegun, flame thrower, etc.  I think the results in this section of the card would need to be made generic so that a player would be able to select something “about right” from the figures and vehicles he has on hand.

Then make the third draw:  What is the enemy’s location?  (Yes, this is out of order for SALUTE.)  I see a dial of some sort like I use in G.A.M.E.R.  It seems to me that the randomly-generated enemy should be sort of cover, but perhaps not.  I guess I just don’t like the idea of a lots of enemy units popping up in an open field at short range.  It can happen, of course, but shouldn’t be the norm.  (By the way, just because they’ve been put on the table doesn’t mean that friendly forces have spotted them.  Normal spotting rules would still apply.)

Fourth draw:  What are they doing?  This might be dependent on the location draw.  If the enemy is in cover, then they are …  If they are in the open, then they are …  Options might have then fire at a nearby player unit, moving toward a player unit, defending something, etc.  This needs to be fleshed out.  Thought experiments while running will only go so far.  I’ll need to put this on the table many, many times to come up with a good list of options.

When do you initiate this process?  Is there a maximum number of enemy units that can be placed?  Lots of questions, but it seems worth fiddling with at some point.

I have too many other irons in the fire just now to spend a lot of time on this, but it will keep me busy on my next few runs.  I am thinking about this as a companion to G.A.M.E.R.

Sammy Completes a Project for Duncan

Sammy shows off her handiwork
Sammy shows off her handiwork

My daughter, Sammy, has been painting terrain pieces for members of the HAWKs for some time now.  She doesn’t enjoy painting figures, but she seems to really enjoy painting terrain.  She is relatively inexpensive, so it’s been a win-win.  The HAWKs get something painted that was deep in their painting cue, and Sam gets a few dollars to spend on whatever teenage girls spend money.

This was Sam’s most intricate project to date.  Duncan had asked Sam to paint this building he found in a flea market.

We think the building is from Grand Manner.  If you have never gotten buildings from Grand Manner, you’re missing a real treat.  They are fully sculpted inside and out.  The detail is fantastic!  They are premium priced, but worth the money.

Some years ago I bought several of their ACW buildings during a sale, where you could get a set of ACW buildings for a set price.  They painted up really nicely.

I think Sam did a terrific job on this building.

As usual, she did the entire thing herself.  I bought her a nice box for her paints, but she has been using her painting profits to get more bottles of paint, brushes, etc.

Sometimes she’ll ask me for suggestions on colors, but largely, she does this independently.  In this case, I suggested green shutters to give the building a little color.

 

Thinking About Vehicles without Turrets

The other day, when we played the vehicle-only game, I started thinking about how to handle vehicles without turrets.  I wanted to avoid modifiers to the cards.  I had a “rule” that said that turret hits on vehicles without turrets were hull hits.  But I thought that didn’t take into account the lower profile of these vehicles.  So I changed to rule to say that hits on turrets were misses.  That didn’t seem to account for the fact that these vehicles couldn’t really go “hull down.”  It seems to me that an even greater portion of these vehicles is exposed in order for the gun to be able to fire, since the body of the vehicle is typically wider than a turret.

    In G.A.M.E.R. there really isn’t the same notion of “hull down” as in other rules.  If the part of the vehicle hit is behind cover, such as a wall or hill crest, the vehicle is protected — just like for infantry.  I’m thinking about using laser pointers, because in G.A.M.E.R., the terrain is its actual height on the table.  (In other games terrain is often some abstract elevation.)  So if the laser is blocked by something between the shooter and the hit location on the vehicle, the vehicle is protected.

    This is the long way around saying that I don’t want to add any modifiers, but I want to account for the unique characteristics of these vehicles.  What I’ve decided to do is color the hull section yellow on half the cards that indicate a turret hit.  If you draw one of these cards with the yellow, a turret hit is converted to a hull hit.  If you draw one of the other cards (with no yellow), the turret hit is a miss.

Sample Card
Sample Card

Before I make a final decision, I want to try this out in another vehicle-only game.

Screaming Eagles

The American Screaming Eagle Squadron
The American Screaming Eagle Squadron

I finally finished my American WWII infantry riding on giant American eagles.  In an earlier post I mentioned how I was able to get Major Objective painting service to mold and paint the riders for me.  The eagles were collected from flea markets over the past few years.

Nazis on Pterodactyls Against the Screaming Eagles
Nazis on Pterodactyls Against the Screaming Eagles

All of this effort was to have opponents for my Eureka Nazis.

The American Screaming Eagle Squadron
The American Screaming Eagle Squadron

The delay in finishing this project was bases.  I ran out of Games Workshop flight stands.  It turns out that none of the hobby stores in the area had any in stock.  I was going to mount them on the round, wooden bases you see in the picture above.  I get these from a guy at Historicon who sells as many wooden bases as you can stuff in a Chinese takeout container for a fixed price.  All I really wanted was the clear plastic rods.  So, I ordered a ten-pack of plastic rods from Tower Hobbies.  They arrived in three days, and I finished this project this weekend.  I think they look pretty cool.

