I haven’t been ready to start a new project recently. Nothing has jumped out at me lately, and I have a lot of projects that haven’t been put on the table lately. Games I want to run in the foreseeable future are:
My weird WWII game with Germans on pterodactyls, Americans on giant eagles, and Brits on griffons. I still have a little work to do on the griffons and the German “bomber” before this is ready to put on the table.
A Robin Hood game to try out Howard Whitehouse’s Outlaws of Sherwood rules.
I haven’t had my French and Indian War stuff on the table in a while, and I am just about done painting all the Acheson Creations terrain from their Kickstarter project.
I haven’t put my Mexican American War figures on the table in a long time.
I have been collecting Plasticville buildings to flesh out my town of Granville for some pulp gaming.
I haven’t had my cowboys on the table in quite a while.
I haven’t run a Victorian science fiction game in a long time.
I haven’t put the zombies on the table in a while either.
So with all those projects ready to play or nearly ready to play, I haven’t felt compelled to start a new project. So, I have I have been whittling down my unpainted lead mountain. (Actually compared to most gamers, my unpainted lead mountain is more of a mole hill.) Two weeks ago I pulled the last of the Battle of Five Armies figures out of their hiding place and began painting them. I have recently finished another 12 bases of goblins, some giant spiders, flocking bats, and giant bears as well. I also primed and mounted on popsicle sticks several sets of Copplestone 10mm figures that I bought from RLBPS a couple of years ago. The orcs, half orcs, and goblins are on the painting desk along with two units of 28mm plastic British I will paint for the Northwest Frontier.
While there is no danger of this occurring in the near future, I am really whittling away at the unpainted lead.
This winter my daughter and I are going to finish repainting a bunch of Plasticville and Litko buildings and also work on our stores for the club zombie shopping mall game.
This weekend, I found one of the “Toobs” at Michael’s that I thought had use in a 10mm ancient or fantasy game. It is a set of famous world landmarks. The ones shown on the right of the picture will fit nicely on a built-up area on the table. The ones on the left are probably not usable. Big Ben is in the gray area.
I recently finished about 800 points of human for Bear Yourselves Valiantly. These are the humans from two Games Workshop Battle of Five Armies starter sets. Now, I’m working to finish up all the goblin infantry and a few other odds and ends.
This past Thursday, a group of the HAWKs took time off work, retirement, and/or daily activities to travel to western Maryland to a professional development event for the 114th Signal Battalion. This is the eighth such event that we have helped run. Each year gets more and more sophisticated. This year Sam Fuson orchestrated an event for 54 officers, NCOs, and civilian staff. We couldn’t think of a historical battle for which we had enough troops that would get 54 players into the action, so we hit on the idea of running the same battle six times. We still didn’t have enough troops, so we decided to run the same battle in six historical periods and make the technology differences and how those impacted tactics part of the learning objectives. I was pushing for Lake Trasimene (Romans vs. Carthaginians), but Sam suggested Quatre Bras. While the tactical situation is quite interesting, I was a little worried about some players sitting around for a couple of hours waiting for their troops to come onto the table. We set up a greatly accelerated arrival schedule for both sides. (Above is the stylized map we used for this event.)
We felt it was important to disguise the battle. We didn’t tell anyone this was based on Quatre Bras. We called it “Four Corners.” We did this, because one of the learning objectives was tactical problem solving. We felt that if the players knew the battle, they might research it and come into the game with pre-conceived notions and plans. Even for the Napoleonic version (game mastered by Dave Wood, USMA 1984, using Fate of Battle: Look, Sarge, No Charts: Napoleonic Wars), we substituted Austrians for the British to help disguise the battle.
Eric Schlegel ran “Four Corners” with Union troops substituted for the French and the Confederate troops substituted for the British. As Eric pointed out, with the accelerated reinforcement schedule, this was a very hard scenario for the attackers (the French in the original battle). For the Civil War version, we used A Union So Tested: Look, Sarge, No Charts: American Civil War.
Duncan Adams ran Four Corners as an early WWI battle with the French as the attackers and the Germans as the defenders. For this battle, Duncan used his mashup of Look, Sarge, No Charts: WWII and A Union So Tested.
Kurt Schlegel setting up his 73 Arab-Israeli War version of the scenario using Look, Sarge, No Charts: WWII. The large patch of woods on the table was converted to an orchard that didn’t slow movement as much as it did on the other tables. He also replaced the stream with the ditch you can see running down the middle of the table. The French at Quatre Bras were replaced by Syrians, with Israelis substituting for the British.
