At Barrage 2015 I picked up three Graham Farish 10mm (N scale) railroad building kits. This weekend I finally took the time to assemble them. While my assembly wasn’t perfect, I think the final outcome is passable. With more practice, I think I could do a better job.
This is what the kits look like in the box. There were apparently many different kits at one time. I got these in a flea market, and I have not looked to see if they are still available.
When you pull them out of the box you get a bunch of these building blocks that have to be cut from the sprues and trimmed. You get some instructions, and you get several sheets of facades to be applied to the building blocks. I suspect these kits were quite old, but the gummy backs on the facades was still quite strong. They are not die cut, so you trim the backs from the sheets, peel off the wax-paper backing, and stick them to the building blocks.
They assembled quite easily. You almost don’t need the instructions. There are some extra facades, so you can do a bit of customization. The facades are meant to be photo realistic, and look pretty good once assembled.
There were even a couple of extra bits so that I could make these small sheds / garages.
On the whole, while a little large, I think the effect is good. I really like the middle kit in the top picture that had the three stores. The buildings will look okay in 10mm games and also some 10mm near future / science fiction games.
To mark the recent death of Larry Brom, author of the seminal and influential rules, the HAWKs ran a game of The Sword and the Flame last night. It was fun to pull out those venerable rules and play the game. TSAF was the second set of rules I ever owned. Below are some pictures from the evening’s events. The basic scenario involved the Pathans holding a hostage, young Wee Willie Winkie (the Shirley Temple version, depicted by a 15mm highlander in an otherwise 25mm game). While a column of British and Indians moved to rescue her, additional Pathans were arriving as reinforcements.
The game ended when the defenders of the fort took enough casualties that they routed. Then a group of Pathans charged to try to clear the way for the routing troops to take Winkie with them, but the were destroyed in a combination of rifle fire and melee. The game was a resounding British victory.
In my last post, I talked about how I thought the firing mechanic in The Sword and the Flame did a nice job of representing volley fire — that felt like volley fire. I want to talk about volley fire form a different perspective in this post.
I was reading one of the Wally Simon game design books that are being published by On Military Matters. In one of the articles, Wally talks about a mechanic he envisioned in which reaction to volley fire is incorporated. His thoughts dovetail with discussions in Brent Noseworthy’s books on the Seven Years War and Napoleonic Wars. In Anatomy of Victory, Noseworthy discusses how difficult it is to get troops moving again once they begin a firefight. There is an inertia created when lines begin to fire. This may be due to the noise and smoke, the fear of the bayonet, etc. But he makes the claim that when a charging unit fails to close and instead begins to fire that it is very difficult to get them to move again. I actually incorporated this idea into Wellington Rules as an optional rule but left it out of Fate of Battle as being just a bit too detailed for those rules.
Back to Wally’s mechanic. His thought was that when a unit fired, the target should immediately make a reaction test, which ranged from “remain under control” through “return fire” to “retreat.” So a unit that is the target of the charge might discharge a volley. The charging unit would immediately make a reaction test. The most likely result would be stop and return fire. Then the defending unit would make a reaction test, most likely returning fire. Then the formerly charging unit, and so on. The idea is that these units would begin blazing away at each other until one or the other broke or a commander on one side or the other was able to get his unit to close with the enemy. It’s an interesting mechanic that has some appeal to it — particularly in an IGO-UGO activation scheme in which all the chargers are declared and everyone moves before fire is resolved.
In another article Wally talks about not counting casualties so much as disruption. Of course, removing figures form the table does not always represent real casualties but some notion of disruption, stragglers, etc. In Santa Anna Rules and Wellington Rules, I borrowed a mechanic I first saw almost 30 years ago in Ron Prillaman’s penny rules. In those rules stragglers are represented explicitly. Some hits remove stragglers and some remove casualties. Stragglers can be recovered through rally-like actions by the unit’s leaders. Casualties can never be recovered. With this mechanic I was able to eliminate the need for morale checks. When a unit had more stragglers than effectives, the unit routed.
So the idea is percolating in my head that combining these mechanics might make a really nice way to represent black powder era linear warfare in a novel and intuitive way. Unit A fires, and unit B picks up some number of stragglers and casualties. Unit B makes an immediate reaction test based on stragglers, casualties, remaining effectives, table situation, etc. The response is often quite out of the leaders’ hands as the two lines of soldiers blaze away. This goes back and forth until one side breaks or charges.
Right now, I am busy trying to promote Combat Patrol and and working on additional optional rules that I’ll make available as .pdf downloads, so these ideas are on the back burner. One never knows when they’ll leap to the forefront and find themselves in a draft set of rules.
I like mechanics that “feel right” as well as being good approximations of the physical effect being modeled.