Rating Vehicles in G.A.M.E.R.

Since the vehicle test went relatively well last week, I’ve been thinking about how to develop the armor and penetration numbers for the vehicles.  Here’s my thinking:

 

Information on armor in various parts of a vehicle can be gathered on the internet and other sources.  As this isn’t meant to be a published project, I will just do this for a handful of vehicles.  Then anyone who wants to stat up another vehicle can do so, using the formulas.  Sometimes what is reported is just the front hull.  Other times what is reported is a range (e.g., the armor on the Panther varied between 10mm and 120mm), leaving the reader to guess that 10mm was the rear hull, the turret and side armor were in the middle somewhere (about 50 – 55mm), etc.

Armor:

To compute the armor number in G.A.M.E.R., take mm or armor, round up to nearest 10, divide by 10, and add 4.  As an example, the frontal armor on a M4E8 “Easy Eight” was about 178mm, making it one of the heaviest armored vehicle fronts of the war.  A standard M4 (earliest model) was about 75mm.  Different Sherman versions varied between these two extremes.  Let’s start with the Easy Eight.  The frontal hull armor would be 178 -> 180, 180 /10 = 18, 18 + 4 = 22.  Using the same formula, the M4 would be 12.

 

Now that result is just a meaningless number until you look at penetration.

Penetration:

(Just for reference, rifles have a penetration of 1 and pistols 0.)

 

At short, medium, and long ranges, take the book value for penetration, round up to the nearest 10 and divide by 10.  As an example, the 88mm KwK 36 L/56, depending on ammunition used, had a penetration of about 120mm at 500m.  So 120 / 10 = 12.  Another example:  An ATR at short range had a penetration of about 35mm.  That would be 35 -> 40 /10 = 4.

Putting it together:

An early Tiger with an 88mm KwK 36 L/56 gun hits the front of an M4 Sherman.  The Tiger rolls d10 and adds the penetration of 12.  Let’s say he rolls a 5, that is a result of 17.  17 is greater than the 12 armor on the front of the M4, so the hit penetrates.  If he had rolled a 1, that would automatically be a “bounce.”

That same Tiger with the same roll of 5 would NOT penetrate the front of the Easy Eight.  In fact, the 88mm KwK 36 L/56 would need to hit the side or turret to penetrate, as the front of the Easy Eight is just too thick.

 

The ATR fired at the Sherman would have a penetration of 43.  If the player rolled an 8 for penetration, that would give a result of 12 compared to an armor of 12, which would indicate no penetration.

 

Yes, I know that not all armor is created equal, but it’s a good enough approximation for what is meant to be a fun skirmish game.  Of course people could fiddle with the stats to handicap their favorite vehicle.

With these formulas, anyone using the rules can quickly create the stats for their vehicles and get playing.  And I don’t have to spend the next two years doing it myself and then listening to people complain about the stats I gave their favorite vehicles.  If it was known that a particular vehicle had a weak area, the results of the formulas can be modified to suit the players’ perceptions.

 

The next step is to build the formulas to determine the movement speed in the game based on the real tank’s quoted stats.

 

I’ve also added another attribute to vehicles.  It is the maximum number of elevations that a vehicle can go UP in a single activation.  I was reading somewhere recently that the Germans were constantly surprised at the climbing ability of the Sherman.  (Of course it was a medium tank, not one of heavy tank like self-loathing American and Brits with axe to grind like to compare with the Sherman.)  So the Sherman might have a max climb of 2, while most other tanks might be a 1.  Or perhaps those numbers are 3 and 2.  I’m still working on it, but if you think about this simple mechanic, I think you’ll see how elegant it is.

Last Days of the First Empire Scenario Book

Announcing the upcoming release of this exciting new scenario book for war gamers.  

Napoleon’s 1814 campaign is little known, often treated as a footnote between Leipzig and the Hundred Days.  Many Napoleonic gamers have read that Napoleon demonstrated his old genius but was overwhelmed by numbers.  The research Dave Wood did on this scenario book allow you to experience these battles yourself.  Players will find that the situations presented are interesting and fun.  Last Days of the First Empire brings you 12 historical scenarios from this interesting campaign.

The battles can be played separately or linked to play the entire campaign.

Although the book was written with Fate of Battle: Look, Sarge, No Charts: Napoleonic Wars in mind, the scenarios are written to enable players to use any set of Napoleonic rules.

Last Days of the First Empire will be published by On Military Matters in the near future.

Bear Yourselves Valiantly Driving Toward Completion

The team that brought you other popular titles in the Look, Sarge, No Charts family of rules (Surdu, Wood, and Palmer) are working toward a Summer release of this new title.  The book will be published by On Military Matters.

We have teamed with Magister Militum to and their upcoming release of a terrific line of 10mm fantasy figures to go along with their existing ancient line of figures.

For more information, check out our Web page.