I floated from table to table, taking notes, providing some hints to the players, making sure that all the games were run consistently. As usual, the players generally caught onto the rules with little difficulty. Very few of the players had ever played war-games before — except for those who participated in these yearly events. There were a few who still needed hand holding by the end of the game, but by and large, they managed to become self supporting after a few turns.
Chris Palmer ran Four Corners as a battle during the War of the Roses using Bear Yourselves Valiantly: Look, Sarge, No Charts: Fantasy, Ancient, and Mediaeval.
Eric Schlegel and Ed Duffy ran the Civil War version of Four Corners with A Union So Tested.
In each scenario, there were five victory points. Victory went to the side that controlled 3 or more points by the end of the game. These victory points were represented by flags on the table that Sam made for all the tables. Initially four flags were in possession of the defender. One was placed in Quatre Bras, one was placed in the small woods near Quatre Bras just west of the north-south road. The third was placed on the small hill along the east-west road, just east of Quatre Bras. The fourth was placed on the large hill south of Quatre Bras. The fifth victory point was based on casualties; the side that lost the fewest bases during the battle was awarded the fifth point. Initially the four on-table flags were those of the defenders’ countries. When captured by the attackers, the flags were changed to that of the attackers’ countries. This provided a visual indication of how the battle was developing.
This was a pretty easy fight or the defenders, so the defenders’ commanders had pretty simple schemes of maneuver. Still, only about half of them planned for a reserve. Most just shoved reinforcements into the fight near where they arrived.
It was interesting to see how each of the attackers had somewhat different schemes of maneuver. In some cases their main effort was to push up the center where most of the victory points were placed on the map — but where the defender was strongest. In other cases, they planned to push through the large woods to accrue the benefits of cover and concealment. The slow movement through the woods — particularly in the earlier historical periods — made this a difficult maneuver to execute. In the WWI game, which had the least mobile forces, the attacker wanted to try a double envelopment around both flanks! Finally, some decided to move around their right where the enemy was weakest in an attempt to take Quatre Bras from behind.
One of the players shouted “Whoever designed this game should be shot!” half way through the event. He was expressing frustration at the fact that he could see the whole battlefield but his units couldn’t spot the enemy and didn’t always do what he wanted. I think by the end, he saw the realism of the game’s mechanics.
On the War of the Roses table, the attacking commander impressed us toward the end of the fight. His left was crumbling, but he decided to focus on the objective, Quatre Bras, and have the remnants of his left flank conduct a delaying action without reinforcements. He sent his reinforcements (mounted knights) up the center. Unfortunately his knights got bogged down pushing up the large hill (friction inflicted on him by the game’s activation mechanics), so he didn’t have the success he deserved. I’ve see a lot of long-time gamers make the mistakes of reinforcing failure or losing focus the objective. It was neat to see a professional military officer do it right.
I just retired from the Army after 28.5 years plus four years as a cadet. There are days when I miss the camaraderie of soldiers. These annual events are fun for me to be around soldiers, their friendly trash talk and banter, and their general attitudes.
Sam Fuson and Geoff Graff ran the WWII version of the battle with Look, Sarge, No Charts: WWII. The Germans took the role of the French at Quatre Bras, and the French took the role of the British.
The final scorecard: The attackers won 3:2 on the WWII and Arab-Israeli War tables. The attackers lost on all the other tables. I think the scenario, while still hard, was easier for attackers with modern maneuver capabilities. Despite Israeli air support, the Syrians maneuvered through the orchard. They captured the two flags on the hills south and east of town, had maneuvered north of Quatre Bras, and with more time might have taken the town from the Israelis.
From the standpoint of executing the event, we forgot that the VFW where we played has 8-foot long tables. The standard gaming table is only six feet across to allow easy access to move troops in the center of the table. We made the decision to use 8×10 tables and leave some “white space” on the sides. This made it very hard to reach troops in the center of the table — where most of the action was occurring. Next year, I think we should find a historical battle that we can play on a table five feet deep and 16 feet across. This will allow each reach to the center of the table and provide lots of lateral maneuver room.
After the battles were over, I conducted an after action review where I tried to tease out some lessons. We reviewed the principles of war (mass, objective, offensive, surprise, economy of force, maneuver, unity of command, security, and simplicity) and how to apply them on the tabletop. I pointed out good and bad examples of many of these principles that I saw during the battles. I also tried to emphasize that the defender must still have a scheme of maneuver and cannot be just passive. Next year, I think we should find a battle in which the attacker has the advantage and the defender has to be aggressive to win.
Feedback from the participants was good. I think this was a very successful event. The HAWKs, including three new participants (Duncan, Kurt, and Geoff) had a good time. We must be doing something good, because they keep inviting us back!