I had a recent Email exchange with Lori Brom — just prior to the death of her dad, Larry. In my note to her I mentioned that I might have been the only person who really liked the original volley fire mechanic in The Sword and the Flame. For those of you who don’t remember it, her it is:
(I intentionally only show part of the card and didn’t put a lot of effort into making it look good, because I don’t have permission to reproduce it.) So for British rifles, as an example, I would roll a SINGLE six-sided die. If the roll was a “4,” the result is “1/3.” That means that I would count up the number of firing figures and for every three figures, I would inflict one casualty on the enemy. Then you would draw cards to tell if the casualties were kills, wounds, leaders, etc. It was the “1/3,” “1/4,” etc. mechanic that appealed to me. Then the question arose, “what about remainders.” In the original rules, reminders were lost. In an issue of the Heliograph, someone proposed a method by which you rolled on a separate chart with a d10 to see if the remainder turned into an extra casualty or not.
Clearly many folks who played TSAF didn’t like this mechanic, because in subsequent editions of the rules, Larry moved to a d10-based mechanic, and I think a die roll for each figure. But the elegance of the original approach — as well as the single die roll — always made a lot of intuitive sense to me. When you fire by volley, you KNOW most of those bullets don’t strike a target. This mechanic replicated in an elegant way that felt like volley fire to me.
When we were developing GASLIGHT I initially toyed with this idea, but dropped it in favor of rolling for each figure. I figured Larry know what he was doing when he dropped this mechanic from TSAF, probably the single most successful set of wargaming rules ever. As I said earlier, I like mechanics that “feel right” as well as being good approximations of the physical effect being modeled. To me, this felt right.
I ran five games at Fall In and helped Dave run another game, so I didn’t have as much time to wander around and take pictures as I usually try to do. Below are some pictures of games that I and other HAWKs ran.
I ran a 10mm Fate of Battle game of the battle at Reichenbach in May 1813. This was a scenario I found on the Web. I was looking for a good six-player game. I wasn’t sure I would get too many players at 0900 on Friday, but the game was full. The French outnumbered the Russians 2:1 in infantry but had parity in cavalry. While both sides had about the same number of batteries, the Russian guns were bigger and had greater ranges. The scenario went very well, I think, and all the players had an exciting time — even the guy whose cavalry broke and ran as a result of the Russian guns on the central ridge.
Jim ran his ever popular six-player Saga game in which the opposing sides are trying to gather loot from a small village. I didn’t hear who won, but all the players were engaged and having fun. A couple even showed up for another Saga game on Sunday morning.
Zeb ran a 28mm Winter War game using my old Beer and Pretzels Skirmish rules. I’ve been busy with other projects, so I haven’t put BAPS on the table in quite some time. It was nice to see this oldie but goodie in action again. I heard that the Russian tank was knocked out early. Zeb used the Winter War Kickstarter figures from Baker Company a few years ago. Apparently he is one of the few people who actually received his figures. I haven’t gotten mine, which is the only Kickstarter that has stiffed me.
The HAWKs ran a series of “urban” scenarios with different rules and set in different time periods all weekend. All of the terrain came from Don’s collection. Most of the buildings were Miniature Building Authority with a few Crescent Root ones.
Eric ran a Napoleonic game with his Continental System rules.
Dave ran a 28mm ancients game using Fate of Battle. The scenario was a Roman Civil War battle with the potential for auxiliaries to change sides during the game.
Duncan and I set up the same scenario to be run twice, once with Command Decision and once with Look, Sarge, No Charts: WWII. The scenario was written for Command Decision, so I had to interpret the order of battle. It was interesting to see how Command Decision and Look, Sarge approach the same issues from different perspectives but achieve similar results. The scenario, The Ride of the Wielkopolska Brigade, had German armor trying to hold a town against Polish cavalry. All this German infantry was on the other side of the table and didn’t arrive until late in the game. This made it very difficult for Duncan’s tanks and AT guns to hold out against determined cavalry action.
Chris ran his Bear Yourselves Valiantly Lizardman Island game
Chris and I helped Dave run a double blind game of Creighton Abrams rushing to relieve Bastogne. He used Look, Sarge, No Charts: WWII. The spotting rules for LSNC really lend themselves to double blind games. After the convention, I received an Email from one of the players thanking Dave for such an exciting and suspenseful experience. I really enjoy double blind games, but they take twice as much terrain and several game masters to pull them off.
Tank ran his impressive-looking ancient game using Bear Yourselves Valiantly.
One of the urban games featured goblins and other bad guys attacking Santa’s workshop. This one attracted young gamers as well as a few moms.
There were many other great games in the HAWKs room that I neglected to photograph. Greg won an award for his Dr. Who game on the urban table. Mike and Patrick Byrne ran a couple of Force on Force modern games. Geoff ran his ever-popular Lego pirates game. Dave ran a 25mm fantasy game. Eric ran his fantasy Blood and Swash game Sunday morning while I was running my Roman Circus chariot race game. I had a pretty good convention. All of my games were full, and the players seemed to have a good time.
Combat Patrol was released las week (see previous post and information here: http://www.bucksurdu.com/Buck_Surdu/Combat_Patrol.html). I ran two games featuring the rules at Fall In this weekend, and Eric Schlegel ran another. There was to be a fourth game using Combat Patrol for the Napoleonic Wars, but the game was cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances by the GM.
Both games went extremely well. The first game was over full, but I managed to cram everyone into the game. I had a couple of players from the first game come back to play again in the second game — including a small child who was able to control his own forces and work the rules without assistance.
The two scenarios were linked. The ending positions from the first scenario were the starting positions for the second scenario. The first scenario involved a German platoon and an American platoon bumping into each other in a small village at an important crossroads. Both sides had the objective of gaining and maintaining an advantageous position before reinforcements arrived (the second scenario).
Between the scenarios I reconstituted some of the squads the had been badly shot up, but mostly I left the forces where they were at the end of the first scenario. I think this worked really well. The starting positions for this second scenario were in better and more interesting positions than I probably would have put them if I was running the second scenario without the benefit of the first scenario.
This picture (above) shows the general layout of the table before the fighting began. This is from the perspective of the Americans.
Both scenarios were closely run affairs, with neither side having a significant advantage until toward the end of the second scenario.
In the picture (above) you can see the command dice next to the three elements that make up the US squad. This was their starting position for the first scenario. This squad was patrolling up the road when the fun began.
In the picture (above) you can see that part of a US squad was in the woods on the left, and the other half of that squad, including a bazooka team had the up position in the building. The player thought he had a great position for his bazooka. When the German halftrack rushed past the opening, the bazooka team passed its Reaction roll to fire, but THEN the player realized there was no window on that side of the building! We had a lot of fun at his expense after that.
Since his bazooka as ineffective, the team in the woods hit the halftrack with a captured Panzerfaust, knocking out the driver and the forward machine-gun. Then the Americans assaulted it. The Germans had dismounted, so for a while the two groups tossed grenades over the vehicle at each other.
Everyone seemed to grasp the rules quick, and they all seemed to have a good time. There were no glaring issues — which would have been disappointing after three and a half years of development. All in all, I was very satisfied with the results.
There were some die-hard fans of other rules in the the two games, but I didn’t hear any of the “in rules ___, they do this…” types of comments, which I thought was a good sign. A number of folks asked how they could get the rules, and I had some prepared flyers with QR codes that they could scan to go straight to the rules. I did not see a bump in sales over the weekend, but most of the flyers I posted around the conventions kept disappearing. Presumable they were taken by folks interested in the rules and not by competitors.
There was a lot of dancing around between the German Pz. IV, the US Sherman, and the US Stuart. The Pz. IV got stuck trying to climb over this brick wall. Then the Sherman pulled up behind it, put a round through the engine, and knocked it out. The smoke shown is scary painted cotton batting glued to battery-operated tea lights with black bases.
I probably lost a few sales by not having decks of cards in the dealer area. I also got some complaints over the weekend from someone who thought the game was too expensive in England with shipping costs. Still, I want to let this electronic-only distribution run its course for a little while.
We pay as much for rules shipped to the US, and it’s unlikely Brits will buy a set of rules written by a Yank anyway. (That’s meant to be a joke!) I have attempted to reduce the risk by providing the YouTube how-to video and by making the basic rules free so that prospective customers can read them before purchasing the cards. The rules are available worldwide without having to find a local stockist or distributor. That’s the best I can do.
In addition to my two Combat Patrol games, Eric Schlegel ran a game with the rules as well. Several of the HAWKs ran a series of games on the same town table all weekend, including Battleground, Dr. Who, and others.
I was busy creating a promotion and demonstration video for Combat Patrol, which used most of my hobby time this weekend. I did manage to finish the Monarch Theater from Multiverse Gaming Terrain (http://www.multiversegamingterrain.com/the-monarch-theatre-p-46.html). This was a very fun kit to assemble and paint. Most of it was painted partially assembled and then the paint parts were put together to make the final building. This made the painting easier and the lines cleaner.
I haven’t decided what movie to put on the marquee yet.
Like all the Multiverse kits, assembly was easy — even without directions — and the number of exposed tabs is minimal. I did make one mistake that required me to pull apart something and re-do it.
The detail on this theater was quite nice. My only nit is that it would be nice to have an interior stairwell, but that really is a nit.
I typically put this gravel look on all of my flat-roofed buildings.
I wanted the color scheme to stand out and reflect the ambiance of the golden age of movies and movie houses but be period appropriate. I used this photo of art deco color schemes as inspiration.
The final editing is completed. I will be coordinating with DriveThru Cards to make the rules and cards available Monday or Tuesday this week.
In the meantime enjoy this promotional video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eSChdQcZZJs&feature=youtu.be
I also made this video that demonstrates how combat resolution is conducted in the game: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n0hinO2KaMY&feature=youtu.be My videography skills are primitive, so the video has some flaws, but you will get the basic idea.