I ran GAMER again at Fall In. Interested readers can search on GAMER or G.A.M.E.R. in my blog to see entries that describe the development process for these rules. In general, I was happy with the way the rules played. We had one or two players who couldn’t seem to get the hang of the card-based combat mechanism, but most did. The games flowed pretty quickly and smoothly.
Cory Ring of Cigar Box Battles sent me one of their wargaming terrain mat products. These are beautiful terrain mats printed fleece. Even with the roads printed on them (not all have roads), they are quite flexible. Many, many people came by to look at the terrain. One of the things that I like is that, being made of fleece, they drape over hills without annoying wrinkles.
Here is what it looked like after I added all the rest of the terrain bits. I think the overall effect is quite good. If I have any complaints, I think that this particular mat may be too woody. I had to lay out some other felt bits to cover up some of the trees to provide fields of fire for small arms to make the WWII game more interesting. They have many different designs, including snow, desert, stars, woodland (with roads), and woodland (without roads). Lately they have begun making mats based on actual historical battles. I THINK that this mat is one of two for the first day of Gettysburg.
I ran two iterations of GAMER on the same terrain. One involved British commandos and French partisans trying to rescue a captured British general from a farm house. The second was a meeting engagement between an American platoon and a German platoon.
The commandos advanced slowly toward the farmhouse. The partisans took the slow route through the woods, but despite that, they made it into the farmhouse first. They beelined upstairs and got involved in a swirling melee for three or four turns with the Germans on the second floor. In the end, the British/French force got a narrow upper hand, and I judged that the general had been rescued.
I still have a number of details to work out, but I’ll get there. They still aren’t as fast or fun as I had hoped, so I keep tinkering with them. I am using the activation mechanism from Battles by GASLIGHT and the Look, Sarge family of rules, but I keep hoping to come up with something even better.
I’m having fun with the rules, and most of the people who have tried it ask me when they might be available for sale. I’m pretty fed up with British magazines giving short shrift to all rules American (without actually playing even one game with the rules) and there being no US magazines in which to get reviews. The TMP crowd is full of folks who generally don’t do anything themselves except criticize the efforts of other, better men (look up The Man in the Arena speech by Teddy Roosevelt). I don’t have sock puppets. The one time I asked members of the GASLIGHT Yahoo group to go to Board Game Geek and write about the rules, good or bad, only one person did so, and he spent a page going into gory detail about how much he disliked the new Compendium. So, I don’t think I am going to go through the pain of writing these up for commercial publication. I have written over a dozen sets of rules for publication, but only GASLIGHT has been even remotely successful, despite the fact that I think many of them were quite innovative in their day. I am really proud of the Look, Sarge family of rules, but they really haven’t gotten any popular or critical note. I have gotten tired of beating my head against a wall. Right now, I’m just having fun solving one development problem at a time with no deadlines. They’re shaping up nicely, but they are a long way from good yet.
As usual, the HAWKs ran a rich selection of both historical and non-historical games at Fall In. In this post, I will show a number of pictures of our games without any narrative.
Dave turned out to be the HAWKS “iron marshal” at Fall In this year. He ran FIVE full games at Fall In. All Saturday he had a table set up at which he ran BOTH at Fate of Battle (Napoleonic Wars) and Bear Yourselves Valiantly (Fantasy, Ancients, and Mediaeval) AT THE SAME TIME. He was ably assisted by David Schlegel and Geoff Graff for much of the day.
While there were many quality terrain setups at Fall In 2014, most were nice, but not unusual. This setup was exceptional. It is difficult to get a feel of scale from these photos, but this table was over 20 feet long. There must have been over fifty vehicles.
Most of the buildings were made of foam core with printed paper over them. Many had 3D windows and doors made from plastic to provide relief. There were nice details like fire escapes, lots of period posters and advertisement, many bystanders engaged in daily activities, etc.
I did not have a chance to play in this game, so I have no idea whether it was fun, but is sure looked like a million dollars.
At Fall In this past weekend, I ran across this new product. At least it was new to me. This company, Eccentric Miniatures, it making plastic figures on square sprues. They make bowmen, men at arms, etc. The price of these figures is reasonable. This pack of eight bowmen cost $12.
These are the contents of the box of longbowmen. It is difficult to tell from these pictures, but the detail is good, and the anatomy seems right. The faces are as good as most plastic figures I’ve seen — meaning not quite as good as lead, but still good enough for my painting ability.
What caught my eye, however, was a rack of sprues of swords, axes, maces, bows, pouches and other accessories that were available for $2 a sprue. These would be quite handy for adding some variety to other figures.